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

 

UFC's Jeremy Stephens epitomizes the mindset of a true champion

06/13/2016 7:32 AM - Devo

Jeremy Lil' Heathen Stephens has been in training for nearly half of his life. Stephens, one of the longest tenured fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), is also one of the most exciting and dedicated fighters of all time. He has appeared in over 20 UFC fights, a number eclipsed by only 32 fighters in the organization's 23 years of existence. Sometimes entering the Octagon three times in one calendar year, his desire to fulfil a dream is an inspiration.

At The GM's Perspective, we were lucky enough to speak with Stephens about his career, his goals, and what drives him each and every day.

The GM’s Perspective: Jeremy, you’ve done this a long time (going on 10 years). What’s the secret to your success and what keeps you going after all these years?

Jeremy Stephens: Definitely good health. I'm really blessed with good health. I always tell everyone in the gym to take good care of their bodies, participate in rehab, and always stretch. I've taken care of my bumps and bruises and it's blessed me with a long career. It's allowed me to come out and perform at a high level consistently over the years. 

GMs: You have fought a who’s who during your career (Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Sam Stout, Anthony "Showtime" Pettis), and most recently, you defeated the former Bantamweight champion, Renan Barão. After all these years and highlights you put together, what keeps you motivated?

JS: My beautiful family. We're growing and I want more kids in the future. When I fight I get to just be me. I get to go in there and be young and free. I get to do what I love and do what I'm passionate about. They pay me to knock people out! If Dana White, the boss calls and says "hey take on this guy and we'll pay you loads of money to take him out", I'm on it. I'm motivated by my family and providing for them in the future. 

GMs: Jeremy, you probably know this, but I’m sure there are other fighters that look up to you and want to be the next Jeremy Stephens. They’ve seen how you’ve handled yourself and want what you have. How does it make you feel to know that you could be leading a whole new generation of fighters?

JS: Michael Jordan once said "Don't be like me. Be better than me." The sport is always evolving and if I can inspire people along the way, that's fantastic. You have to lead by example and be a doer, work your butt off, keep your mouth shut, and open your ears. I grind, I love the work, and I'm passionate about it. If I can reach people's hearts God bless them. Keep moving forward, change, evolve, and adapt. 

GMs: I’ve worked with Myles “Fury” Jury for the past couple of years and have learned a lot about the fight game. Myself, coming from a professional baseball background, understand that the sports are different, but we are both very familiar with the underlying attributes; hardwork, dedication, and sacrifice. I know you and Myles have worked together for a long time, what’s it like seeing someone that you’ve trained with for so long have the type of success he’s achieved?

JS: It's truly amazing. I was there to support Myles a long time ago when he was just starting out. I've always believed in Myles and knew he would be where's he's at probably before he did. I would help him out, but he would be working his butt off training with Tony Palafox, his striking coach. He wasn't back home slacking and resting on his laurels. He stayed here and kept grinding. He went out there and did it. He's worked his ass off. Everything that Myles has he has because of great support and believing in himself. He's sitting really good right now. He's about to have a son any day and I'm super happy for him. This is just a small portion of the journey and the friendship me and Myles have. He's like a brother to me and we'll always be like that.  

GMs: You've dedicated your life to being the best. Do outsiders really understand what you do to prepare to go into the Octagon, sometimes up to three or four times a year?

JS: No they don't. That's why you get all sorts of people making negative comments. Everyone thinks they can fight, but not everyone can. Fighting is a beautiful art and only a handful of people like fighters, wrestlers, and those who compete in a one on one sport, can understand. Behind all the physicality of it comes the mental aspect. You talked briefly about your professional baseball days. Baseball, just like fighting, is very tough emotionally and you have to very mentally strong to succeed. You must believe in yourself and believe in the team.

My coaches; I believe in them. I believe in exactly everything they're telling me. Even if it doesn't make sense, I believe that if I go out there and do it, it's gonna happen. We're very organized as a team and we have a great family. A couple guys left, but it really shaped up our team. We're still working hard, we're getting stuff done, and it's amazing to have that support. You go in the cage alone, yet there's a huge supportive team behind you. It's great to have that feeling to know that when you're struggling during those strength and conditioning drills, your best friend is on the right and your best friend is on the left pushing you forward. I'm not alone and there's always more you can give. We do it we get it done and that's why we're kicking ass right now. 

GMs: It's got to be a great feeling to know that it's all paying off for you.

JS: For sure. I've seen Angela Hill, previously in the UFC, but she fights in Invicta FC. She just won the Strawweight championship. I've see her fight two or three times during a period of time where while I only fought once. I looked over to her and told her she's inspiring me. When I was young and literally fighting for food and to just pay my bills, I was fighting in January, February, March...taking on all comers. Eventually the UFC called me and I got the shot. I was fighting every single month and staying in the gym. People would ask me how I got sponsors? I told them I'm winning and I'm in the gym. I was putting everything into the gym. That was my grind. I didn't go out or do anything. Just seeing someone working that hard really got me motivated. It's good to feel the hunger again. You get a good paycheck and you have that feeling of security and want to take time off. You can't do that. I haven't taken any time off since the Barão fight. I was in the gym three or four days later and back at it. The grind never stops. Like I said, you have to evolve and adapt. 

