Robin Williams 1951-2014. Depression is no joke.

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Robin Williams, man.

There’s no baseball connection here, though I suppose there could be if I stretched it. How about this: my favorite Robin Williams performance of all time came in the 1994 episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street” entitled “Bop Gun.” In it he plays a father and husband who is visiting Baltimore with his family. They just took in an Orioles game at Camden Yards. While leaving the stadium a stickup man approaches them and Williams’ wife is murdered right in front of him and his children.

A big-name star like Williams — and at the time he was as big as he’d ever be, I’d reckon — could have viewed that role as one in which he was doing a favor to a struggling show. He could have just showed up, hit all of the cliche grieving crime-victim notes, cashed his check and been done with it. But he didn’t. He had the courage to play his character as, actually, something of an unlikable figure. A guy whose guilt and shock over what happened caused him to actually be a problem for the detectives who were investigating his wife’s death. It was uncomfortable to watch in places, but his refusal to simply play the sobbing, saintly widower rang very, very true. He got a well-deserved Emmy nomination for it. That’s one of my favorite shows of all time and I think of it an awful lot. Maybe because that episode started at a ballpark. Mostly, though, I think of it because Williams’ performance was daring, chilling, touching and thought-provoking.

We don’t really know the celebrities we see on the screen. We don’t know what makes them tick. We do know, however, that for as much joy and laughter as Robin Williams brought people, he himself suffered from crippling depression. Based on what we’re hearing about the circumstances of his death, it seems as though depression got the better of him.

Depression is no joke. It stalks its victims. Sometimes it plays with them, letting them go for a while, only to return to try to destroy them later. As a mental illness it gets overlooked and underestimated by many because, well, we just have messed up or under-informed attitudes in this country about mental illnesses. Because it can, outwardly, manifest itself as a mere bad mood or the blues we tend not to take it too seriously. We tell its sufferers to cheer up. We assume that, because they’re rich or famous or have good things in their lives, they somehow don’t have the “right” to be depressed. That they have a choice about whether to suffer from depression or not. A lot of people with depression feel that way, actually, which is why it so often goes untreated or undertreated.

It’s trite and pat to use a celebrity’s death as an inspiration for action, but it’s better than nothing, so I’ll say it anyway: if you are depressed or if you know someone who is, know that there is help out there. Try to get it or try to steer those who need it in that direction. You’d never self-treat or self-diagnose heart disease, cancer or anything else that could kill you, so don’t do it with depression either.

Cincinnati Reds fire Bryan Price

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The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Bryan Price. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Riggleman. The team also fired pitching coach Mack Jenkins. The club also added Louisville manager Pat Kelly to the staff as the new bench coach and Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin as the new big league pitching coach.

It was only a matter of time for Price, whose Reds have begun the season 3-15. This was Price’s fifth season at the helm and the Reds never won more than 76 games in any of his previous seasons, doing so in his first year, in 2014. They won 68 games in both 2016 and 2017 and 64 games in 2015. While that’s far more attributable to the Reds talent level than anything Price ever did or did not do, at some point the manager will take the fall for a team that makes no progress.

Price’s tenure will likely be considered largely forgettable in the view of history, but he did have a pretty memorable moment as Reds manager in April of 2015, when he went on a profanity-laced tirade at the media because they reported the availability or lack thereof of certain players for an upcoming game. Which is part of the media’s job, even if Price didn’t fully grok that at the time. The tirade itself was pretty epic, though, with then Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans reporting that “there were 77 uses of the “F” word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine).” 

Taking over will be Jim Riggleman, who last managed in the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, resigning in June of 2011 because he was unhappy that he did not get a contract extension. It was a weird episode, the sort of which a lot of guys couldn’t have come back from, perhaps being considered quitters. Riggleman took a job managing the Reds’ Double-A team, however, then moved on to Triple-A and then the Reds’ big league coaching staff. There’s something to be said for persistence. And for being a big league lifer.

Anyway, Price’s exit is not likely to change the Reds’ course too much in 2018. But, as it is so often said in baseball, sometimes you gotta make a change all the same.