From time to time, we are reminded of how much of a hilarious and occasionally ridiculous sport baseball can be. Randy Johnson smoking that poor bird with a pitch, Brendan Ryan’s surprise infield triple and of course the video of Brian Wilson viciously murdering that Gatorade tub in the dugout are just a few examples of bloopers (Does Wilson count as a blooper or is that something too dark and aggressive to be a blooper?). Possibly the most notorious of all baseball bloopers are the hundreds (thousands?) of pop-ups that confuse infielders and outfielders alike and fall to the turf due to lack of communication. When four guys all shout “I got it” at the same time, but then none of them step up and make the play, it’s usually a blunder that is not only preventable, but pretty funny.
One statistic that is dubious when determining the skill of a baseball player is the error statistic. Errors are essentially when a fielder misplays a ball and allows the batter or runner to advance bases. I call this statistic dubious because it can be a poor determining value for whether or not a fielder is skilled. For instance, a second baseman with slow reaction time and subpar speed (they exist) may miss a ground ball altogether and it could be ruled a hit. However, a shortstop who is lightning quick with brilliant reflexes may manage to get a glove on a similarly hit ball but mishandle it, resulting in a runner on base, despite his superior skills. In this example, the poorer of the two fielders in reality is not the same on paper. This is why a few of the greatest players and fielders of our time show up on the active error leaders list.
Also consider that many of them are either shortstops or third basemen, which are the infielders who generally see the most action, as they call it the “hot corner” for a reason. Nonetheless, here are Major League Baseball’s top 10 active career error leaders and their 2014 salaries, according to Spotrac.com. Michael Young gets an honorable mention here because he would have been number 9 had he not retired back at the end of January. All error statistics are accurate as of April 2nd, 2014. Also, Miguel Tejada would have been number 1, but he is currently not active in Major League Baseball, being a suspended free agent and having been the subject of retirement rumors recently. He is suspended for just under half this season for testing positive for amphetamines.
10 Juan Uribe: 142 Errors – $7.5 Million
Starting off our list is the 35 year old Juan Uribe. Starting with the Rockies back in 2001, he has played much of his career either on the hot corner or at shortstop, especially during his time with the Giants. At well over 6 feet tall and 230lbs, he is a large shortstop but has proven himself more than capable at that position. At the end of 2013, Uribe signed a 2-year deal with Los Angeles worth $15 million. With 13 years in the majors, and just 142 errors, that’s just over 10 per season. Considering 162 games per season, and the fact that he is a capable hitter who can not only slug a home run but also chase down a hard hit down the line, he is a capable player and it’s clear why teams are willing to deal with roughly 10 errors per year.
9 Jose Reyes: 144 Errors - $16 Million
At number 9, we see a shortstop from the Dominican Republic and he is the fielder that Blue Jays fans are currently getting excited about, and for good reason. At just 30 years old, having played since 2003 with the Mets and then with the Marlins for a season, Reyes has already had a very solid career. He has been named an All-Star four times, has led the National League in stolen bases three times and triples four times, not to mention being named the 2006 Silver Slugger for shortstops in the National League. He’s still good and overall worth what the Jays are paying him, but despite his speed, he isn't always the best fielder on the field. He averages roughly 14 errors per season, but again, hitting and stealing bases like he can reduces the errors to a small issue, if an issue at all.
8 T7. David Wright: 167 Errors - $20 Million
One of the most dominant baseball players of the last decade (and this decade so far), David “Captain America” Wright is tied for number 7 on this list. I imagine if anyone ever tried to call him out on being on a list like this, he would just kindly show them his two Gold Glove awards and that would be that. On the one hand, yes he is up close to 19 errors per season but when you look at his errors, he is a brilliantly fit third baseman who gets a glove on hits that others would just be looking at. Even if he couldn't show off those Gold Glove Awards, look at this guy’s hitting; name a Mets hitting record other than home runs and Wright probably has his name on it. 19 errors per season and he’s on the hot corner full time, is very forgivable.
7 T7. Alfonso Soriano: 167 Errors - $5 Million
Another seven-time All-Star is tied with Wright in this list, and while one can say as many great things about Soriano with regards to his speed and hitting, his fielding game has been up and down throughout his career. As an outfielder, he has been hit and miss with regards to fielding and his stats have been much the same, with regard to his time in the infield. Playing mostly second base in the early 2000’s, he spent several years with the most errors by a second basemen. His play since however, has been more consistent. While he has been an error league leader several times, when everything clicks in his fielding game, it is astoundingly good and I would say among the best in the league.
