Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Is baseball experiencing an outbreak of anxiety disorders, or is it something else?

The Wall Street Journal takes note of all of the anxiety cases this year:

Three professional baseball players have landed on the disabled list this season for a problem they can’t ice, bandage or have surgically repaired: anxiety . . . Baseball’s anxious include Detroit pitcher Dontrelle Willis, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene and Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, who all spent weeks on the disabled list spring for mental-health issues. Mr. Willis, who returned to the lineup in May, was placed on disabled status again in mid-June for anxiety.

I’m not sure what to make of all of the anxiety problems this year, but part of me thinks that not all of them are technically social anxiety disorders. Rather, I suspect that they’re all lumped together as “anxiety disorders” because Zack Greinke sort of made the term “anxiety disorder” acceptable in baseball circles by going through and subsequently overcoming what he went though, whereas depression or any number of other specific neurosis remain new and scary in this historically-conservative world. Don’t get me wrong; by all accounts, Votto and Khalil Greene’s situations were serious, and I’m not dismissing them. I’m just saying that, based on what they’ve revealed about their problems, things like depression or any number of other neurosis seem plausible too. Ultimately my point here isn’t to diagnose anything (I’m not qualified to do that). It’s just to suggest that maybe what’s happening is a greater willingness among baseball players to be up front about psychological problems in general as opposed to their being some sudden and inexplicable outbreak of social anxiety disorder. If so, that’s a very good thing.

That said, I and others have voiced some skepticism about Willis, mostly because (a) even after his alleged diagnosis he said he felt great and that his only problem was that he couldn’t pitch; and (b) the “anxiety” only seemed to come up when the Tigers needed to move Willis off the active roster to bring in a productive player. I think there have been a lot of disabled list shenanigans this year--amazingly, Boston’s Dice-K got injured at just the perfect time to solve the Red Sox’ roster logjam -- and it wouldn’t surprise me if Willis’ were another example of it.