New Indy league hoping to buck the trend?

07/18/2016 11:09 PM - Devo

Independent baseball is not an easy gig. Leagues form and it starts with great intentions, but after over 100 years of baseball, only two leagues are still in existence from the 1990’s (Atlantic, Frontier).

Since 2010, eight leagues have folded (Continental, Freedom, Mountain Rainier, North American, North Country, and United League). Included in that list is the Northern League. The Northern League has a history dating back to 1902. They couldn’t even handle the financial difficulties that comes with putting on an exciting and affordable product on the field. Despite joining forces with two existing leagues to form the North American League, finances ultimately had them make a difficult decision.

The Desert League of Professional Baseball begins its season in the fall of 2016, differentiating itself as the only indy league playing in the fall (September to December). The main focus is on giving players undrafted in the June MLB Amateur Draft the chance to suit up professionally. Three of their teams are based out of Arizona and California, with the fourth team (Somerton Caneros) are an affiliate of the Mexican Pacific League club Cañeros de Los Mochis.

Everything appears in place including a variety of promotional nights that are sure to raise an eyebrow;

  • WITNESS RELOCATION NIGHT – come out and meet Jimmy Hoffa in the flesh!

  • DATE NIGHT – everyone receives a date from the Yuma date farms

  • NAPOLEON DYNAMITE NIGHT – free tater tots for everyone!

  • INCARCERATION NIGHT – salute Arizona DOC with Johnny Cash!

  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE NIGHT – no stress and no loud noises

  • MOM ALWAYS LIKED YOU BEST NIGHT – a tribute to the Smothers Brothers

  • More special nights saluting the Armed Forces, South Park, Breaking Bad, Ghostbusters, Zombies, the Blues Brothers, Canada, the Upper Midwest, psychics, clowns gone bad, Animal House and the Church Lady.

While I wish them all the best, there is high probability that after one year, the league joins the list hopefuls that could never get over the hump. On the other hand, you have to love a startup not afraid to go for it with business model that has delivered some horrific stories over the past couple of years.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

3rd and Long for Manziel?

07/13/2016 7:53 PM - Devo

Not that long ago, I tweeted out that I think we hold athletes up on such a pedestal that we are disappointed when they don't live up to our standards. Regardless of what think, athletes today are bigger than the game they play. Let’s be realistic, everyone can say they aren’t, but their contracts say other-wise. According to Forbes, Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest paid athlete in the world at $88 million per year. Lionel Messi is the second highest at $81.4 million and the King, LeBron James ranks third at a paltry $77.2 million.  When you’re at that elite level, you play by other rules. These performers are built different, carry themselves differently, and do things on the field that elevate them to, dare I say, Idol status.

While these are only three examples, millions of others start playing sports at a young age and once their talent goes beyond local hero, their names become synonymous with the high schools or colleges/universities they play at. We’ve seen it with Tim Tebow, who has achieved a level of fame no one can fully understand. Mr. Florida hasn’t even appeared in a NFL game since 2012, but his name is recognized all over the world. He may not flaunt his fame, but he uses it to help those in need.

On the other end of the spectrum is Johnny Manziel. He had it all. He achieved legendary status at Texas A&M after winning the Heisman Trophy after his uber successful freshman year. Cocky and arrogant, he could back it up on the football field.

As an instant celebrity, his future was all but laid out for him. Unfortunately, the signs of things to come were evident. As a future first-round NFL Draft pick/money making machine, the blinders were put on. Now, there is nothing saying he wasn’t doing what every other college kid was doing. He was the life of the party, had the fame, had the girls, and everything else that came with it.

In 2012, the 19-year-old freshman was arrested after getting into a fistfight and was in possession of a fake ID.  After winning the Heisman later that year, Johnny “Money” Manziel’s celebrity status was more of a focus than his performance on the field. TMZ was posting photos of him on their website, he bashed College Station on Twitter, was a no-show at some of the Manning Academy coaching sessions where he was a celebrity coach, was filmed getting tossed out of a frat party, and of course, the allegations of receiving cash from memorabilia sales.

The list can go on forever. Even more disturbing was when Wright Thompson published, “The trouble with Johnny”. It reveals the constant circus surrounding a kid and the drinking to cope with stress. The fame was always going to be there. Could he deal with the hurricane continually engulfing him? Since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first-round of the 2014 draft, things have deteriorated more than anyone could imagine. Right in front of our eyes, we’ve witnessed the self-destruction of one of the greatest college football players who has ever lived.

