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

15 Comments

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.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.