MLBbro Willie Calhoun’s name has rang bells in MLB circles for years, but now the buzz has settled and there is a different question being asked–has Willie Calhoun officially become a reclamation project?
Calhoun requested a trade last week after being demoted to Triple-A Round Rock, and if granted, would be his third organization since being drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015.
After a promising 2021 that was impeded a bit by injuries, Calhoun and the Rangers were awful to start the season. It’s a small sample size, but Calhoun didn’t look impressive in his 44 at-bats. He only managed six hits, seven runs, one homer and two RBI while hitting an ugly 64 points below the Mendoza line (translation: a .134 batting average).
With numbers like this, Willie seemed like a no-brainer casualty to the May 2 deadline to trim rosters. However, when the move was announced, one person who wasn’t pleased or expecting it was Calhoun himself.
It seems as though Calhoun and the Rangers front office simply haven’t been on the same page since he was acquired in the Yu Darvish deal in 2017. First, there was the service-time issues that he dealt with under the old CBA. He was cut after spring training in both 2018 and 2019, even after losing 24 pounds in order to make the roster in 2019.
Calhoun battled, put his trust fully in Chris Woodward’s coaching staff and finally got through to the bigs. “I do nothing but trust (the coaching staff) now.” Calhoun said before the 2020 season. If they tell me to come out here in the freezing cold in just shorts, I’m doing it; I’m doing whatever they say. Whatever they have to say for me, I have to just listen and do it, regardless.”
Woodward had worked with Calhoun since his Dodgers days, so the pair were very familiar with each other.
Poised to make a huge splash in 2020 as their everyday left fielder, a 95mph Julio Urias fastball to the jaw ended any talks of a breakout for the youngster. Since that moment, it has been a complete 180 for Calhoun, in both production and his trust of Woodward and the coaches.
You see, Willie is listed at 5’8, 200 pounds, so all the modern-day analytics regarding launch angle do not play into his skillset. He mentioned as much in his latest interview with The Athletic, the very same publication that posted those “I trust the coaches” comments in 2020.
It would seem Calhoun and Woodward are on completely different pages.
“I don’t agree with some of the hitting philosophies from the new guys,” Calhoun said in reference to the Rangers’ new hitting coach Tim Hyers. “I don’t process that too well. I’m not 6’4”, 230 pounds; I can’t hit pop-up home runs. I don’t have that leverage.”
While Willie feels that he’s been the victim of poor coaching and forced metrics, his skipper has a different perspective.
“Willie needs to make — I wouldn’t say a significant change. But he’s got to have a little bit more understanding of how that sort of works best for him.”
If Willie does eventually grow into the ballplayer he was projected to be, chances are it won’t be in a Texas Rangers uniform. The problem is, if Calhoun isn’t allowed to be the best he can be because the coaching staff is trying to fit a square pig into a round hole — rather than nurture his abilities and maximize his potential — then riding the elevator between the minors and majors won’t bear any fruit.