6 Alex Gonzalez: 195 Errors - $1.1 Million
As this is a list of active error leaders, the Alex Gonzalez on this list is the Venezuelan lad who has been playing since 1998 rather than the Miami-born long-time Blue Jay who started his career in 1994. This Alex Gonzalez is currently with the Tigers, having been traded about two weeks ago. Prior to that, he has been tossed around the league over his 14 seasons, playing for the Marlins, Red Sox, Reds, Blue Jays, Braves and Brewers. He was an All-Star back in '99, won the World Series back in `03 with the Marlins but overall has spent much of his career as a sub for injured players when he wasn't injured himself. There is always a reason a player gets traded around as much as Gonzalez has, and in his case there are two, inconsistent fielding and subpar batting.
5 Aramis Ramirez: 224 Errors - $16 Million
As he starts his 17th season in professional baseball, Ramirez has hit over 350 home runs, batted in more than 1270 runs and has been a Hank Aaron Award winner. Thank God the man can hit however, because he has been far from the steadiest of fielders. In terms of his range factor (outs and assists on outs divided by games) he has been last in the league among third basemen several times. Interesting to note however, is that fact that all of his miserable years fielding occurred while he was with the Cubs. Since his acquisition by the Brewers, his entire game has improved, having an especially strong season in 2012.
4 Alex Rodriguez: 234 Errors - $0 ($22 Million if he hadn’t been caught)
Before anyone calls me out on not including Tejada but including the very suspended A-Rod, my reasoning is this: Tejada is not currently signed to a team, while Rodriguez is still technically a Yankee. With that said, let's take a look at one of the most beastly and dominant third basemen/shortstops of all time. He would have made a bit over $22 million this year, but due to his suspension gets nothing. He’s been in the league for 20 years and in that time he’s averaging about 11-12 errors per year, which again, is very little. But again I say, with his hitting skills, who cares? I won’t sing A-Rod’s praises too much because anyone who has watched the Yankees in the playoffs knows that other than 2009, he has not been the greatest when it matters. He has, however, been a 14-time All-Star, 10-time Silver Slugger and finally, for those who would mock his 234 errors, he has two Gold Glove Awards to chase you down the street with.
3 Derek Jeter: 243 Errors - $12 Million
As with any player who plays for a prominent franchise in any sport, Derek Jeter is the subject of plenty of criticism. Much like Tom Brady in the NFL, Lebron James in basketball and Sidney Crosby in hockey, just uttering the name “Jeter” may cause one to encounter a roomful of haters shouting derogatory names and negative stats. Well, here you go, he’s number three among active MLB defensive players in terms of errors. Plenty of baseball analysts have argued that statistically, Jeter is a subpar shortstop from a defensive point of view. This has become truer with age, as some of his seasons in his 30’s have brought more errors, but overall, looking at this stat, with 19 years in the league, he is averaging 12.7 errors a year, which is lower than most on this list.
Add that to the fact that watching Jeter, he never gives up on a ball and routinely tries to hurl the ball to first even when other fielders would just accept defeat and not risk the error. Plays may not always end in his favour, but the 13-time All-Star, 5-time World Series winner, and various other award winner always pushes his athleticism on every play. Disagree? Fair enough, you are in good company.
2 Rafael Furcal: 250 Errors - $3.5 Million
When Furcal is on, he’s ON, but when he isn't on, he’s just one or two steps below pitiful. When he decides to be terrible, he is truly a disaster to see on the field. Conversely, however, when he has his rhythm and seems comfortable on the field, he is a solid fielder and more than capable batter. Back in 2003, he was able to pull of an unassisted triple play by catching a line drive, touching a bag, and then tagging a runner. He was an All-Star three times. Unfortunately, he was also a league leader in errors several times. Additionally, he missed significant time in 2010, 2011 and all of 2013 due to injury. In his 13 (not counting his full year off after surgery) years on the field, he has had an average of 19.2 errors per year, the highest on this list.
1 Adrian Beltre: 258 Errors - $17 Million
At just 19 years old, Beltre was the youngest player in the National League at the time. His fielding was slow in the early years of his career, but his batting was always respectable, averaging in the .280’s and high teens in home runs until his departure from the Dodgers in 2004. Much like Rafael Furcal, he has been very up and down throughout his career, leading the MLB in errors a few times. He has, however, been named an All-Star three times and has been a Gold Glove Award recipient four times. With 258 errors divided by his 16 seasons in the league, he is averaging just over 16 errors per season. But given his batting ability and the fact that when he’s “on” he’s really “on”, Beltre definitely goes out there and earns his money.