I've just finished reading "Out of My League," the new book from relief pitcher and author Dirk Hayhurst, and I have to tell you: I now feel really bad for Danny Valencia.
Hayhurst's first book, "The Bullpen Gospels," was the story of his trips up and down the minor-league ladder. It was entertaining, and it made the nonfiction bestseller list from the New York Times, but it was kind of a mixed bag - more a collection of anecdotes than a book. "Out of My League," on the other hand, almost reads like a novel, and is the better book of the two for it. However, the chapters in which he goes to the big leagues for the first time - and nearly loses it completely - are a harrowing read. After spending five years kicking around the minors and keeping baseball in perspective, barely a month in the majors is all it takes to nearly drive Hayhurst around the bend.
I never really realized how much of a difference there is between Triple-A and the big leagues - in how players are treated, how they treat each other, and so forth. To paraphrase a player in the book, once you're in the majors, you realize it's the only level where you can have an impact - everything else is just glorified practices. I'd always assumed that AAA ball, while a major step down, was at least something comparable - that someone in Triple-A had an accomplishment to be proud of. But judging by the attitudes of the players in the book, Triple-A is to the majors as the front steps of your house are to Everest. No comparison. None.
And so now I'm left feeling terrible for Valencia. He hasn't played in the minor leagues for almost two years. He'd been a mainstay for the Twins at third base for virtually that entire time. He must have felt like he'd made it. He must have felt like he belonged, like he was no longer a serf in baseball's feudal system. And now he's got to go back down and start all over. He's got to look across the great chasm that separates the majors and the minors, and try to cross one more time, knowing all the while that the guys on the other side already kicked him out once. What a cruel, cruel game.
On the other hand: he did have the OPS of a typical National League pitcher. On with the links:
*At the Classical, Mark Dent looks at the between-the-legs shot in tennis, which is apparently known as "the tweener" - and why Andy Murray is ruining it.
*Sports Media Watch looks at the TV ratings and declares, for the first time since Sports Illustrated famously devoted its cover to the subject, that once again the NHL is hot and the NBA is not.
*This may be 16 years old, but is still worth it: Nationally-renowned humor columnist Dave Barry writing about baseball, his own career, and hating the Yankees.
*Spencer Hall went rallying, by which I mean "went driving through the forest at insane speeds on a dirt road."
*Charlie Pierce, writing over at Grantland, looks at the beginning of the end of homophobia in sports, through the lens of Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown's recent decision to speak out against an anti-gay-discrimination law in Omaha.
*Parker Hageman looks at the hitting charts, and thinks that Joe Mauer might not be slumping - he might be hurt.
*And finally: though this has nothing to do with sports, I really enjoyed Shawn Fury writing about bodegas in New York City.