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I’m hitting baseball’s D.L. with an anxiety disorder. Why? Everyone’s doing it!

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Anxiety disorders have never been this prevalent in baseball.

Sure, it was clear that the Cardinal’s Rick Ankiel was dealing with something during his precipitous fall from stud-pitcher to batting practice fodder in 2001. And then there was the case of the Royal’s Zack Greinke, who all but gave up baseball before sitting an entire year to battle depression and anxiety. The cases, however, have always been few and far between though and usually extremely isolated.

Ankiel suffered anxiety in the 2000's.Greinke took a year off.

At the mere mention of the problem as a reason for a trip to the disabled list, any old-timer would query, “Whatever happened to going out after the game, grabbing a beer and blowing off some steam?”

Having dealt with anxiety issues myself, I know the affliction is anything but a joke. It’s a very real problem with very real implications. It makes life a constant struggle and every moment is a battle. However, unlike Ankiel and Greinke, today’s star are treating it as anything but.

In this day of handout psycho-meds and therapy, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Detroit’s Dontrelle Willis has hit the disabled list two times this year with social anxiety. St. Louis shortstop Khalil Greene has, too. Neither has a documented history of the disorder, and their diagnoses are leaving health officials “suspicious.” Willis has been called up numerous times and when he inevitably falters, it’s “social anxiety” and not his horribly unrepeatable mechanics that is to blame. And Khalil Greene’s downfall from slugging shortstop to Mendoza-hoverer has nothing to do with the fact that he has the plate discipline of a little leaguer or the injury he sustained smashing a storage unit in the dugout during the 2008 season.

Willis continues to play despite anxiety.Khalil Greene reflects.

While their problems may be manifestations of something more significant, they are handling it in a shameful way. Willis is making routine trips to the minor leagues where he is pitching ably against shabby competitors. Greene spent less than a month on the D.L. (22 days) before coming back for the first time. He spent everyday with the team taking batting practice and fielding. It’s hard to believe that such a serious disorder can be solved by continually playing the game that is causing such distress.

Earlier this season, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto spent time on the disabled list with what was originally dubbed an “inner ear infection.”

Votto had started off the 2009 season hot, amassing eight homeruns and 34 RBI through the first two months. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was gone.

At the end of last season, Votto’s father passed away. His idol, his mentor, the man who taught him how to play the game, had died. Votto trudged through the end of the 2008 season without him, but a quarter of the way through 2009, the pain was too hard to handle. Spring training was a positive outlet for his emotions, but once the pressure of the season rolled around, Votto was paralyzed. He couldn’t spend time alone and he slept holding a telephone, waiting to inevitably call the hospital for help.

He took a month off from the game, sidelining himself with “stress-related issues.” He didn’t play ball. He got help; he vocalized his emotions, spent time with his brothers (who he was now responsible for), and dealt with the issue he’d been avoiding for an entire offseason. He finally spoke to the media about what ailed him.

That’s how it should be. If Willis and Greene are actually suffering from something, perhaps they can ask Joey Votto, Rick Ankiel, and Zack Greinke how to deal with it.

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