Pitch from Zito helped sell Hudson on Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- The merits of Barry Zito's seven-year tenure with the Giants have been debated ad nauseam, but he deserves an assist for the contributions the team has received from Tim Hudson this season.
Hudson and Zito achieved stardom together in the early 2000s as two-thirds of Oakland's three-headed pitching monster, along with Mark Mulder. Almost one decade after their time as A's teammates ended, Zito helped bring Hudson back to the Bay Area.
At 38 years old and coming off a gruesome broken right ankle, Hudson knew time was running out on his chances to advance in the postseason for the first time in his career. About a week after the Giants declined to pick up the 2014 option on Zito's contract last November, Hudson -- also a free agent at the time -- called his former teammate and good friend.
"It was a little awkward at first," Hudson said, "but I asked what he thought of San Francisco."
"It wasn't awkward on my end," Zito recently told MLB.com. "I had made my decision earlier in August that I was going to take some time away from the game and focus on family. I wasn't upset he was taking my spot or anything like that."
The Giants liked what they saw from Hudson with the Braves before his ankle injury in July 2013, and questions about his durability -- given his age and the injury -- kept the market within reach, if he was willing to do a two-year deal. He was also weighing interest from the A's, Rays and Royals.
"I got the impression that he was not sold on it yet, that he was just feeling it out," Zito said of the conversation. "He obviously knew a lot from playing against them, but when you actually get there and figure out what's going on behind closed doors, you can be very surprised."
Zito assured Hudson the perception of the Giants being among the Majors' top all-around organizations was indeed reality.
"I said it's a first-rate organization, from the top down," Zito said. "I didn't have to sell him on the Bay Area, because he'd been there a while, but Giants fans, I told him they had kind of changed from when we were in Oakland.
"Giants fans had a little more of a rep of just coming out for baseball games and not really having a die-hard presence and creating an intimidating atmosphere. It was very light. I told him 2010 changed everything. It became a place where teams didn't want to come in."
It also became where Hudson wanted to finish his career.
"He had nothing but great things to say about it, and he really made my decision to come here a lot easier," Hudson said. "I trust what he says; he's a dear friend. That went a long way with me deciding to come here."
That decision has turned out pretty well.
The wily veteran quickly became one of the most respected players inside the Giants' clubhouse. Hudson regained his All-Star form on the mound and took a sub-3.00 ERA into September, which helped stabilize a rotation stricken by Matt Cain's struggles/injury and Tim Lincecum's inconsistency. Hudson has a 3.29 ERA in two postseason starts this year, and he is part of a team that won a playoff series for the first time in his 16-year career. He'll make his World Series debut on Friday when he starts Game 3 at AT&T Park. Game 1 of the Fall Classic is on Tuesday (4:30 p.m. PT air time on FOX, 5:07 p.m. PT first pitch) in Kansas City.
"We knew we had a quality starter to add to our rotation, and we did our research, our evaluations, so we had some anticipations of what he'd be able to do," assistant general manager Bobby Evans said, "but he's fulfilled all of that and more.
"We wouldn't be here without him."
Getting Hudson his first championship has become a rallying cry in the Giants' clubhouse. Ryan Vogelsong thinks of Hudson during his postseason starts. "Teach Me How To Huddy" blared through the clubhouse speakers during the team's National League Championship Series.
Well, until Hunter Pence requested silence so that Hudson could address a moment 16 years in the making.
Hudson didn't have much to say -- "I'm not much of a talker, so it kind of put me on the spot," he joked afterward -- but that didn't matter. At long last, he was going to the World Series.
"That moment right there … you couldn't write a better script for it," Hudson said of the Giants' late comeback and walk-off win in Game 5 to clinch the NLCS. "Michael [Morse] hitting that homer to tie it up, and then [Travis Ishikawa] hitting that homer right there to win it. It's a storybook ending.
"It's … it's hard to put into words. It almost feels surreal, like I'm in a dream. Very rarely are you able to have those kinds of emotions with anything in life. It's an amazing thing to be able to experience it. I can't believe it, and I'm so glad it happened."
It's funny to think of who helped make it possible.
"Basically every aspect of it -- the guys, the fans, the management … every part of it is a win," Zito said of the Giants. "Obviously, it was something for him to decide.
"He made a good decision, I think."