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.

Players are waking up and getting ready to fight

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There’s this idea out there that the owners have been eating the players’ lunch at the bargaining table in recent years because the players are, generally, rich and happy and maybe don’t care about a lot of the stuff the previous couple of generations of players did. There is probably some degree of truth to that. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal, in both collective bargaining and on the free agent market, is way less dire now than it used to be and thus the urgency may not have been there over the past several years the way it was in 1981 or 1994.

But it goes too far to say that such a mindset is universal among players. Or that it’s a mindset which, even among those who hold it, will always persist. Players may not have been as vigilant about labor matters over the past several years as they used to be, but they’re not idiots and, at some point, the owners are gonna push ’em too far and they’ll respond.

As we find ourselves in the second straight offseason in which teams simply don’t seem all too keen on signing free agents, it’s starting to happen already.

Earlier this week Dallas Keuchel tweeted out some things critical of the current market and teams’ approach to it (and took another swipe today). This afternoon Giants third baseman Evan Longoria chimed in on Instagram, posting a picture of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and saying the following:

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

Most of that is common sense, the sort of which we’ve been arguing for around here for some time. Fans should care about good players and winning baseball games, not whether or not their front office can get a great bargain for its own sake. It may be interesting to talk about payroll and salaries and wins/$, but the point of baseball is to win, right? When so many teams seem rather uninterested in that, it’s a problem that all of the interesting analytical insights can’t really make up for.

The second part is worth keeping your eyes on. Maybe players have not been on a war footing the likes of which their predecessors were in the 1970s through the 1990s, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back there if pushed. As is abundantly clear, the owners are pushing. Salaries are dropping in both an absolute sense and, especially, compared to baseball’s revenues. Players are getting a smaller piece of the pie than they have in a while and ownership seems quite pleased to see that continue.

If players are saying stuff like this publicly, it means that players are talking about it amongst themselves privately. The last two years have likely served as quite a wakeup call for them, and they seem to be waking up. Evan Longoria is. Dallas Keuchel is. So are some others. If current trends continue, more and more will wake up.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season. What happens over the rest of this offseason and the next two is going to determine the mood of the players. The mood of the players, in turn, is going to dictate the tenor of negotiations. If they were to begin right now, those negotiations would be very, very rocky.