Dontrelle Willis has been one of the most likable players in Major League Baseball. That fact made it painful for fans to watch his decline in 2007 and the utter loss of 2008 after a trade sent him to the Tigers. A story today at MLB.com gives hope that he can be a meaningful pitcher again in the majors.
The thing that attracted fans to Willis was the enjoyment he seemed to have playing baseball. With his hat slightly askew and his high leg kick, he always had an enormous smile on his face. He seemed to be great with the kids and other than his one run in with the law for driving under the influence, he was a very good ambassador for baseball.
And he had some success with the Marlins as well. He won 22 games in 2005 two years after a very successful rookie campaign. Plus, as an added bonus, he was a pretty good hitting pitcher as well and hit 8 homers over the years with the Marlins to go along with a .234 average. But cracks started showing in 2007.
In 2007 he lost 15 of his 25 decisions and his ERA ballooned to 5.17. His walks were way up, his strikeouts down and he gave up 29 homers. The Marlins, sensing trouble, traded away one of their most popular players to Detroit. It was there that disaster struck.
Willis apparently had knee problems, but he couldn't throw a strike to save himself. He only managed to get into eight games and he walked 35 batters in only 25 innings. The Tigers shut him down and the season was lost.
The MLB.com story, though, gives hope that Willis can make it back and be successful again in the majors. Amazingly, Willis is only 27 years old. It seems like he has already been around for a long time, but he is young and if he can physically and mentally make it back, it would be great for all fans of baseball.