Tony Gwynn needed walker as he battled cancer, weight problems

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Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champion, has finished an eight-week program of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer of the parotid gland, and says he hopes to return to his job as head baseball coach at San Diego State later this month, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The former San Diego Padres star was diagnosed with cancer in August and underwent surgery in October, completing his cancer treatment shortly before Christmas. In addition to the cancer, his health woes were complicated by back problems caused by being overweight.

Gwynn was a once svelte outfielder (listed at 5-11, 185 on baseball-reference.com!) who became increasingly portly as his legendary career progressed. After retiring, the five-time Gold Glove winner became noticeably bigger. His size contributed to disk problems in his back, which got so bad that it became difficult to walk.

“I was in bad shape,” Gwynn told the Union-Tribune. “Not only was I dealing with the cancer, I was having to use a walker to get around and I wasn’t doing a great job of that.”

He said that he isn’t sure about the status of his cancer, though he did point out that while he can’t say it’s cured, he feels good and doctors tell him he is ahead of schedule. He also said that he’s been “walking on my own for about a month now.”

Gwynn told the paper that his recovery was aided by the numerous cards and messages he received, saying that the support made it “hard to be down.” In addition to his coaching job, he said he also plans to return as a commentator on Padres telecasts this season.

As for his size, the career .338 hitter says he has lost a significant amount of weight and is getting around much better.

“I can’t tell you how many pounds because I haven’t gotten on a scale,” he said. “But I can guess the amount is considerable since I have sweats that fall off me now and my jackets seem like they are many sizes too big.

“Losing the weight has also helped my back and my walking.”

Gwynn, only 50, is a class act who has as much knowledge about baseball and hitting as anyone on the planet. Losing him as a coach and broadcaster would be a huge loss for the game. Get well Tony.

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Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.