Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 1/31/12

Baseball is a team sport. Between the foul lines, however, the outcome of the game is inextricably composed of multiple individual performances, and in today’s hyper-analytical and overly-critical society that places each individual performance under a microscope, stress amongst baseball players has — by all accounts — risen to never-before-seen levels.

For some players, that stress lacks a healthy outlet. It builds and builds until mental disorders begin to bubble to the surface, and in some cases, they can become debilitating for players.

Taylor Buchholz became the latest major league baseball player to come forward and announce that he will take time away from baseball due to anxiety and depression issues.

His agent released the following statement on the issue:

“If he signs with anyone, it would be with the Mets,” Pasti said. “The way they handled the situation with Taylor meant a lot to him. The Mets really cared about him. As of right now, Taylor is taking the year off. He’s feeling great, but not ready to get back into baseball. He’s taking it one day at a time.”

Buchholz has spent time on the disabled list in recent years due to shoulder and elbow injuries, grinding what appeared to be a blossoming career as a late-inning reliever to a sudden halt. He posted a 2.17 ERA (3.33 FIP) with the Colorado Rockies in 2008, compiling 21 holds and a 3.11 K/BB, but he missed time during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons due to the aforementioned injuries.

The anxiety and depression issues with which Buchholz now copes are every bit as serious as the physical ones that derailed him earlier in his career, but the 30-year-old reliever is far from the only professional baseball player dealing with a mental malady.

Zack Greinke remains the most notable current major leaguer that has publicly announced his struggles with anxiety. Hong-Chih Kuo, Khalil Green, Dontrelle Willis, and Joey Votto are other recent examples of players who have missed playing time due to non-physical issues. Some have been able to bounce back and enjoy success in the major leagues. Some, however, have been unable to overcome the anxiety and now serve as precautionary tales for organizations that ignore the fragile mental state of professional baseball players.

Read these descriptions from baseball players and doctors:

Buchholz: “This has been an ongoing thing for two-and-a-half, three years and I had no idea what was going on. I was totally irritable, but I was able to fake it around people. I would normally be the guy whistling and singing and smiling around the clubhouse. But with total anxiety, I had this tightness all of the time. I was constantly on edge.” (link)

Stan Conte, Dodgers Trainer: “[Kuo] was like a guy in water who couldn’t float and begging to get out of the water. It was very emotional, the way he was begging us not to put him out there.” (link)

Votto: “The very first night I was alone was when I went to the hospital, I couldn’t take it. It got to the point where I thought I was going to die.” (link)

Willis: “This [anxiety disorder] is not depression. This is something totally different. This is something where they saw something in my blood that they didn’t like. I’m not crazy, though my teammates might think that I’m crazy.” (link)

These quotations only provide us with a tiny glimpse into these players’ worlds, but it becomes quite clear that this issue is not one to be ignored. Votto’s quotation is certainly the most jarring, though Willis displays the natural isolation (“my teammates might think that I’m crazy”) that is generally associated with anxiety disorders.

Part of me wonders if the increased use of statistics in baseball has only heightened the spotlight on the individual player. The very term WAR — Wins Above Replacement — seeks to quantify a player’s worth to his team; a single statistic that singles out the individual player, isolates his performance from that of his team, and labels a player as good or bad. In many ways, that statistic has depersonalized the game. While it augments one’s understanding of the game and player value, it also ignores personality, leadership, dedication, and intelligence.

Statistics serve an important tool in today’s game and are being heavily relied upon by more and more front offices, but organizations and fans cannot ignore the fact that baseball is played by individuals. A study out of the United Kingdom suggests 1-in-6 adults have experienced anxiety attacks or currently suffer from an anxiety disorder. That statistic allows us to postulate that anxiety is more prevalent in baseball than widely assumed. Anxiety is an unquantifiable — but very real — issue for which teams must prepare and consider when making personnel moves and when simply attempting to create the healthiest environments for their existing players.

And by all accounts, the New York Mets handled the situation with Taylor Buchholz with class and sensitivity. The fact that Buchholz would have only signed with the Mets signifies a sense of loyalty that was earned during a tough and emotional 2011 season for the reliever. That is encouraging to see for all parties involved.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NFL Draft prospect charged with knocking woman out

Patrick Beverley criticizes NBA for not protecting players

Report: At least four teams looking to trade out of top 10

Bill Parcells on Tony Romo: ‘I was glad he retired’

Report: Garoppolo remains 'long shot' to be traded


Report: Packers coaches upset with GM Ted Thompson

Rondo fined $25K for attempting to trip Crowder

Logan Morrison curses out umpire CB Bucknor mid at-bat

Raptors jab Bucks on Twitter after Game 4 victory

Report: NBA GMs not hesitant to draft Lonzo Ball due to father LaVar

DeShone Kizer changes course, stands by Tom Brady-Cam Newton quote

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Best of Yardbarker: David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won't go down quietly

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

25 times Mother Nature disrupted sports

In some ways, Dan Rooney was just another NFL owner

Box Score 4/20: When Westbrook isn't enough

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The '♫Happy Birthday Simpsons. Simpsons, it's your birthday♫' quiz

White House championship visits over the years

Biggest needs in the draft for every NFL team

The 'Baseball has been very, very good to its players' quiz

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

In some ways, Dan Rooney was just another NFL owner

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The '♫Happy Birthday Simpsons. Simpsons, it's your birthday♫' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: David Fizdale calls B.S.

Kris Bryant can become the next Derek Jeter — and more

The 'Baseball has been very, very good to its players' quiz

NHL youth movement: How the 2016-17 rookie class fared

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker