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The 15 Stupidest Defensive Plays in MLB History

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2017

The 15 Stupidest Defensive Plays in MLB History

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    While perusing through the highlights of Tuesday's baseball games, I happened to come across the play that happened in the Detroit Tigers-Seattle Mariners game. I won't get into the particular play at this moment, we'll reserve that for a later slide.

    The play will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst defensive plays of the year, and will likely be seen on blooper highlight reels for years to come.

    Baseball is a game where any player can be labeled very quickly for one specific play, either good or bad, that comes to define their career. Regardless of how good or bad they may have been, they will always be remembered for that one specific play.

    With that in mind, we will take a look at 15 plays that can in fact be labeled as among the stupidest defensive plays in the history of the game.

    For continuing coverage of Major League Baseball, follow Doug on Twitter @Sports_A_Holic.

15. Luis Castillo: New York Mets- 6/12/09

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    On June 12, 2009, the New York Yankees were playing the New York Mets in their annual inter-league subway series. The Mets took an 8-7 into the bottom of the ninth and their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, was on the mound to close it out.

    After K-Rod got Brett Gardner on a pop-up to the catcher, Derek Jeter singled to center. Johnny Damon, pinch-hitting for Nick Swisher, struck out, but during the at-bat Jeter stole second. Rodriguez then intentionally walked Mark Teixeira, setting up a force at any base with two out.

    Up strolled Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod skied a pop-up in the direction of second baseman Luis Castillo, who drifted back slightly into the outfield grass.

    A-Rod, thinking he had hit a can of corn pop-up, slammed his bat down in disgust. However, Castillo let the ball inexplicably pop in and out of his mitt. Since there were two outs, both Jeter and Teixeira were running on the play.

    Jeter scored easily, and Castillo then once again pulled a brain fart, throwing the ball to second rather than to home, Teixeira easily beat the relay home, giving the Yankees a gift 9-8 victory.

14. Aramis Ramirez: Chicago Cubs- 5/28/06

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    CHICAGO - MAY 21:  Aramas Ramirez #16 of the Chicago Cubs hits his second home run of the game against the Chicago White Sox in the 4th inning May 21, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the White Sox, 7-4. (Photo by Jonath
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, and they have had several incidents of--well let's just say bad luck, that has gotten in their way of getting back to the World Series.

    The Cubs have also had their share of weird bounces and major defensive lapses. Once such lapse occurred on May 28, 2006 against the Atlanta Braves.

    The Cubs had roared back to score four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning that day, tying the game at 12-12. In the top of the 11th, Braves' Ryan Langerhans hit what appeared to be a routine pop-up to third base.

    Cubs' third baseman Aramis Ramirez somehow lost sight of the ball, as it caromed off his head and bounced into foul territory. Langerhans went to second on the error, and eventually scored what would be the winning run.

    "I just missed it. I thought I already had it and I took my eyes off of it. I have no excuses, I just missed the ball, it could happen to anybody," said Ramirez.

    Source: ESPN.com

13. David Cone: New York Mets- 4/30/90

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    Some plays that occur in baseball absolutely defy logic, especially when those plays involve the complex human mind. Such was the case when the New York Mets were playing the Atlanta Braves on April 30, 1990, with David Cone on the mound.

    Cone was trying to work himself out of a jam at the time. With Dale Murphy at second and Ernie Whitt at first, Mark Lemke was at the plate. Lemke hit a grounder to the right side. Second baseman Gregg Jefferies angled over, fielded the ball and threw to Cone, who had run from the mound to cover first.

    However, first base umpire Charlie Williams ruled Lemke safe on the play, saying that Cone failed to touch the bag. Cone was literally incensed, and immediately started arguing vehemently with Williams.

    The problem was, the play was still live. While Cone's teammates pleaded with Cone to throw the ball to the plate, Cone ignored them and continued his argument. Both Murphy and Whitt scored on the play.

    Cone was charged with an error on the play, however his complete meltdown was an error of another kind.

12. Tommy John: New York Yankees- 6/27/88

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    There have been many instances over the course of baseball history when players have committed multiple errors in one game. However, very few have done so on one play alone.

    That last happened on the night of July 27, 1988.

    Left-handed pitcher Tommy John, who had returned to the New York Yankees for his second stint in 1986, was still with the team in 1988 at the age of 45.

    During a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, in the fourth inning, John was on the mound with the Yankees leading 4-0. Jeffrey Leonard was at the plate and hit a weak grounder. 

    John muffed the grounder for an error, and then threw wildly past first base for another error. Jim Gantner, who was already on first via a walk, came all the way around to score. Leonard kept on running after John's throw had skipped out to right field. Dave Winfield threw the ball back in and John, taking the relay throw, threw wildly past catcher Don Slaught, allowing Leonard to score on the play.

    John was charged with three errors on the play.

11. Chuck Knoblauch: New York Yankees- 10/07/98

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    Chuck Knoblauch, second baseman for the New York Yankees, became Public Enemy No. 1 in New York after Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Cleveland Indians.

    The Yankees and Indians had played a tight game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1998, with the game tied at 1-1 going into the top of the 12th inning.