GMs: Speaking of dedication and the never ending drive to succeed, everyone goes through tough times and experiences a loss. How do you stay on point after months of training and sacrifice and the end result isn’t what you expected?

JS: You need a positive outlook and must move forward. After a loss, it's only a setback. It's like the Great Wall of China. It's another stone to the wall you're building. It's all about enjoying it. This could all be over for me one day. I had my buddy Jordan Parsons pass away and it put a lot of my goals and objectives into perspective. The time is now and I need to get things done. I have a world of experience and it's about believing in yourself when no one else does. It's about dedicating your life to a clean healthy MMA lifestyle. You need to stick around good people and have your family by your side believing in them as well. You must always be grateful for what you have and give back because it could all be taken away at any giving moment. I'm blessed to go out there and do something I love to do. I can support my family, give thanks to them.  Hopefully I can inspire fans along the way. 

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

 

Dominick Cruz is champion above all else

06/07/2016 5:43 AM - Devo

UFC 199 was a stacked card, a Pay Per View event where every fight on the main card delivered. But underneath all the hype, all the promotion, a champion defended his title and solidified himself as a Hall of Famer and one of the best fighters ever.

Dominick Cruz, arguably one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, came back from an enormous layoff due to injuries and defeated the T.J. Dillashaw for the UFC Bantamweight Championship early in 2016, only his second fight since 2011. This past Saturday night, Cruz ended a decade long feud with longtime fan favorite Urijah Faber, winning via unanimous decision.

Cruz is not your average run of the mill fighter. A veteran of the octagon for over 11 years, he's amassed a near spotless record of 22-1, the only loss coming from Faber in 2007. Even more impressive than his record is his resilience. Cruz has battled injury after injury that kept him out of action for over four years (2011-2014). Three ACL injuries, quad damage and a lingering foot injury has made him put his championship aspirations oh hold. For someone on the top of their game, being sidelined in his prime must have been excruciating physically and mentally.

“I’ve had three ACL injuries that I’ve had to get through, which basically, if you know anything about ACL recoveries, it strips the muscle completely off the bone,” Cruz said Thursday during UFC Fight Night media day at The Westin Copley Place. “I was down to nothing, and I had to rebuild that three separate times. Plus, I tore the quad off my bone. All of those injuries just stacked up. At one point, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I was going to fight again or if my body would let me.

...

“The fight against Mizugaki showed me what I had. It showed me how strong my body really is. Really, more than anything, that’s what I needed to know. I needed to put trust not in my mind and in my ability, but in my body. I had to rebuild my body, and I did.”

It takes immense dedication to come back from an injury, let alone multiple career threatening injuries.  How many times could Cruz have walked away from the fight game? In the meantime, he's been supplementing his down time by commentating on UFC events broadcast on Fox. He knows the fighters, he knows the game and he's a natural behind the camera. But for someone who hasn't lost in nearly 10 years, the only thing keeping him away from competing was not from a loss, but was from his body breaking down.

At 31 years old, Cruz still has plenty of time to defend his title in a stacked Bantamweight division, but what separates him from everything else is his determination to win. Nothing will stop Cruz from being one of the greatest fighters in history. In the face of adversity, Cruz is a legitimate HOF'er. More importantly, he's proven that any athlete can come back from the brink. Regardless of the obstacle, the only person who can stop you from succeeding is you.

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

Brownell becomes Ducks franchise leader

05/29/2016 1:57 PM - Devo

When you become the franchise leader in anything, you deserve to get recognized. John Brownell, independent league standout and longtime Long Island Duck, has now become their franchise leader in innings pitched at 589.2. 

The Ducks press release congratulated him after he picked up his third win of the season last Wednesday night. Brownell, now in his fifth season with the Ducks, is approaching two other milestones; franchise leader in wins and starts. He's ready to surpass current leader, Randy Leek who pitched for the Ducks from 2007-2010 and was the previous leader in innings.

While topping the Ducks all-time leader board in 2015, Brownell also had, arguably, the greatest season of his life. Brownell was honored with the Pitcher of the Year award, only the second Ducks recipient in franchise history (Mike Loree, 2011). He ended the year with a 12-6 record and a 3.38 ERA in 26 starts. He was the league leader or tied for the league lead in wins, innings pitched (175.2), complete games, shutouts and strikeouts (146), also a team record.

Independent baseball, especially the Atlantic League has made some waves over the past couple years, bucking the trend of traditional baseball. First, they implemented the Pace of Play initiative with the focus on speeding up the game using a variety of rules. And earlier this year, they received a lot of press, especially from ESPN about the new and innovative catchers gear designed to bring a colorful edge to a game deeply entrenched in its history and traditions. Rawlings set up the league's catchers in new team-branded chest protectors, shin guards and hockey-style masks.

Yes, the Atlantic League and all of independent baseball must continue to push the boundaries of what's acceptable, but Brownell’s accomplishments are a big deal and should be celebrated. For an entire entity of baseball that never gets the credit they deserve for the talent produced on the field or for a product that exceeds expectations year after year, these milestones are set in stone and no one can take that away.

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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