It was reported today that the Texas Rangers voided IF Khalil Greene’s contract, essentially ending any chance Greene has of playing baseball again this season.
Greene wasn't released because of nagging injuries, age, or terribly declining performance; but because his head's just not in the right place.
Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels justified Greene's release by saying the decision was made due to a "recurrence of issues he's dealt with in the past." The "issues" Daniels alluded to is social anxiety disorder—a malady that landed the 30 year-old utility infielder on the DL twice last season.
Greene, a former Padres prospect with tons of promise, was only two seasons removed from a career year in which he hit .254 with 27 HR and 97 RBI for San Diego.
He would see a sharp decline in 2008, his final season with the Padres, and again in 2009 with St. Louis, as he struggled to keep his average above the Mendoza line.
He finished with just nine homeruns in 239 at bats.
With his anxiety issues now public, the pressure on Greene to overcome the stigma that all of a sudden accompanied him must've been unbearable.
Greene would ink a one-year deal for a mere $750,000 with the Rangers this past offseason, but Daniels apparently felt Greene posed too much of a risk to be paid when he seemingly could hit the DL at any time.
Thus, Greene's career in Texas was over before it ever began. MLB.com reported that Greene had been in Phoenix and was preparing to report to the Rangers' training camp when team officials told him not to report.
Can Greene recover? It's hard to say. At 30-years-old, his window is closing, and the torment he must feel to have lost his job in the majors due to insurmountable mental pressure—as opposed to eroding physical skills—is mind-boggling
Greene's certainly not the only major leaguer to see his performance suffer due to mental illness, and it certainly doesn't discriminate based on skill level either.
Depression recently sidelined Oakland A's ace Justin Duchscherer for the entire 2009 season. Duchscherer, a two-time All-Star, sported a 10-8 record and a sparkling 2.54 ERA in 2008 prior to falling victim to the disease.
Dontrelle Willis, also a two-time All-Star, has seen a tragic fall from grace since his glory days with the Marlins and was placed on the DL multiple times for anxiety disorder in 2009. At the ripe age of 28, when most players are entering their prime, "D-Train's" career seems to be derailed.
Even Oakland A's GM and Moneyball guru Billy Beane failed as a major leaguer because of anxiety issues dealing with being in the spotlight. It's worth noting that during the 2002 MLB Draft, which the Moneyball story was based on, Beane compiled a list of twenty players he'd draft in a "perfect world" if he had his pick of the litter, and guess who made it onto his list—Khalil Greene.
What's even more frustrating about Greene's situation is that his issue isn't cut-and-dry. He didn't strain his hamstring or pull a muscle in his arm. There's no timetable for anxiety. There's no amount of ice, cortisone, or Vicodin that can help ease the pain that Greene's most likely feeling.
The uncertain nature of when an anxiety issue has actually run its course puts a strain not only on the player to ignore symptoms and get back on the playing field as soon as possible, but on the owner as well, since mental illness is viewed as a touchy subject and many owners must walk on eggshells to avoid accusations of unjust treatment.
A level of compassion must be shown for these players; but as always, baseball is a business, and if you're stagnant for too long and no longer helping the team, you're expendable.
Skill-wise, Greene still has a lot left in the tank, and I certainly wouldn't put a nail in his MLB coffin just yet.
Now, if only he could get out of his own head.
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