Dontrelle Willis Returns and Other Bullets

dontrelle willisI’m feeling slightly better today (no comment on the ladies of the house, as I don’t want to jinx them this time around), so I’m hoping to throw up put up the Lukewarm Stove that I wasn’t able to write yesterday. Until then, Bullets …

  • The Chicago Cubs have reportedly signed lefty Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal. Remember him? Once upon a time, Willis was a lesser-known, 20-year-old pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system who was traded to the Marlins in a deal that netted the Cubs Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca (the deal was on March 27, by the way – a Spring Training trade). Willis tore it up in 2002 at A-ball and High-A for the Marlins, and rocketed to the bigs the very next year, winning the Rookie of the Year award at 21. From there he pitched three more quality seasons in Florida, fell off a bit in 2007, and then completely fell apart. The culprit? Control – he lost it. With a wonky delivery like his, he was probably always walking the tightrope between dominance and disaster. Maybe he can figure out how to be an effective reliever at this point (he pitched ineffectively in the Orioles’ system last year and announced his “retirement” in July) – he’s about to turn 31 – but he’s reportedly not even getting an invite to big league Spring Training. So, in some ways, this is a non-signing – a “what the hell” kind of thing, which gets over-reported because of his history with the Cubs and previous success. Presently, there is no reason to believe we’ll hear much about him again.
  • Bruce Miles with an excellent piece on the silence surrounding Sammy Sosa’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
  • Fred Mitchell reflects on a conversation he had with Sosa about Mark McGwire’s candidacy seven years ago, and says Sosa would be in a much better position right now if he would just come clean about what he did or didn’t use during his playing days.
  • Carrie Muskat does her inbox thing, and I have a bone to pick (and it isn’t just Carrie – it’s everyone writing on these two issues). Carrie notes that (1) Nate Schierholtz is the starting right fielder because Jed Hoyer said he was, and (2) the Cubs won’t go after someone like Michael Bourn because Theo Epstein said the second round pick it would cost is valuable. Each of those points is incomplete. While it may prove the case that Schierholtz starts in right field on Opening Day, and the Cubs probably won’t end up signing Michael Bourn, each point fails to fully explain what the respective Cubs executive was saying. With respect to Schierholtz, Hoyer said he was the starter in right field “right now,” and would probably be part of a platoon. That’s hardly the same thing as saying “Nate Schierholtz will definitely be our starting right fielder in 2013.” Given the current roster, of course he’s the right fielder – right now. As for Bourn and draft picks, I listened to and summarized that Epstein interview, and that’s simply not what Epstein was saying. He was saying, generally, and in response to a specific question about draft pick value, that the second round pick is valuable. And then he explicitly said that there are players who are worth sacrificing a first round pick – let alone a second round pick – to sign. In other words, he didn’t really say a whole lot of anything about whether the Cubs would sign someone like Bourn. Again: I don’t *expect* the Cubs to sign Bourn, but there was nothing in either executive’s comments that would preclude it in the least.
  • Cubs Spring Training tickets are on sale now.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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