The first is sympathetic. Many people in this country have suffered from such problems, or have close friends or family members who have suffered, and they know that being a talented athlete doesn't make you immune. The other camp feels that these are just excuses for teams to stash away players performing poorly.
Clearly that wasn't the case with Votto, who has performed very well, but Greene and Willis have both been terrible on the field. That gives rise to suspicions about the real reason for the diagnosis and the trip to the disabled list. The league and the teams aren't helping things with the way they handle the issues.
Willis came off the DL, pitched like crap and returned to the DL with the same problem, which he's denied ever having in the first place. Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he may start Greene on Sunday, which is an odd way of handling a man who couldn't play the two previous days because of a mental issue. That plays into the idea that these aren't real problems, but handy crutches. (Editor's Note: Greene started on Sunday and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.)
In an interview with FanHouse's Jeff Fletcher in May, Greene described his difficulties. They don't sound like something that a day off here and there is going to fix.
"It was difficult to concentrate, difficult to sustain my energy level," he said. "All my energy was wasted trying to control myself. Just trying to get myself to function, to be able to stay in the game and not be thinking so much what I'm thinking. It's just a battle to be relaxed. I'm trying to battle that and find a way to come to terms with that, trying to find those coping mechanisms."
Anxiety and stress disorders simply aren't a way of explaining away feeling bad about not doing very well at your job. They are much more serious than that, and need to be treated as such if they're going to be given as reasons for a player going on the disabled list. That may mean longer absences from the team, as well as more education for teams and players about what it means to have these disorders.
No one would expect a pitcher with a torn rotator cuff or a shortstop with a broken leg to be back overnight; there shouldn't be any difference in the way these issues are handled.
On May 29, the St. Louis Cardinals placed shortstop Khalil Greene on the 15-day disabled list because of social anxiety disorder. Greene isn't alone, as many other sports stars have struggled with some kind of mental disorder in their careers.
Christian Petersen, Getty Images
Detroit Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis missed the first month and a half of the season due to an anxiety disorder after a blood test showed something of concern. Willis was activated from the disabled list and returned to the team on May 13. Source: AP
Keith Srakocic, AP
Lute Olson suffered a small stroke before the 2007-08 season which eventually sidelined him with severe depression. As a result, the 74-year-old head coach retired from the University of Arizona. Source: AP
Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
In October 2008, NBA player Delonte West revealed that he contemplated quitting the team before seeking help for depression and "a mood disorder" he has been battling his entire life. "I felt a feeling of anger and I just wanted to throw it all away and quit the team," West said. Source: AP
Mark Duncan, AP
Philadelphia Eagles lineman Shawn Andrews told a Philadelphia newspaper in August that he's been fighting depression for a year. "It's not something that blossomed up overnight. I'm on medication, trying to get better," said Andrews. Source: AP
Chris McGrath, Getty Images
College football legend Herschel Walker documented his struggle with dissociative identity disorder in his 2008 autobiography 'Breaking Free.' He has claimed that due to his disorder, he cannot remember the season he won the Heisman Trophy. Source: AP
Scott Cunningham, Getty Images
Barret Robbins' NFL career ended in a psychiatric ward before Super Bowl XXXVII. Robbins, seen here in 2005, has received treatment for bipolar disorder, and recently checked into a halfway house following rehab. Source: USA Today
J. Pat Carter, AP
Frank Bruno, a former boxer who won the WBC heavyweight championship in 1995, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. Source: Wikipedia, The Guardian
Dave Hogan, Getty Images
Former Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter washed out of the NFL and was treated for drug addiction and bipolar disorder in 2004. He was arrested on marijuana possession charges in 2007 and recently played in the Arena Football League. Source: Shreveport Times, Wikipedia
Brian Bahr, Getty Images
Former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Alonzo Spellman, who struggled with bipolar disorder during his career, has been in trouble with the law numerous times. Source: Chicago Sun-Times, Wikipedia