    Jim Thome started off the inning with a single for the Indians, and was immediately lifted for pinch-runner Enrique Wilson. The next batter, Travis Fryman, laid down a sacrifice bunt. Yankees relief pitcher Jeff Nelson fielded the bunt and threw to first base.

    However, the throw hit Fryman in the back, and the ball scooted by Knoblauch, who was covering the bag. For some inexplicable reason, Knoblauch decided to vehemently argue with the first base umpire, and completely ignored the ball rolling away.

    Wilson and Fryman kept running on the play, knowing that the ball had not been ruled dead. While Knoblauch kept arguing, Wilson scored and Fryman reached third, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead.

    The Indians went on to win the game 4-1, tying the series at one game apiece.

    Fortunately for the Yankees, they went on to win the ALCS and the World Series, but Knoblauch was a hated man for a while.

    After the game, according to Sports Illustrated, Knoblauch came into the interview room announced, and said, "I screwed up the play, and I feel terrible about that. I should have went and got the ball, regardless of what the outcome of the umpire's call was. ... I need to apologize to my teammates and my manager and the Yankees and all the Yankee fans. Bottom line, I screwed up the play."

10. Benny Agbayani: New York Mets- 8/12/00

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    Outfielder Benny Agbayani did not have a long or stellar career in the major leagues, playing from 1998-2002, but he will always be remembered in New York for one particularly boneheaded play.

    On August 12, 2000, while playing for the New York Mets, Agbayani was involved in a memorable play. In the fourth inning, with the Mets leading 1-0, the Giants loaded the bases after a double, an error, and a hit batsman. With one out, Giants catcher Bobby Estalella hit a fly pop to Agbayani in left field. Agbayani, thinking that the catch made three outs, gave the ball to a child in the stands and began to trot toward the dugout.

    It took him a moment to realize his mistake, but once he did, he sprinted back to the stands, pulled the ball from the hands of the young fan he had given it to, and fired a throw toward home plate. Unfortunately for Agbayani, once the ball left the field, the play was dead, and all three runners were awarded two bases—causing Jeff Kent and Ellis Burks to score, and the Giants to take the lead, 2-1. The Mets went on to win the game, 3-2, and Agbayani gave another ball to the fan who had given the previous one back.

    Source: "Retrosheet Boxscore: New York Mets 3, San Francisco Giants 2"

9. Milton Bradley: Chicago Cubs- 6/12/09

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    To say that Milton Bradley had a tumultuous time of it during his days in Chicago would be a vast understatement, but what happened on June 12, 2009 probably encapsulated his stay there.

    In an inter-league game against the visiting Minnesota Twins, Bradley had already had a bad day by the seventh inning, losing a fly ball in the sun that led to a run for the Twins.

    In the eighth inning, with two men on base, Bradley camped himself under a routine fly ball and caught it, flipping the ball into the bleachers and posing for a picture.

    However, there was only problem. There was only one out at the time. The lead runner was sent home on the stupid mental mistake.

    “I wasn’t embarrassed. I’ve done a whole lot of things to be embarrassed about,” Bradley told the Herald Bulletin. “My heart was in the right place. I tried to give a souvenir. It was messed up.”

    And what exactly did Cubs' manager Lou Piniella think about the play?

    “Do we have to go over the math? One, two, three. I don’t know what else to say," Piniella said.

8. Larry Walker: Montreal Expos, April 24, 1994

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    Larry Walker was truly one of the best right fielders to ever play the game, and may have been the best player from Canada as well. The pride of Maple Ridge, British Columbia won seven Gold Glove awards during his career. However, there was one particular play that even the great Walker had to laugh about after it happened.

    On April 24, 1994, in a nationally televised ESPN game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Expos right fielder Walker glided under a foul pop-up off the bat of Dodgers' catcher Mike Piazza. Walker made the running catch and handed the ball to a young fan in the stands and started running back to the dugout.

    Problem was, there was only one out! Jose Offerman, on first base at the time, raced around second. Walker, seeing the "error" of his ways, went back, retrieved the ball from the young fan and threw to third, the ball arriving too late.

    After the game, Walker said, "I saw a little kid sitting there and I tried to be Mr. Nice Guy, but I turned into Mr. Foolish."

    Source:Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups: A Complete Guide to the Best

7. Brant Brown: Chicago Cubs- 9/23/98

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    On Sept. 23, 1998, the Chicago Cubs were in the thick of the wild-card chase in the National League, and entering that day's games were atop the wild-card standings.

    The Cubs were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, and were ahead 7-5, entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Closer Rod Beck was on the mound, and Brant Brown had taken over in left field as a defensive replacement for Glenallen Hill the inning before.

    After Beck retired Fernando Vina on a groundout, Mark Loretta reached base on an infield single. Jeff Cirillo then followed with a double to left, Loretta stopping at third.

    Beck then intentionally walked Jeremy Burnitz, bringing Marquis Grissom to the plate. Grissom popped out for the second out of the inning, and Beck was facing Geoff Jenkins with the bases loaded and two out.

