Some players are simply more fun to watch than others. Granderson, Rollins, Reyes and others are just flat out fun to watch play baseball (when they are healthy and productive). Not too many pitchers over the years are the same kind of entertaining. Pedro comes to mind. Juan Marichal (for you older folks) and Luis Tiant are a couple of others. Ron Guidry, Oil Can Boyd and Fernando Valenzuela were fun to watch. But few pitchers in history were more fun to watch than Dontrelle Willis.
Boy doesn't just reading his name bring up a ton of conflicting emotions? There isn't anybody that has watched Willis pitch that can dislike him. He is infectious and his smile is simply magical. And when he was good, what a fun ride to watch him work against major league hitters. Add to the mix his sometimes good hitting (what other pitcher legs out a triple?), his athletic fielding of his position and it's simply a gas.
Well, we all know the sad story of the past three years. Willis couldn't throw strikes, he lost it. He had anxiety. The Tigers were ridiculed for the contract they gave him, and rightly so. Dontrelle Willis would probably be a footnote already to history if not for that contract.
But last year, he tried to come back. He had some good outings in May and then the wheels fell off with an eight walk performance that finished his season. Those of us that were rooting for him sighed sadly and figured that was that.
But the old cliche is that Spring Training brings eternal hope, and those of us who have been on the Dontrelle train over the years have one last gasp of hope. The reports are good so far and the reality is that this is probably his last shot. Willis is in the last year of his big contract and as such, the Tigers are in the position to give him every opportunity to grasp that brass ring one more time.
The Fan understands that he has written this same type of post for three straight years, but what the heck, sometimes you have to go against the stats and logic and hope we get to smile and appreciate the joy of Dontrelle Willis pitching effectively and smiling and nodding through it all. It's what we do. It's why we are Fans of the game.