Tony Gwynn recently discussed his recovery from cancer with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
As you may remember, the Hall of Famer was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland last August. We learned last month that radiation and chemotherapy forced him to use a walker to get around, but Gwynn tells Hernandez that surgery to remove a tumor also resulted in paralysis of the right side of his face, complicating his ability to smile, laugh or blink with his right eye. Gywnn estimates that he lost about 85 pounds during treatment.
“Baseball-wise, I knew if I put in the work I was going to get results,” Gwynn said. “Not knowing how it’s going to turn out, that’s the hard part. After being in control 20 years of your career and in nine years of coaching, now you ain’t in control anymore.”
The good news is that Gwynn told Hernandez that “things are about back to normal.” He has begun a workout program and recently underwent surgery to correct a back issue that has bothered him for over a year and a half. Earlier this week, he returned to his office at his alma mater San Diego State, where he has been the baseball coach since 2001. Gwynn plans to be on the bench when the team opens their season on February 18. He also intends to return to the broadcast booth for Padres games this season.
“I haven’t had any setbacks whatsoever,” Gwynn said. “I’m getting control of my face again.”
If there’s any story you read today, make sure it’s this one.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.
According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.
It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.
Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.
Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.
Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.
The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.