Of all of the beautiful, luminous numbers twinkling in the sky of Edgar’s tenure as a Mariner, one of them sticks out as a particularly ugly piece of space junk: four errors in one game, from May 6, 1990. Here’s how that broke down:
- Second inning: A spicy grounder snuck past Edgar into left. Eventually, three runs—all scored as “unearned”—would score. E5.
- Seventh inning: Edgar drops a routine grounder, then throws short to first. E5, then E5 again. Everybody’s safe. Then, Cal Ripken Jr. chops a ball to Edgar, who drops it, and the run scores. Another E5.
The Mariners would wind up winning that game, anyway, 5-4. Edgar didn’t have a hit, but he did take two walks and wind up scoring a run. Despite the four errors, three of Edgar’s teammates actually posted poorer WPA scores than him for that game. Greg Briley went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, and Henry Cotto, who pinch hit for Briley, also went 0-for-2 with a K. Jeffrey Leonard, the DH, went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play. But in looking over that game, despite the win, despite the designated hitter whose sole job is getting hits going 0-fer, the story of the game was Edgar’s errors (as the Times article the next day bemoaned, “It was Little League Day at the Kingdome yesterday and fathers could be seen covering the eyes of their children every time a grounder was hit toward third”—a sentence that achieves towering heights of both homespun witticism and soft paternalism).
Errors are a funny thing. Like bad days, they seem to compound, akin to hearing the song “Bad Day” in both the car and on the radio at the dentist’s office where you’ve come to have a root canal. On two separate occasions in 2014, teams recorded three errors on a single play—the Angels against the Tigers, and then five months later, the Dodgers against the Padres (“holy mackerel, that’s embarrassing”—love you Vin). Errors are embarrassing. They are also, as we know now, not at all a complete picture of a defender’s ability, in addition to being wildly subjective—as Bill James writes, errors are “the only major statistic in sports which is a record of what an observer thinks should have been accomplished.”
Who knows how much of Edgar’s reputation as a below-average defender is based off this game, a particularly unfortunate highlight timed at the very beginning of his career in Seattle. Stories about baseball from the 80s and 90s look comical nowadays in the face of advanced stats, cave paintings drawn from stories told by the ancients around a primordial fire. In later installments of this series, we’ll try to examine how much of a defensive liability Edgar actually was. In the meantime, if you’re having a particularly rough case of the Mondays, remember that Edgar had this “bad” night—in which he still almost scraped a neutral WPA thanks to his plate discipline—and then came back the next night and made, yes, another error, but also went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and scored a run. But most importantly, remember that, like Edgar, one of the greatest people our city has ever known, you are not your box score.