Baseball's Voldemort

Photo Credit: Flickr

by: Rich Daniels

Voldemort. He whose name is not spoken. He was the ultimate "Big Bad" in the Harry Potter novel series and personified the ultimate evil that could befall anyone. 

Believe it or not, baseball has its own version of Voldemort.

No, it's not a's kind of a label or tag a few players experience over a period of months or years. No one in the locker room or on the field will talk about it and it's only whispered anywhere else in the game due to how powerfully damaging it could be to a player's confidence and reputation.

It's called "Quad-A".

Quad-A (AAAA) refers to a player that tears up Triple-A, gets called up, then gets eaten alive in the big leagues. Typically the tag gets applied when this happens multiple times.

A great many players get their noses bloodied in their first or even second exposure the most prolific hitters and pitchers on the planet. They go back down to Triple-A, regain their bearings and head back for another shot in the bigs. Usually, an organization will get a good idea of whether they want to continue to invest in a young player after the second trip up.

However, there are players who go up and down three, four, five times alternating between raking at Triple-A and falling on their faces in the majors. Too good for Triple-A and not good enough for the big leagues. Hence the term "Quad-A".

Probably the most prominent example of a Quad-A label is the real-life version of Bull Durham's Crash Davis, Mike Hessman

The powerhouse third baseman struck out quite a bit, walked only a little and had power enough to hit a baseball out of any park smaller than Yellowstone.

His 433 career minor league home runs are the most of anyone that played exclusively in leagues in the United States. His professional career spanned from 1996 to 2015 but only parts of five of those seasons were spent in the big leagues.

In 223 major league at-bats, Hessman hit only .188 with 14 home runs. Yet in the minors, he hit 20 or more home runs in a season 13 times. A true baseball lifer, Hessman turned to coaching after his playing days were done and now shares his unique perspective with hopeful young players aspiring to take the step he never could.

A player that very nearly fell victim to this curse is the seemingly ageless slugger for the Mariners, Nelson Cruz

Most fans don't know or have forgotten that it took four call-ups between two organizations for Cruz to finally stick on a major league roster.

It took 552 big league at-bats for Cruz to produce enough to convince talent evaluators that he was the real deal. Now 348 home runs and 974 RBI's later his perseverance has truly paid off for him and the major league organizations for whom he has played. 

It's easy to throw this label around but it truly only applies to a few players.

In this modern age of generous roster restrictions, players are called up five or six times in a season in order to fill in for injuries, bereavement or paternity leaves or suspensions effectively making them the 27th or 30th player on the big league depth chart.

The Quad-A tag is accurately applied to a guy the big league club brings up with the expressed expectation that he quickly becomes a reliable piece of the team's puzzle.

At this time there are less than ten players that truly fit this designation and they'll remain nameless here for the aforementioned reasons.

So if you ever get the opportunity to speak with a player, coach, manager, scout or executive, either major or minor league in status, do yourself a favor by not mentioning the Quad-A label. 

It's one of the most prominent ways to have that opportunity shut down immediately and have them walk away from you.

Baseball people are a superstitious bunch and if something's true only in their minds then it's real in the world. "Voldemort" is a fitting replacement word for the Quad-A label since it represents something that really shouldn't be spoken.

It reminds us of the underlying cruel nature of a game based largely on failure and only occasionally overcoming long odds. It is the depiction of an individual reaching the cusp of a lifelong dream, a labor of love, only to see it melt away right in front of their eyes. 

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