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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The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

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The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

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Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.