Anxiety Becoming a Prominent Issue Among Major League Ballplayers

Matt DolloffCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 17:  Starting pitcher Zack Greinke #23 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after giving up three runs during the 4th inning of the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 17, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It's highly unlikely that social anxiety disorder—irrational nervousness toward big social situations and physical symptoms like muscle tension and increased heart rate—only started manifesting itself in professional baseball players within the last 25 years.

We don't know too much about the condition nowadays, let alone earlier in the 20th Century when it might as well have not even existed.

In recent years, however, we've seen an alarming number of established major league talents falter to almost career-threatening levels. Today's article by Doug Miller makes light of the situation.

Royals ace Zack Greinke almost let social anxiety ruin his career. He failed as a Major Leaguer after carrying the pressure of becoming a top-shelf pitcher and letting the anxiety crumble around him.

But he made it back in 2008 showed he had the potential to deliver as a frontline starter.

After learning to cope with his anxiety, Greinke has established himself as one of the elite starters in the game this season with a 9-3 record, 1.90 ERA and 111 strikeouts. This makes him the odds-on favorite to start for the American League in the All-Star Game.

There are, however, cases of anxiety popping up in baseball this season. Baseball is starting to take further notice of the condition.

Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene has been hitting around .200 since the 2008 season. He let it eat away at him to the point where the Cardinals had to place him on the disabled list because of anxiety.

Dontrelle Willis of the Tigers also suffers from the anxiety.. A former Cy Young candidate, Willis has shown no imminent sign of the form he had in 2005, when he won 22 games for the Florida Marlins. The Tigers also placed him on the DL with anxiety issues earlier this season.

Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds returned from the disabled list, also as a result of anxiety, Wednesday night. He suffered through bouts of anxiety and depression since losing his father at 52 over the summer.

It seems pretty obvious that this is an issue baseball executives will have to monitor more closely. Players earning derisive reputations as "head cases"—Gavin Floyd, Milton Bradley and Rickie Weeks come to mind—could be underachieving at the major league level because of this condition.

It's great to see mental disorders like anxiety are finally starting to be combated as it is likely something that has always plagued professional athletes.

Despite whatever fans may say, playing a sport in front of tens of thousands of people can have a profound effect on a player's nervous system—especially if the fear of failure has already manifested itself inside the player.

The more we take notice of anxiety disorders, the better off MLB and its players will be this season and for years to come.