Greinke, SAD, and big markets

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.


About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

3 thoughts on “Greinke, SAD, and big markets

  1. ok – maybe I can post this way – it won’t let me sign in with Facebook, and then post.

  2. “Social anxiety is about the irrational fear that you will do or say something horribly embarrassing in front of others.” Like give up a home run to a No. 9 hitter on an 0-2 count? Walk in a run with the bases loaded? Get staked to a five-run lead and give all back by the fourth inning? And you mean to tell me that if that happens, and the fans start booing a la A.J. Burnett, Greinke is no more or less likely to be affected by it? Social Anxiety Disorder is not a factor — not at all — in whether a pitcher is more likely to turn into Mike Mussina or Ed Whitson? Really?

    • No, no one is saying that his social anxiety disorder won’t affect Greinke or definitely won’t be an issue for him over the next 5-7 years. Rather, it’s just not the case that playing in New York or another big market will necessarily be *harder* for Greinke than playing in any other city.