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August 2, 2011

Pebble Hunting

The Error Face

by Sam Miller

Anybody who played even one game of tee ball can remember how awkward it was to stand on the field after committing an error. It felt like everybody was staring at us, and all we wanted to do was kick the dirt or cry or throw our glove down on the ground and run home. And that was back when nobody actually was looking at us; consider what it must be like for major leaguers who know that, after every error, a camera will be focused on them.

There were 15 errors committed on Friday. After 12 of them, the TV broadcast cut to the fielder who made the error. Unlike youth leaguers, major leaguers generally respond to an error in predictable, telling ways. There are six common Error Faces, all in play Friday, all of them significant:

1. The Unnatural Follow-Through
Description:
Defender, having failed to achieve prime directive, does uncharacteristically exaggerated action signifying play’s end: kneeling on ground for many seconds; slooooowly bending down to pick up the loose ball; continuing his forward momentum for about 10 steps more than necessary; abruptly stopping in his tracks and watching the ball roll away; etc. 

Danny Espinosa

Other Friday examples: Neil Walker, Carlos Pena, Justin Upton
What the fielder hopes we will think: “The fielder understands he has made an error, and he understands that we have witnessed it, and he isn’t denying the error was made. But he also knows that, in the end, the entire pursuit is absurd. What are we doing here? Playing an elaborate game that not only achieves nothing real, it doesn’t even mimic war or tribal territorialism, like other sports. The whole thing is a farce. If it weren’t a farce, then why would that guy be doing deep squats on the infield while holding onto the ball?”

2. The Pained Grimace
Description:
Defender, having let down his teammates, typically pulls the edges of his lips inward and stares off in the distance, as though he were having blood drawn and didn’t want to see the needle.

Brandon Wood

Other Friday examples: Justin Upton, Scott Sizemore, Gio Gonzalez
What the fielder hopes we will think: “It’s clear now that he’s not very good at baseball, but it’s also clear that he wants to be. It hurts him deeply to make that error and let down his team. He may not be good, but he’s scrappy. He’ll scrap for us.”

3. The Charlie Brown
Description: Like the hero in the traditional monomyth, the player has left his home to answer the call to adventure, but in this case he has failed in his mission. He must now travel back home a failure. He walks slowly and stares at the ground, because he’s a clumsy commoner who can’t be trusted to perform simple physical tasks like throwing to first base, or walking.

Gio Gonzalez

Other Friday examples: Nolan Reimold, Carlos Pena, Chase Utley, Scott Sizemore
What the fielder hopes we will think: “I’m so mad! Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Oh, nevermind, I think he’s crying. He’s so sensitive. He’s kind of cute.”

4. The Spit
Description: Player, trying to reset his body after the error, does a token action to loosen himself up. Spitting is common, as are exaggerated chewing of gum and licking of fingers.

Scott Sizemore

Other Friday examples: Gio Gonzalez, Neil Walker
What the fielder hopes we will think: “Despite the error, he’s clearly a ballplayer. He’s spitting and everything.”

5. The Glove Off
Description: A relic of Little League, when staring at the glove was the best way to communicate that the error should be blamed not on the fielder but on the shoddy equipment provided to him by his annoying dad who wouldn’t get him a new glove even though he asked like five million times. Staring at a glove is not an option for adult major leaguers, who are provided excellent equipment. But the impulse remains, which leads to fielders taking off gloves, pounding gloves, flexing gloves, and generally obsessing over their gloves.

Justin Upton

Other Friday examples: Brandon Wood, Neil Walker

What the fielder hopes we will think: Nothing. This is a subconscious action.

6. The I’m Cool
Description: Player makes error but has been there before and is cool.

Ted Lilly

What the fielder hopes we will think: “He’s not worried, so I’m not worried. It’s cool, dude.”

Alex Gonzalez has made 183 errors in his career, far more than anybody else on this list, and his error face has developed into a full routine. Consider that on his error Friday, he hit all six targets, AND the super-secret bonus error face: The Pebble Hunter, in which the fielder searches for the stray stone that disrupted his performance. 

(In order: Grimace/Unnatural Follow-Through; Unnatural Follow-Through; Unnatural Follow-Through; Grimace; Charlie Brown; Spit; Glove Off; Pebble Hunt; I’m Cool.)

It’s cool, dude.

Sam Miller also writes for the Orange County Register.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Isaac Dix

awesome

Aug 02, 2011 05:24 AM
rating: 12
 
Juris

Great observation skills, story well told.

Aug 02, 2011 05:35 AM
rating: 6
 
sharkey

This is great.

Aug 02, 2011 06:06 AM
rating: 4
 
Tynan

Well played

Aug 02, 2011 06:46 AM
rating: 4
 
Robotey

HI-Larious--For the 'holding the glove' there's also the element of betrayal. The player holds the offending equipment in the other hand, kind of like the boss calling in the worker who's screwed up a deal. While holding the glove the player is threatening the glove with firing "I'm not sure it's safe to put you back on. I don't know if I can trust you on the next ground ball". Of course this is for show, much in the way the middle manager chews out his underlings merely to placate his bosses. --for similar behavior see : manager's reactions to players errors.

Aug 02, 2011 07:18 AM
rating: 7
 
Nathan

What a fun article!

Aug 02, 2011 07:21 AM
rating: 3
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Very enjoyable. Although I think Brandon Wood's grimace is because he looked up at the graphic in the top-left corner of the screen and saw that his team was behind 8-0.

Aug 02, 2011 07:30 AM
rating: 1
 
fgreenagel2

Yeah, this was great. What about "negative self-talk" where they yell and scream, or talk into their glove, or destroy stuff in the dugout while shouting?

Aug 02, 2011 07:47 AM
rating: 0
 
WaldoInSC

Good catch. This is known in SAFM (Society of American Face Making) circles as "Explosive Self-Reproach."

Aug 02, 2011 14:27 PM
rating: 1
 
egarfield

great writing, gave this O's fan quite a laugh. Around August, I just hope my local 9 still cares enough to make faces to follow up their on field gaffes

Aug 02, 2011 08:07 AM
rating: 0
 
hyprvypr

No bobbles on this article. While I come to BP for sharp-minded analysis and cutting edge baseball info, this was a fun change of pace.

Aug 02, 2011 08:28 AM
rating: 1
 
lyon812

Both funny and insightful--great way to start my morning. Thanks!

Aug 02, 2011 08:33 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

Great article!

One minor editorial nitpick. The tease on the photo linked to the article reads "Derek Jeter may own multiple Gold Gloves, but that doesn't mean that Yankees fans make their own error face when Michael Kay says, "Past a diving Jeter!""
================================
That "past a diving Jeter" only speaks to the Captain's lack of range, not to what he does with the ball once he fields it. He actually makes very few errors on the balls he gets to, and rarely does he garner an E on a "past the diving" play.

Aug 02, 2011 08:33 AM
rating: -2
 
dianagram

and no .... I'm far far from a Jeter apologist :-)

Aug 02, 2011 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Fun - gives us something to look for after every error.

Aug 02, 2011 08:48 AM
rating: -1
 
Joe D.

This was brilliant, and had me making a happy face.

Aug 02, 2011 09:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

Way to go!

Aug 02, 2011 09:24 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

Well done, Sam.

Aug 02, 2011 13:38 PM
rating: 0
 
s8n666

One of the best articles I have seen on this site. Me want more!! Thanks!

Aug 02, 2011 18:56 PM
rating: 0
 
etothepiiplus43

This was fun.

Aug 02, 2011 22:34 PM
rating: 0
 
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