Tony Gwynn to begin treatment for parotid cancer

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Some unfortunate news to report.

Former Padres great Tony Gwynn told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he will soon begin radiation and chemotherapy treatments for parotid cancer, a cancer of the salivary glands.

“I had surgery for a parotid tumor in 1997 and again three years ago
and both those times there was no cancer,” said Gwynn. “But this time
they found a malignancy. They took out three lymph nodes and did all the
tests and the results showed cancer in the parotid.

“The doctors have told me they feel they caught the cancer early and there was not much of it there.”

Gwynn, 50, said he had been trying to keep his cancer “secret” and was “pulling it off” because of his severe back problem. He took a leave of absence from his duties as a Padres television analyst back in August due to three bulging disks in his back.

The Hall of Famer speculates that the cancer may have been caused by his use of chewing tobacco, although a neck and throat specialist at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center told Center that there have been no studies showing a link between parotid cancer and chewing tobacco.

Determined to treat the cancer “aggressively,” Gwynn now faces seven to eight weeks of five-day-a-week radiation treatments and once-a-week chemotherapy treatments. He still plans to return as the baseball coach at San Diego State.

We’re rooting for you, Tony.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.