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.”

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.