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

Jul 1, 2009, 10:40 AM EDT

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.

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