Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When A Young Girl Winks Sometimes A Tear Falls

As the song says, when you are a big shot "you have to have the front page, bold type" but once the bloom is officially off of the rose you find yourself a one-line mention in the "TRANSACTIONS" column. And maybe just maybe you wonder where the time has gone. And when the cheers turned to a decidedly different sound altogether.

Such is the case of Dontrelle Willis. Has it really been seven-plus years since the gangly southpaw from Oakland with the million megawatt smile, the funky delivery and the cap askew helped the Florida Marlins win the pennant and then upset the Yankees to win the World Series? In '03 he was the National League Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. In '05 he led the major leagues in wins with 22 and made the All-Star team again. As another song says, "the sky was the limit."

I was reading the newspaper yesterday afternoon and I came across Dontrelle's name in the dreaded "TRANSACTIONS" column. Willis - two teams removed from his glory days in south Florida - had been "Designated for Assignment" by the Arizona Diamondbacks. It marked the second time this season that Willis had seen "DFA" next to his name -having landed in 'Zona after have been so designated by the Detroit Tigers. When one considers both how much better the D-Backs would have to play to be themselves designated as awful and that Dontrelle Willis is a left-handed pitcher, which is the most prized commodity in all of major league baseball, one gets a better understanding of just how complete the unraveling of Dontrelle Willis is.

And by all accounts, Dontrelle Willis is the last athlete in the world who one would wish to see suffer from the maladies and ailments that have haunted him for the past several seasons - from injuries physical to ailments psychological. You can find a lot written about him these days on-line but not too much of it talks about Willis being a jerk or a bad guy. Most of them talk about what a breath of fresh air he was when he first came up with the Marlins in 2003 and what a good guy he has remained even as he started to cash paychecks that had six and seven digits to the left of the decimal point.

As the great American philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra once observed, "Around here it can get late early." Right here, right now it seems as if it is pretty damn late in the day for Dontrelle Willis. He is only twenty-eight years old. He is left-handed. He has good days squarely in his rear-view mirror but perhaps if he can keep his chin squarely up and his eyes on the road ahead, he might have good days in front of him as well.

Just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of,
Well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister
But boring stories of glory days.

You root for whoever you choose to. Me? I am rooting for Dontrelle Willis. And here is to hoping that not all of his glory days have happened yet. And that he has more boring stories to tell.

-AK

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