"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

And How Does That Make You Feel?

I have no idea how Zack Greinke feels about New York City. The word used to be that he did not want to pitch here — because, it was usually implied, all the stress and pressure of New York would be hard on someone dealing with social anxiety disorder and depression, as Greinke famously has. Then came word that someone was saying maybe Greinke actually likes New York after all; followed quickly by word that the Yankees aren’t buying it.

Earlier today, Craig Calcaterra wrote that “our speculation about what Zack Greinke may or may not be able to handle in light of his anxiety disorder is ignorant, silly and in some ways irresponsible,” and “the only ones who know for certain about whether Greinke wants to be in New York and whether his anxiety issues would be triggered by playing there are Zack Greinke and his doctor.” I agree with that, mostly. Practicing amateur psychiatry on someone you’ve never met is rarely an effective practice.

Craig then continues, “To suggest we know better is to suggest that we know the first thing about how anxiety disorder works and how it’s operating in a specific patient. I think I know a lot of stuff, but I don’t believe I know that. Do you?” To which I say, well, yes to the former, though no to the latter. I know extremely little about Greinke, certainly not the specifics of his psychiatric makeup. But I do know quite a bit about depression and anxiety disorder, as both run in my family —  to paraphrase Cary Grant  in Arsenic and Old Lace, they practically gallop.

The idea that New York would be especially bad for someone with Social Anxiety Disorder seems to me completely unfounded. Depression and anxiety are internal matters; they may be triggered to a greater or lesser extent by external factors, but an otherwise healthy person isn’t likely to become clinically depressed because New York features a lot of media attention, while S.A.D. is a disorder precisely because its feelings of anxiety are not reflective of reality. Greinke might find New York stressful or he might not, might like it or not, but it’s unlikely that external factors would determine his mental health. I know plenty of people who deal with anxiety and depression and who find New York much easier to thrive in than their smaller hometowns.

Besides — though this may less true among athletes and sports fans than in the city’s larger culture — few places on earth are more accepting of psychiatry. Not to turn this post into a Woody Allen riff, but our shrink per capita ratio is off the charts, and New Yorkers talk about their therapists about as frequently as they discuss the weather (granted my view is probably a little warped from working in publishing and journalism, where psychotherapy is essentially mandatory).

It’s fun to speculate about Zack Greinke becoming available via trade – really, it’s either that or read more about Derek Jeter’s negotiations, or Brian Cashman’s decision to rappel down a building in an elf costume. (Is anybody else getting a little worried about that guy?). But even aside from the inappropriateness and inutility of attempting to psychoanalyze Greinke, it seems to me too many people have bought into the idea that New York is inherently stressful, therefore someone with anxiety should not come here. On the contrary. This city accepts anxious migrants from all over the world.

13 comments

1 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 1, 2010 6:53 pm

New York may not be inherently stressful, but I think playing baseball in New York probably is. Why? Because there are so many people who care so very much about baseball, which means extra scrutiny. Also, although the city may accept migrants, it isn't very welcoming of baseball players who underperform.

2 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 1, 2010 7:19 pm

personally I find Greinke's past honesty about his apprehension over playing in a major market refreshing. Plenty of guys in every sport, from A-Rod in the early NY years to LeBron today, talk a good game about wanting the spotlight only the shrink from it once its on. Its nice to hear someone be honest about their own limitations, even if they are self-imposed.

3 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 1, 2010 8:55 pm

I like Craig, but I think he's a bit off base here. A number of pitchers have blown up under the NYC spotlight, from Rick Reuschel to Eddie Whitson to Kenny Rogers to Carl Pavano to Javier Vazquez. All of these pitchers had success before coming to the Yankees and after leaving the Yankees, but all were disasters WITH the Yankees.

If Greinke has expressed any reservations about playing in NY, I wouldn't waste a minute trying to trade for him. The Yankees have enough work to do this off season that they don't need to get sidetracked with players who don't want to play here.

