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

Feb 17, 2010, 5:15 PM EDT

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.

  1. Old Gator - Feb 17, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    It just kills me to see this kid going downhill like this. I met him a couple of times when he pitched for the Feesh – we both frequented a terrific Jamaican cafe down on South Beach and he always had a great big smile for everyone, and was as much of a joy to be around as he was to watch pitch. His decline has resonances of Doc Gooden’s implosion – also horrible to watch – and his comments about himself are just gouts of self pity camouflaged as brutal honesty. Oh, brother. I wish Dontrelle would just get his head together and face down whatever demons he’s dealing with. It’s beginning to sound like the deal he made down at the crossroads has run its course and he’s just trying to find ways to duck Da Man now.

  2. Omega in Colorado - Feb 17, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    Well of course, if you lay on your belly and pitch to the outfield you aren’t gonna be very effective. What is the Tiger’s pitching coach teaching this guy?
    All kidding aside, I empathize with Willis, I have a very mild form of Anxiety Disorder and know how crippling it can be in the everyday mundane life I live, I can’t imagine going thru the pressure of being an MLB pitcher with what can only be a much more severe disorder.
    My best wishes to him, and I am with Gator, getting his head screwed back on and back on the mound.

  3. ctm - Feb 17, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Far more troubling to me is that he claims not to have learned anything about his disorder and how it affects him. If this quote reflects the truth, either his doctors aren’t treating him or it isn’t working.

  4. Rich in NJ - Feb 17, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Can you really suffer from self-loathing while simultaneously referring to yourself in the third person?

  5. Old Gator= Annoying - Feb 17, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    old gator stop using big words in the wrong context, it’s quite irritating.

  6. Old Gator - Feb 17, 2010 at 11:00 PM

    Try rubbing some lanolin on it.
    But seriously, if it really bothers you, that’s the last time I’ll leave supercalifragilisticexplialidocious, antidisestablishmentarianism, Brobdingnagian or even Da laying around in a sentence where you can trip over it – as long as you commit to (a) capitalizing the first word of a sentence or proper names, using commas correctly and/or looking down once in a while instead of rolling around with your head up your ass.
    Have we got a deal?

  7. Richard Dansky - Feb 18, 2010 at 12:27 AM


  8. Old Gator - Feb 18, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    Next, flintlocks at 20 paces.

  9. eric - Feb 18, 2010 at 3:13 AM

    As someone who has taken anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication, I can vouch for the mindset you reach when things aren’t going your way. It might seem like you should be happy you’re a big league ball player, but it doesn’t matter where you are in life–the symptoms of the disease will catch up with you. The hardest part is that when you’re at your worst, you won’t be able to recognize what’s happening.
    Should Dontrelle be able to see what’s happening? Most of you will say he should. And you won’t be wrong–based on your experience. My experience says that he won’t likely be able to see what’s happening for several years if not longer.

  10. eaglealan64 - Feb 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    I think he just sucks – that was the conclusion of the White Sox who wanted no part of him a few years back even if it meant missing out on Cabrera. Very clever of the Marlins to package the two the way they did, very foolish of the Tigers to agree to it.

  11. Libservative - Feb 18, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    “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 don’t profess to know what’s truly going on with Dontrelle Willis”
    In other words, you don’t have a clue what the hell you’re talking about, so you’ll just make up something and throw it out there. Thanks, Dr. Freud, for your trite, meaningless, and borderline slanderous piece of worthless drivel.

  12. Craig Calcaterra - Feb 18, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    If it makes you feel better to edit out the word “could,” from the passage thereby transforming a speculative sentence into a declarative one you’re more then welcome to do so. It merely makes you look like a dishonest moron, however, so I’d advise against it in the future.

  13. YX - Feb 18, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    That would be more fun if you spelled supercalifragilisticexpialidocious right… so close!

  14. Old Gator - Feb 18, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Tried yours, got the red squiggle anyway. Complain to Walt. He’s in the cylinder next to Ted Williams.

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