 

 

Social media is a part of our lives. The constant flow of information at our fingertips is good and bad. Gossip spreads like wildfire and risque photo’s that seemed like a good idea at the time are in cyberspace forever. So, when Manziel does something off the field, it becomes the highest priority. Now, was Manziel at fault? Of course. Do we as society play a role in it? You better believe it. To everyone Johnny Football is great television. He’s living the life we all dreamed of as kids; the lavish lifestyle in addition to a job where you get paid millions of dollars. His skill and ability kept detractors at bay for a short time. If it was us we’d be in jail or would have lost our jobs many moons ago.

From his first day in the NFL, Manziel has been under the microscope. Cleveland Brown fans have been hoping for a winner for years and this was supposed to be their guy, the guy to take them to the promise land. Unfortunately, those Browns fans longing for a winner, saw only brief glimpses of what made Manziel the toast of the town at A&M. In eight professional starts, he’s compiled a 2-6 record while tossing seven touchdowns and five interceptions. His best performance came in a 30-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Manziel threw for a career high 372 yards, completed over 70 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 95.8.

It’s a real possibility that his performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 15 was the last time we’ll see him on an NFL field. A 13-32 performance for 136 yards is what it is, but his 11 rushes for 108 yards is impressive in any league. His cavalier style proved well in college, but as a QB considered undersized for his position, running around like that can get you in trouble. After suffering a concussion during the Chiefs game, Manziel was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

 

 

There have been many first round picks that never lived up to expectations; JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, Tony Mandarich, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, and Justin Blackmon to name a few. To say they accomplished anything on a professional level is a dangerous statement. Yes, they were high profile picks and were paid a lot of money, nevertheless, they were among an elite group that played in the one of the most competitive organizations in the world. If they never scored one touchdown or got one sack, each person still achieved a pretty amazing thing.

Manziel's an extremely polarizing figure that excelled at the college level, but that never translated to success in the NFL. At this point in time, Manziel’s antics off the field will be what he’s remembered for unless he changes his lifestyle. From the money phone, to the inflatable swan, multiple party pictures, his highly publicized entry into rehab (2015), and being indicted on assault charges, his reputation has taken a major hit. That’s an extensive list and occurred within a two year window, not a lifetime.

Recently, reports have surfaced that Manziel's in rehab again. Good news, yet there is still negativity surrounding him when he’s trying to turn his life around.

"It appears as though (Manziel) is narcissistic to the extreme and is not capable of putting others before himself, let alone an entire organization, which is what he needed to do,'' said Taite. "He's got significant trauma. How do I know this? I don't treat him, but his father has shamed him in the public.''

"Look at him. His name was Johnny Football. He was so exciting to watch and he drank his own Kool-Aid,'' said Taite. "He was on the mountaintop and now he's a joke, a punchline. And now to add insult to injury. The man who is supposed to love you more and protect you more than anyone else on the face of the earth is publicly shaming you so he can look like a tough guy and a good parent.''

Obviously people aren’t a fan of his and things really can’t get much lower for him, still, this is where he can transform his life and turn those naysayers into believers. If Manziel is indeed in rehab, it’s a great first step. He needs to follow through with his promise, surround himself with the right people and get his life on track. The talent is there and the responsibility lies with him. This comes down to Johnny Manziel doing what’s best for Johnny Manziel. Not for the fans and especially not for all the celebrities he surrounds himself with.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 

When has "fandom" gone too far?

07/01/2016 10:18 PM - Devo

As sports fans, we get all riled up when we watch our favorite team or player. How many times have you been ready to throw the remote at the TV when your team gives up the winning touchdown with no time left or your guy strikes out to end the game with the winning run on third? We get so caught up that what comes out of our mouth is downright despicable. Most times we forget that those on the field making millions of dollars are people just like us, just in a different tax bracket! The emotions that run wild during a game is all fine and dandy, but Tom Brady goes home to his family after the game just like we go home to our family after a long day at work. 

Eric Simons, author of the “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession” contributed a piece to the Washington Post in early 2015 just as "DeflateGate" was gaining full steam. He says that a team is an extension of expression of a fan’s sense of self, that we mirror even the actions of the players on the field.

"A sports team is an expression of a fan’s sense of self, as I learned from dozens of interviews and research articles I surveyed for my book “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans,” is an expansion of a fan’s sense of self. It is not an obnoxious affectation when a devotee uses the word “we”; it’s a literal confusion in the brain about what is “me” and what is “the team.” In all kinds of unconscious ways, a fan mirrors the feelings, actions and even hormones of the players. Self-esteem rides on the outcome of the game and the image of the franchise."

What happens when it goes too far and emotions get the best of us? We all remember "The Decision" when LeBron James told the world he was leaving Cleveland for South Beach. People were so distraught that their support wasn't reciprocated, they burned his jersey in the streets. On the other hand, Miami Heat fans rejoiced. We've also been witness to violence applied directly to athletes on the field. Monica Seles was stabbed by a fan on the court and did not return to competition for two years. Or when Tom Gamboa was attacked by two fans while he was coaching first base for the Kansas City Royals. 

