Andrew Baggarly

Aubrey Huff hits DL due to anxiety – how much do we deserve to know?

The San Francisco Giants brought Joaquin Arias to Cincinnati, but in terms of overall importance his arrival pales in comparison to the reason why the Giants called him up. Aubrey Huff, who’s been equal parts hero and favorite target since signing with the Giants before the 2010 season, was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with anxiety disorder.

When an injury can’t be detected with an X-Ray or MRI, speculation becomes the medical instrument reached for next. Speculation often leads to stupid, crass or nonsensical observations, but such is life when dealing with public figures. And the more a public figure is earning, especially from an organization that millions wrongly believe is partly owned by the public at large, the fewer boundaries which exist.

Ours is a results-oriented society. People demanded to know why Huff was rolling grounder after grounder to second basemen last season. The Giants offered up an explanation the day after the last game of the 2011 regular season: Huff Daddy’s out of shape, didn’t prepare, wasn’t into it like he should’ve been after receiving a hefty 2-year reward for what he did in 2010.

Now that we know a little more (not a lot, but a little) about the family emergency that took Huff away from the team on Monday, we’re finding out things about his family that are making some people very uncomfortable. From Andrew Baggarly:

According to court records from Hillsborough County, Fla., his wife, Baubi, filed for divorce on Jan. 31. The couple has been married since 1997 and has two young sons. The latest case management conference between the parties was held April 11.

You can be sure that Baggarly thought long and hard about that paragraph. The last thing anyone (okay, anyone who isn’t phenomenally angry with the hand life’s dealt him or her) wants to do is pile on. With Huff clearly hurting, many reacted angrily to Baggarly’s report. His response:

Here’s why I mentioned the part about our society being results-oriented … when Pablo Sandoval was struggling as a player, his divorce was a topic I saw/heard discussed in many forums. Many considered his relationship troubles the reason why he wasn’t the .300-hitting machine we were used to seeing. Unless I’m remembering things incorrectly — which is certainly possible — the response from the public was nowhere near as protective in Sandoval’s case as it’s been today. The reason why is pretty easy to decipher: Sandoval was never linked to a mental disorder afflicting millions.

One person who wrote about battling anxiety was another Giants beat writer, Henry Schulman.

Before I continue this story, I need to disclose something. I have struggled with whether to say this publicly, and how to do it, but this gives me a good opening. Since 2009 I have been treated for depression, in therapy and medicinally, and continue to be treated. Many awful things happened to me and people around me in a very short time, and my mental health was affected. Anxiety and panic attacks were part of it.

I say this, then, from experience. Everybody will have an opinion about what set this off, but you can’t know, and it’s possible Huff doesn’t know. Sometimes a panic attack just happens.

In my view, Baggarly isn’t a villain for disclosing this information. It’s not like this news glorifies or exploits Huff’s current problems. Huff’s divorce would’ve come out at some point, and like Schulman said, “it’s possible Huff doesn’t know” why the anxiety hit him so hard. Huff’s dealing with a lot these days:

1. A decline in performance

2. Positional instability (highlighted by his short stint at second base but also mentioned when he was moved to right field immediately before the start of the 2011 season)

3. A lack of public support from his bosses

4. As Wendy Thurm notes, Huff may have lost his support system in the form of two veterans: Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand.

Forget the fact that he’s rich and baseball players are paid to perform. We’ve all seen the 4-3 jokes, we all know how many people wished the Giants would replace Huff permanently with Brandon Belt and/or Brett Pill. That list of four things is a lot for a person to take, and the upheaval of one’s family trumps them all. It’s painful for Huff, it’s painful for the public to read, but it’s all relevant.

While we are pretty advanced technologically as a species, the understanding of our own brains is woefully behind. Until recently, concussions were cobwebs and mental illness was nothing more than a “case of the Mondays” — or worse, a sign of weakness. Instead of attacking each other and Huff, a little humility is in order. We truly know nothing about Huff, how he thinks and feels. One would assume he feels very alone right now, and hopefully he’ll get the help he needs.

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