Even if Greinke was keen on New York, the Yankees would have to give up Montero, leaving themselves without their starting catcher for 2010.

4 omarcoming   ~  Dec 1, 2010 9:24 pm

Now that the Jeter storm has subsided we need a new topic. I guess this is as good as any.
Actually, trade speculation may be the lowest form of journalism. It belongs on Fox News between Megyn Kelly and Elliot Spitzer.

5 thelarmis   ~  Dec 2, 2010 12:30 am

well, if greinke does indeed play for the yankees, he sure as shit won't be wearing #23 anymore!!!

6 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 2, 2010 3:49 am

[1] It would also be the first time he pitched any kind of meaningful games.

7 clarko   ~  Dec 2, 2010 6:15 am

thanks for a most intelligent post. I believe psychiatry to be complete rubbish. It is paying someone to be your friend. Why not just make a friend? It is very hard to do in NYC, where I was born, educated, and lived 50+ years.
NYC has changed and you can ridicule me for pointing this out-
apartments in NY (post 70's) are mostly built out using metal frames (studs) and sheetrock. The metal acts as a conducting material, transforming our apartments into antennae. cell phones and even microwave ovens transmit and receive vast amounts of wave pollution, a fact that no one speaks or writes about. Underline the word fact. Metal studs are an oncologists best friend.
The energy in NYC has indeed changed and it is not only because of the famous rat race. It is an incredibly polluted environment and borderline head cases should beware- and not seek balance with shrinks. It is not worth the money to live in an environment that kills you. Grienke doesn't strike me as the type to live in a Trump Towers and hit the bars on first ave- more likely to buy an estate in NJ and commute to the stadium with the occasional trip to midtown to shop or see a show, entertain intimate visitors., do baseball signings, etc.

8 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 2, 2010 6:43 am

7) wow...but how do you really feel?

9 RIYank   ~  Dec 2, 2010 7:02 am

[8] That will be $750, please.

But [7] I suspect you actually have no idea what psychiatry is. Psychiatrists are not their patients' friends. They are their patients' doctors.
I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychiatry patient, but I have a good friend who would probably be dead and if not then certainly a non-functioning wreck if it weren't for psychiatry (and pharmacology).

10 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 2, 2010 7:59 am

9) Yeah, I don't even want to touch that one, just to leave it, "Well, that's just like your opinion, man."

11 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 2, 2010 8:52 am

[3] I wonder if we are too quick to use NYC/stress as the reason for players underperforming in NY, but succeeding elsewhere. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I just wonder if there might be other circumstances.

Vazquez, for one, had some bad seasons in Chicago. He wasn't great in Arizona, either. He had his worst season (2010) in NYC, yes, but that was also the year he lost 2-3 MPH off his fastball. Pretty hard to succeed when that happens. It could be age, it could be wear and tear over a 13 year career . . .

This is the kind of issue someone like Russell Carlton (Pizza Cutter), with a background in psychotherapy and research, might be able to study. If he wasn't working for the Indians . . .

12 The Mick536   ~  Dec 2, 2010 9:01 am

What better place to be depressed than NYC. You can be invisible if you want. Now, if he were thinking about playing for the Lake Monsters, here in Burlington, VT, he'd be advised to stay away. This place could give him an affective seasonal disorder in any season.

[8][9] Clarko doesn't believe in climate change, either.

13 Raf   ~  Dec 2, 2010 12:15 pm

[11] Seems to me to be an awful lot of projection. There are many factors that lead to a player having an offseason. What many seem to refuse to point out is that players that have "failed" in NY also have had bad seasons before coming to NY. That would include Whitson, Rogers, Weaver, etc. I find it hilarious that Alex Rodriguez couldn't handle NY despite winning the AL MVP award TWICE while playing in NY.

At this stage, I just say "meh, whatever" to the idea that NYC is some sort of hellish place to play.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver