Oops! MLB has committed its 500,000th error -- and it's by Reyes

Minnesota Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon (25) bobbles the

Minnesota Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon (25) bobbles the ball and gets an error during a game against the Indians. (Sept. 7, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach settled under a harmless-looking foul pop-up in the third inning at Citi Field on Monday night. And dropped it.

"It just popped out of there," Shoppach said.

Shoppach was charged with an error for prolonging the at-bat of Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki. Two pitches later, Suzuki hit a solo home run.

"I told Kurt, 'Couldn't you just hit a single?' " Shoppach said. "He's like, 'I know. I feel bad for you.' We've all done it. He understands what I was going through right there."

Every major-league baseball player knows what it's like to make an error. It happens an average of about 15 times a day.

In fact, it's happened about 500,000 times since the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs was formed in 1876. At least that's the estimate of the guys at the website Sports-Reference.com and its sister site, Baseball-Reference.com.

Sean Forman, the president of Sports Reference, Inc. and creator of Baseball-Reference.com, thought baseball's half-millionth error was going to be committed this weekend. According to his company's database, 499,982 errors had been made through Friday's games.

Indeed, the milestone was reached Saturday night when the Marlins' Jose Reyes misplayed a bouncer against the Reds.

Earlier this summer, Forman noticed baseball was lurching toward its 500,000th error. So he put a daily counter on the front page of his website.

But the blurb, along with the counter, admits, "This is utterly random, completely meaningless and less than 100 percent accurate."

"I would guess we're within a couple hundred errors of the [real] total," Forman said in a telephone interview. "I was looking earlier in the year and I noticed we were at like 499,000 and something errors. I've just been watching it, and when we got within two or three weeks of when I thought it would happen, we put up the counter."

Baseball statistics from the sport's early years were notoriously fuzzy. Even something as important as the hit total for Hall of Famer Ty Cobb (officially 4,191) is in doubt because of discrepancies and lax record-keeping during his career.

Fielding statistics often were an afterthought, with player-by-player and team totals often not matching up. So official baseball-dom will have to take the 500,000th-error chase with a grain of salt and a dash of good humor.

(That appears to be half-true. A spokesman for Major League Baseball's official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, said the company does not agree with the 500,000 total and would not comment further.)

As to other reactions to his counter, Forman said it has been mostly positive.

"There are a lot of people speculating as to who [the 500,000th] might be," he said before Reyes' error. "There's been a lot of idle speculation about it and just people enjoying looking at the number and trying to figure out who it actually might be."

Errors might have gotten the short shrift in terms of record-keeping, but they are an important part of baseball history.

The most famous error in these parts -- Bill Buckner's in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series -- is not one of the 500,000. That total includes only regular-season games.

The career regular-season leader in errors is shortstop Herman Long, who committed an incredible 1,096 in 1,875 games from 1889-1904. Long once played for the New York Highlanders, who later became the Yankees. So next time a Yankees fan complains about Eduardo Nuñez . . .

Bill Dahlen, Deacon White and Germany Smith are the only other players to make 1,000 errors. All three started their careers before 1900. Shortstop Rabbit Maranville holds the 20th-century mark with 711 errors.

Errors often don't tell the whole story. Derek Jeter once committed 56 in a minor-league season and still was voted the league's best defensive shortstop. He has never committed more than 24 in a big-league season.

Yankees pitcher Tommy John once made three errors on the same play in 1988. Yet he was the winning pitcher as the Yankees beat the Brewers, 16-3. Shoppach wasn't as lucky when he dropped that pop-up on Monday. The Mets lost, 5-1.

"No one wants to make an error," Shoppach said. "Shoot. I saw the poor guys in Pittsburgh had seven the other night."

That's true. The Pirates committed seven errors on Sept. 7 in a 12-2 loss to the Cubs.

"I've never been part of a game with seven errors," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's a new one. There's nobody in there that's not embarrassed to some degree.''

Former Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit, now playing leftfield for the Twins, made three errors in the same inning Wednesday. "Stuff like that happens," Doumit said.

It happened once before this season -- to A's first baseman Brandon Moss on June 23.

Baseball-Reference.com has done this milestone thing before. In 2008, it created a countdown for baseball's 250,000th home run, which was credited to Gary Sheffield on Sept. 8.

The most famous instance of this kind of milestone moment came on May 4, 1975, when Houston's Bob Watson was credited with scoring baseball's one-millionth run. Major League Baseball didn't turn its nose up at that feat, and every player was aware of it.

Watson scored from second base on a home run, but knowing what was at stake, he didn't jog. He sprinted and beat Cincinnati's Dave Concepcion -- who homered in a different game -- by a second and a half.

Watson, later the Yankees' general manager, was awarded prizes that included one million Tootsie Rolls. His shoes and uniform were sent to the Hall of Fame.

Chances are excellent that will not happen to the player who commits the 500,000th error.

"There were some good stories around the one-millionth run," Forman said. "I don't think players will be fighting for this honor quite as much."

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