Dontrelle Willis: "The issue is, I'm terrible"

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It has been extremely difficult to watch Dontrelle Willis struggle these past few years. When he was on, he was an exciting and downright endearing pitcher, with an infectious enthusiasm and unique style. Based on Lynn Henning’s report from Tigertown, however, it sounds like we’ll never see that pitcher again:

“People see me smiling, but I think they’re confused about what the
issue is with Dontrelle Willis,” said a pitcher who has spent most of
the past two seasons on the disabled list, with one victory since
joining the Tigers. “To me, the issue is, I’m terrible.”

He went back on the DL in June with the same diagnosis: anxiety disorder. Willis concedes he doesn’t fully understand the doctors’ findings. “Those are the cards they chose to deal to me,” he said of the clinical evaluation. What has he learned about anxiety and its possible effects on him?

“Nothing,” he said.

Does he take medication for his disorder?

“No medication.”

This last part may be the most troubling, for one of two reasons.  It could mean that Dontrelle Willis is refusing to treat what can be a very serious condition, and the Tigers — who we must assume monitor Willis’ health as closely as they monitor all of their players’ health — are condoning it.

Or it could mean something more sinister: that Dontrelle Willis doesn’t really have anxiety disorder, that his problems are basically a function of him losing his control and effectiveness, and that the Tigers have been nonetheless saying that he does have it in order to justify all of the time he’s spent on the disabled list.

I’m not trying to throw bombs here. I don’t profess to know what’s truly going on with Dontrelle Willis, and if there is another explanation, I’m open to hearing it. But based on this article — and others in the past in which Willis has said that his problem is that he simply stinks — it seems that Willis is either playing with medical fire, or else the Tigers are engaged in DL funny business.

I hope that neither of those is the case.

UPDATE:  Good point from David Pinto:

I used to think this was possible, that teams manipulate the DL. MLB,
however, appears to be very tough on teams disabling players, and the
paper work, including medical reports, needs to be in order. More
likely, this disorder can’t be handled with drugs. Simply put, there is
not a pill for every disorder.

Agreed, it’s entirely possible that medication is not effective or not indicated in Willis’ particular case. I remain concerned, however, that Willis’ default seems to this self-loathing “I stink” kind of stuff.  Medication or not, if a person with anxiety disorder is that down on himself, I hope he’s getting a ton of non-pharmaceutical help.

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.