    Jenkins lifted a fly to left field. Brown (remember, a DEFENSIVE replacement) camped under the ball--and dropped it. All three runners were running on the play with two out, and by the time Brown retrieved the ball, all three runners had scored and Milwaukee came away with the 8-7 victory.

    The Cubs would go on to lose following day as well, however the Cubs still qualified for postseason play, making Brown's error a little bit more palatable...

6. Fred Merkle: New York Giants- 9/23/1908

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    The man will forever be known as "Bonehead," and the shame of it was, he was an excellent ballplayer throughout his career. Nonetheless, on Sept. 23, 1908, Fred Merkle made a stupid baserunning play that will forever be etched in baseball lore.

    Yes, it's technically not a defensive play, but it spawned a great defensive play in return.

    On that day, the New York Giants were playing the Chicago Cubs, and the score was tied 1-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning.

    Merkle came to bat with two outs, and the score tied 1-1. At the time, Moose McCormick was on first base. Merkle singled and McCormick advanced to third. Al Bridwell, the next batter, followed with a single of his own. McCormick trotted to home plate, apparently scoring the winning run. The fans in attendance, under the impression that the game was over, ran onto the field to celebrate.

    Meanwhile, Merkle, thinking the game was over, ran to the Giants' clubhouse without touching second base. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed this, and after retrieving the ball and touching second base he appealed to umpire Hank O'Day to call Merkle out. Since Merkle had not touched the base, the umpire called him out on a force play, meaning that McCormick's run did not count.

    Meanwhile, the Giants were unable to clear the field, and the game was suspended, resulting in a tie. Because of the rules at that time, the game would be made up in its entirety at the end of the season, if needed.

    The Giants and Cubs ended the regular season tied for first place, so the game was replayed at the Polo Grounds on Oct. 8, a game that the Cubs won 4-2, claiming the National League pennant.

    Source: "100-year Anniversary of 'Merkle’s Boner'" Chicago Tribune

5. Mickey Owen: Brooklyn Dodgers- 10/5/41

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    In 1941, the Brooklyn Dodgers were in the World Series for the first time in 21 years. In Game 4, the Dodgers were clinging to a 4-3 lead over the New York Yankees, and a win would even the series at two games apiece.

    Dodgers' pitcher Hugh Casey, who had come on in relief in the fifth inning, quickly got the first two outs, and Tommy Henrich stepped to the plate. With the count full, Casey threw a wicked curveball that Henrich swung on and missed for the final out.

    But wait! Catcher Mickey Owen can't handle the pitch, and the ball rolls all the way back to the screen. Henrich reaches first base on the passed ball.

    Casey, shaken up at that point, completely unravels, and the Yankees go on to score four runs in the inning, all with two outs. They win the game 7-4, and clinch the World Series the following day.

4. Nyjer Morgan: Washington Nationals- 5/23/10

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    On May 23, 2010, Washington Nationals center-fielder Nyjer Morgan certainly let his emotions get the best of him, leading to a ridiculously stupid defensive play, and leading to an inside-the-park home run for Baltimore Orioles' hitter Adam Jones.

    I'm not going to look at the replay," Morgan told MLB.com. "I feel fine. I'm still going to go out there [and be aggressive]. It was one play. One play can't dictate my career. I'm not happy I made the play, but you have to move on. You can't dwell on it. Being booed, that's whatever. It's not good, but oh well."

    The play may not dictate his career, but it will certainly go down in history as one of the all-time bonehead plays.

3. Manny Ramirez: Boston Red Sox- 7/21/04

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    We all know about Manny being Manny, and everything attached to power-hitting outfielder Manny Ramirez. During his days with the Boston Red Sox, Manny-related defensive plays could have filled its own highlight reel.

    But this one absolutely took the cake. On July 21, 2004, Manny inexplicably dove to cut off a throw from Johnny Damon, allowing the hitter, David Newhan, to race all the way home with an inside-the-park home run.

    It's probably the first time in history that a left fielder ever cut off the throw of a center fielder, and it was probably Manny's greatest catch all season.

2. Ryan Raburn: Detroit Tigers- 4/26/11

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    By now, just about everyone has seen the video of Ryan Raburn and his defensive gaffe on Tuesday afternoon in Detroit.

    Seattle Mariners' catcher Miguel Olivo lifts a high fly to deep left field. Raburn races back on the ball, and short of the warning track jumps to catch the ball.

    Problem is, the ball deflects off his glove and into the bullpen for a home run. If the ball had dropped, it would have been a double, but Raburn deflected the ball a good eight feet, enough to creep over the fence.

    The gift by Raburn was Olivo's first home run of the season.

Jose Canseco: Texas Rangers- 5/26/93

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    On May 26, 1993, Cleveland Indians hitter Carlos Martinez received a gift he never thought in a million years would ever be so graciously handed to him. Well, actually, it was headed to him.

    In a game against the Texas Rangers, Martinez hit a long fly to deep center field. Rangers' right fielder Jose Canseco raced back to the warning track, took his eye off the ball for just a second, and--well the rest is history.

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