The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Baseball Blog

March 30, 2009

Whatcha talkin' 'bout?

Something odd is going on with the Detroit Tigers. on Sunday, they put Dontrelle Willis on the disabled list with anxiety disorder.

In and of itself, that's unusual but hardly unheard of — as the above link notes, Zach Grienke of the Royals missed most of 2006 with anxiety disorder. What's odd is Willis' own description of it:

This is not something where I’m too amped up, I don’t know where I’m at, and I’m running sprints up and down the parking lot. This is not something like that. (The doctors) see something in my blood that they don’t like. I’m not crazy. My teammates might think I’m crazy. But this is not something like that.

Blood test? A psychological diagnosis from a blood test? Doesn't make sense to me.

As I recall, Grienke's season on the brink began in spring training, when he exhibited no interest in pitching. Even now, he can seem oddly detached from his occupation, at least in comparison to most major league talents. Whether it was anxiety disorder or depression, there was pretty clearly something wrong with him mentally and emotionally.

Willis' "symptoms," so far as I know, seem limited to his inability to command his pitches. This is often referred to as "Steve Blass disease," in (dis)honor of the Pirates pitcher whose career fell suddenly apart. Steve Blass disease is generally figured to be a mental block, in which the afflicted pitcher simply cannot "remember" physically how to throw the ball where he wants it. I don't know that's it a bona fide psychological disorder.

I have no problem with putting a player on the disabled list with a mental illness. But off what Willis told the media, I'm not certain he has a mental illness.

And if, as the Detroit Free Press link above suggests, the Tigers hope to recoup Willis' salary through insurance, this might be an interesting wrangle.

e-mail Edward Thoma

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