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MLBPA head Michael Weiner dies at age 51 following battle with brain cancer

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Very sad news to pass along this evening, as MLBPA head Michael Weiner passed away today following a 15-month battle with brain cancer. He was 51 years old.

Per the Associated Press, Weiner died at his home in Mansfield Township, New Jersey. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

This isn’t unexpected news, as we learned last month that Weiner had anywhere from two to six months to live, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

Diamondbacks reliever and union rep Brad Ziegler was the first to pass along word of Weiner’s death this evening:

Weiner took over as head of the player’s union four years ago and helped shape an era of labor peace. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in August of 2012, but continued to work to make a difference in the game. And from all accounts, he did it with class and dignity. Former major leaguer Tony Clark will now take over as acting executive director for the player’s union.

This is a sad day for baseball. We send our condolences to Weiner’s family, friends, and colleagues. We’ll add more reaction from around the game throughout the evening.

Please read these wonderful tributes from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Here is a statement from MLB commissioner Bud Selig:

“All of Major League Baseball mourns the loss of Michael Weiner, a gentleman, a family man, and an extraordinarily talented professional who earned the trust of his membership and his peers throughout the national pastime.  Our strong professional relationship was built on a foundation of respect and a shared commitment to finding fair solutions for our industry.  I appreciated Michael’s tireless, thoughtful leadership of the Players and his pivotal role in the prosperous state of Baseball today.

“Michael was a courageous human being, and the final year of his remarkable life inspired so many people in our profession.  On behalf of Major League Baseball and our 30 Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Michael’s wife Diane, their three daughters, his colleagues at the MLBPA and his many friends and admirers throughout the game he served with excellence.”

Indians sign Brandon Guyer to a two-year extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates Rajai Davis #20 two-run home run during the eighth inning to tie the game 6-6 against the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year contract with a club option for 2019.

The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.

Nice signing.

Sarasota County to build the Braves a new spring training facility

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The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.

Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:

The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.

It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.

But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.

One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.