Khalil Greene has been placed on the disabled list with an unspecified "social anxiety disorder" making him at least the third major leaguer to miss significant time with a similar complaint. That, my friends, is a TREND ALERT! So what the heck is going on here?
Greene first showed signs of a problem last season, as he struggled with his confidence and batted .213 with an OPS under .600. That is, until he broke his hand by smashing it against a storage trunk in frustration and missed the last two months of the season. The Cardinals, stunningly unaware of Greene's issues, traded for him in the offseason, but he hasn't gotten any better and now he's out indefinitely.
So what are those issues? "Greene's condition causes incessant anxiety based on a fear of failure that feeds his self-consciousness. Unable to channel his emotions, the resulting frustration makes him prone to physical and verbal outbursts in front of teammates." In other words, he plays bad, he can't handle it emotionally, and that makes him play worse. Not to get all Grumpy Old Man on you, but in the old days they called that being "not good" and you got cut. Now, it's a chance for rest and rehab and therapy and I guarantee that you'll be seeing a lot more of it in baseball and other sports.
I'm not necessarily criticizing this new approach to athlete care, but it does strike me as a phenomenon similar to the one that turned unruly kids from "being a spazz" into "suffering from ADHD." If fear of failure is a serious problem for you, then maybe you shouldn't be a professional athlete. However, if this trend means that a guy like Zack Greinke can go from total washout to superstar with just a little mental health, that's got to be a good thing, right?
The danger will come in a couple of years when every Chuck Knoblauch, Steve Sax, Milton Bradley, or David Ortiz ends up on the DL with "emotional problems" at the first sign of a slump. It sounds like Greene—like Greinke and Dontrelle Willis before him—does have some serious issues to work out, but how will we be able to tell the truly troubled from the guys who just suck? Maybe a more open attitude and counseling could have saved Knoblauch's career ... or maybe future victims of his ailment will be coddled well past their prime.
St. Louis Cardinals in uncomfortable situation regarding Khalil Greene [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]