Lest you think the sporting universe is taking a more enlightened approach towards the mental health of professional athletes, Dontrelle Willis’ first win as a member of the Detroit Tigers met with this response from Deadspin’s Dashiell Bennett ; “has he finally got over his case of the Greinkes or is this just a momentary blip on the mine cart ride to oblivion?” With that in mind, who can blame the recently benched Cardinals SS Khalil Greene for being somewhat less than explicit in describing his own anxiety issues with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss?
“It’s not as if it’s a controllable thing at times,” Greene said. “A lot of the stuff ” it’s hard to explain ” it’s not easy to deal with and it’s not fun, either. It’s hard.”
Tony La Russa (above, right) described Greene as “a guy who is pressing and is really beating himself up because he wants to play better.” It is a characterization Greene does not dispute.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who could understand the depth of how frustrating it can be,” Greene said, “because it’s not something I leave at the field. Ideally, that would be the case. But I guess the reality of it is that’s not how I’m wired. So I have to work extremely hard to get away from the field mentally.”
Greene acknowledged that he has returned to the same problematic mind-set that plagued him last season with the San Diego Padres. Greene’s season ended in July when he slammed his right hand into a trunk in a fit of frustration, effectively ending his time with the franchise.
Mozeliak said he was unaware of Greene’s anxiety issues last season with the Padres. Greene’s strong spring training gave no reason for concern. “Everything seemed very normal,” Mozeliak said.
“He’s struggling and he’s beating himself up,” La Russa said. “I told him, ‘I’m going to treat you more like a utility player for a while, where you don’t wake up every morning thinking, ‘Oh, man, it’s all on me again.’ It’s an anxiety kind of thing because you don’t feel real good about your game.”
Greene admitted to feeling increasingly overwhelmed by his situation and did not dispute accounts that he has several times punished himself physically.
Several team members have expressed concern about the degree of Greene’s self-punishment.
“That’s the way it’s always been,” Greene said, referring to his condition’s compulsive nature. “It’s not rational. It’s not something I think as an intelligent thinking human being. … I understand the disorder of it. It just doesn’t help.”