Dontrelle Willis caught the interest of baseball fans when he burst onto the scene as a Florida Marlin. His high leg kick, his obvious enthusiasm and fun when playing baseball, his smile, his cap slightly askew all led to finding a new hero to root for. It also helped his cause that he could hit pretty well for a pitcher and pounded out a few homers and doubles.
Willis had one really good year in Florida and followed it up with a poor one. He was traded along with Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers in one of the biggest trades of this decade. The Tigers signed Willis to an extension that made him a millionaire. But the parade never happened. Instead what has happened is the sad collapse of a major league career.
The Tigers have tried everything. They gave him several opportunities to pitch his way out of his problems. They gave him time on the DL for what has been diagnosed as a mental problem. They tried him again for quite a few games now and they have to do the right thing and pull the plug.
It's long been obvious that the Tigers will have to eat the big money they paid Willis. While the contract seems foolish in retrospect, if it had all worked out and Willis pitched at least somewhat like he did before his last bad year in Florida, then the Tigers would have had a tremendously likeable young hero for its fans.
But it's not to be. Like others in the past...like Rick Ankiel for example, Willis simply cannot throw strikes. His last outing featured eight walks in three innings. It's all so sad and bewildering. How can a pitcher who has probably done what he does since he was a little kid, simply not know now how to do it anymore? Why couldn't Chuck Knobloch throw the ball to first base? We'll never know.
All we do know that as painful as it is to state, the Tigers owe it to their team and their fans to pull the plug and say a sad farewell to Willis. To run him out there even one more time would be a disservice, not just to the fans and his teammates, but to Willis himself. Why embarrass anyone further?
The Tigers have a chance to win the American League Central division. In order to do so, they have to put the people out there that will give them a chance to win. This isn't a time to try and salvage a big contract or even a nice young man's career. It's a time to do all they can to win as many games as they can. They cannot strive for the wins and still continue to put Willis out there.
It's a sad story and there doesn't appear to be a happy ending. It's time to turn out the lights and admit what is plainly evident. The career of Dontrelle Willis is over.