Grand Cards: Happy Trails: Dontrelle Willis

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Trails: Dontrelle Willis

So, um yeah. Apparently I can unintentionally predict the future. On Friday, I had a brief--some might say tounge-in-cheek, others, distasteful--tribute to actor Gary Coleman. The premise was simple: show a card that pretty much only says "Willis" as in "What'choo Talkin 'Bout Willis?" and for that card to be a mini card, as commentary on Coleman's diminutive stature.

The only text in the post was RIP.

In what now appears to be grim, if not overdramatic, foreshadowing, Dontrelle Willis was designated for assignment by the Tigers barely more than 24 hours later.

2009 Topps: Team Factory Set #DET8 Dontrelle Willis

Willis' time in Detroit was troublesome from start to finish. I won't go into the statistical details, but suffice to say that it was so bad as to convince my wife's boss that the Tigers trading for Dontrelle Willis will go down as the worst trade in Tigers history. The problem was the trade was perfectly fine, it was that 3-year, $29M contract extension given before a seemingly declining Willis had yet to throw a pitch in the Old English D.

Dombrowski fail, I'm afraid.

Even with a comeback this season--if pitching at a serviceable, if below average level can be called a comeback, the writing was on the wall. After his underwhelming start on Friday, Tiger fans with the power of the "publish" button were on it:
Clearly, when the Tigers decide to get Max Scherzer back in the rotation -- that can't come soon enough -- Willis must be removed from it.

I feel like I've written this post before. Well, the Willis half of it, anyway.

But it needs to be said again and again and again because it happens again and again and again. The Tigers give veterans far too many chances to repeatedly fail even if better options are out there. It cost them last year when they came up a game short. It'll cost them again.

Right now, the people who are sick and tired of Adam Everett and Brandon Inge are nodding their heads in furious agreement.

If the goal this year was to spend a lot of money -- they've got that part down -- and compete to win the division, it's a successful goal. If the goal was actually to win the division, the management of the club has to stop playing veterans who have a track record of failure.
That was Bless You Boys' Friday Post-Game

BigAl, under the Bless You Boys' banner, then put up a whole post about why Willis needs to go when Scherzer gets the call.
Yanking the D-Train before he can do any more damage to the Tigers' playoff chances is the logical thing to do. But when was the last time the Tigers did something logical when it comes to monster contracts? Just look back to the Tigers paying the Marlins $9.6 million to take Nate Robertson off their hands. I'm still scratching my head over the move.

Check out the stat line on Robertson's last start. Willis has Nate looking like the next coming of Cy Young...or at least Milt Wilcox.
So, you wanted a servicable lefty... BigAl continues:
Keeping a walk-happy, big inning waiting to happen, ├╝ber-expensive failed starter/middle relief pitcher/mop up man on the 25 man roster makes no sense. As no general manager in their right mind would trade even a bag of used stirrups for Willis (and his contract), it means he has to be released.

But Mike Ilitch would have to eat the remainder of what's left of the $12 million still owed to Willis. It's an immense amount of money, enough to make the Tigers' owner gag at the thought. The idea of an 80 year old owner choking to death on $100 bills isn't exactly pleasant...which is why Willis being removed from the rotation may not in the cards.

This was the general consensus. Willis needs to go, but he probably won't because of financial constraints and he'll ultimately stick around too long and when push comes to shove the Tigers are going to be all the worse for it. Except that it seems like we all overestimated the power of inertia in the Tigers front office. Last night they cut the cord.

From the Detroit Tigers Weblog
So my question is, what exactly were the Tigers hoping for out of Willis this season? Dombrowski’s comments on the matter are rather gray, and I doubt we’re getting the whole story. Given his entire career arc, I think Willis is pitching as well as could have reasonably been expected.


Here’s where I make a logical leap. I hope you can join me because it may be encouraging. Given the Willis DFA, the Sizemore and Scherzer demotions, and the commitment to Brennan Boesch is it out of line to think that the organization is looking to be more swift in swapping out underperformers and maximizing talent on the 25 man roster?

And I think billfer is right on the nose. The Tigers know that they have zero margin of error to field a competitive team this year. Given how last year wrapped up, it is apparent to everyone all the way up through ownership that no games can be conceded in the interest of experimentation. The Willis experiment was a failed one. There was no progress--he seems to have reached his ceiling what was, bluntly, too unpredictable to keep in the rotation.

That's not to say that he couldn't have battled all season and won some games, and even pitched relatively well. He could have. But he also could have imploded any minute. It was like carrying around some dynamite from that ship in Lost and thinking "This Dynamite will save us! We can use it to blow up the...BOOM" How'd that plan work out, former person who is now pink dust? I'll take my chances with the smoke monster, thanks.

The important thing to note here is that it appears as though Dombrowski and Ilitch get it. They understand the concept of "sunk costs" and of "replacement level players" and have seemingly thrown some of the slow-moving decision making processes that have plagued this team for a few years out the window.

There is no room for error. This team is not that good, but are better now without Willis than they were with him. The question is, is that enough?


  1. Everett better look out and start producing!! Look what Inge did today... 3 for 3, a homer and 2 doubles. Tell me he's not scared he might be next...even Laird went 2 for 3!!!

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