If you only read one thing today (though really that’s a pretty damn phrase, isn’t it: if you only read one thing a day you’re missing out on the world and really ought to be reading more, but anyway…) you should really make it this piece over at Baseball Prospectus by Russell Carleton. Carleton has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and he puts that expertise to use in examining some of the free agents with so-called baggage this offseason. Included in the piece in the commonly held belief, peddled by no less than the Yankees’ organization themselves, that Zack Greinke‘s social anxiety issues would make pitching in New York a particular challenge for him. Carleton’s take? Poppycock:
I want you to memorize this sentence: social anxiety disorder (SAD) is not about being overly sensitive to what other people say about you. Social anxiety is about the irrational fear that you will do or say something horribly embarrassing in front of others. We’re talking about something that is internal in its origin. It’s not about needing to have thicker skin when people are critical. In fact, people can develop SAD even if no one’s been particularly harsh with them. It’s also not about the size of the audience.
I know I’ve said this before, but the notion that Greinke wouldn’t be able to handle a large market has always been based on an erroneous and baseless belief of what social anxiety is, and how it develops/affects someone who suffers with it. The fact that it assumes a sort of cold rationality in the process of mental illness alone should be your first clue that it’s total nonsense, but nonetheless it’s been trotted out every time Greinke’s name is mentioned in any sort of conjunction with the Yankees, and “team sources” have repeatedly mentioned it specifically when speaking with reporters.
That last bit is particularly important where the Yankees are involved with this, and really deserves more scrutiny than it will ever get. That the Yankees have been routinely pushing this trope tells us one of three things: The Yankees are either: a) working under a completely false assumption of what SAD is, and haven’t bothered to seek out any experts on the matter who could set them straight, b) were using Greinke’s mental health issues to manipulate the market for him by feigning disinterest, or c) were never interested in acquiring Greinke, and cynically used his mental illness to keep criticism from fans/media at bay (this has the added bonus of flattering the New York media’s sense of importance and desire to be a part of the story). Whatever the answer is, it’s not a good one, and it would be nice to see some of those super tough New York reporters pushing someone within the organization to explain why they’ve been pushing this myth for years now.