Have you ever thought about the constant abuse players receive when on the field or court? Now, don't get me wrong, I completely understand the cheers and the accolades. They're probably more than likely adored more than any other public figures on earth aside from rockstars. Personally, I remember my first professional appearance for the River City Rascals. Coming out of the bullpen in the seventh, fulfilling a lifelong dream. As I'm heading toward the mound, i hear "Go the **** back to Canada you bum". Looking back now, I can't help but laugh, but at the time laughter was not an emotion I felt.

Alex Rodriguez has been the focus of fan hate for years. It doesn't matter if he goes 4-4 with three home runs, the next day he gets booed. Has he brought this on himself? Of course, but how much can people take? There is a lot of pressure on players to perform, on top of the media scrutiny and social media, it must get overwhelming. Can you imagine, you're at work and you make a mistake and a group starts to lay in to you and not just for that day. This will continue for weeks, months, and/or years. I'm going to the extreme, but it's all for context.

It must just be our competitive nature to get amped up watching games. We critique and critcize every play like we could do any better. Will Scott Norwood ever be remembered for anything other than Wide Right? If you're a Bills fan what was going through your mind at that exact moment? It wasn't pretty I can tell you that. These moments can stay with players forever. I know. I only played professionally for a short time, but I still remember all the moments when I was on top of the world and all the moments when I couldn't accomplish what I set out to do.

Donnie Moore was a first round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1973. He played for 13 years and put up good numbers. In the 1986 ALCS, Game 5 against the Boston Red Sox, Moore was one strike away from sending the California Angels to the World Series until he gave up that fatal home run to Dave "Hendu" Henderson. The Angels, up three games to one at the time, lost the next two games along with their championship hopes and dreams. Moore was never the same. MIred with injuries and the constant reminder of that pitch, Moore committed suicide three years later after a violent argument with his wife turned violent. 

"I think insanity set in. He could not live with himself after Henderson hit the home run. He kept blaming himself," Moore's agent, Mike Pinter, told everyone who would listen. He added, "That home run killed him."

 

We cheer when our team wins and jeer when they don't. There's nothing wrong with that, but the next time we call that player "a bum" just remember, you never know what others are going through. In the end it's just a game and it's their job.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 

Michael Saunders is your surprise MLB All-Star candidate

06/20/2016 10:19 PM - Devo

It’s no surprise the MLB All-Star is a popularity contest and is topic that generates good conversation. We're still in the midst of a wild MLB season, but it's a good time to speculate who will make this year's MLB All-Star picks.

Many are voted to the team year in year out when they aren’t having the best year. Even injured players still get voted it in. On the other hand, coaches, managers, and active players get to cast their votes for their respective teammates and reserve players. When all's said and done, every team will have at least one representative at the game.

As mentioned, there’s been some past selections that leaves you scratching your head. Mike Williams, who last toed the rubber for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003, has the dubious distinction to be ranked by ESPN as one of the worst selections in MLB history. When selected for the 2003 Midsummer Classic, Williams had the highest ERA (6.29) in history for any participant. In July of ‘03, Williams was traded by the Bucs to the Phillies and ended the year with a 1-7 record with 6.14 ERA. Williams never played again.

While there are some obvious headscratchers, there are some stunning surprises. Canadian born and current Toronto Blue Jay, Michael Saunders is having a career year. Without a doubt, he deserves to be a starter on the American League squad. To put this into perspective, after 61 games Saunders has hit 15 home runs (career high 19) and driven in 32 (career high 57). His .309 average, nearly 40 points higher than his previous best, ranks 10th in the AL and 7th amongst outfielders. In addition, he’s third in all of baseball in slugging behind future Hall of Famer David Ortiz, Baltimore Orioles standout Manny Machado, and Cincinnati Red's breakout star, Adam Duvall. Saunders sits fourth in OPS behind Ortiz, Washington’s Daniel Murphy, and Machado.

Saunders is up against other outfielders that are having an absolutely stunning first half of the season. Mark Trumbo and Carlos Beltran are turning back the clocks crushing the baseball at a phenomenal rate and Red Sox fans have to love what Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are doing on the diamond. They have opposing pitchers wondering what gets these guys out consistently? Both are nearing 50 RBI and each are well on their way to career highs in nearly every offensive category.

Guys like Saunders, who have more than pulled their own weight, deserve that opportunity to participate in a once in a lifetime weekend. Baseball is a fickle game. A chance like this may never happen again.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 
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