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Difference of opinion on baseball stats as Derek Jeter climbs all-time hits list
Derek Jeter's climb on the all-time hits list has reached a statistical difference of opinion. Jeter has either blown past Cap Anson and moved ahead of Honus Wagner -- or still has those two Hall of Famers ahead of him.
The Elias Sports Bureau, longtime official record-keeper of Major League Baseball, listed Jeter in seventh with 3,422 career hits. That put him eight behind Wagner's 3,430.
Baseball-Reference.com, one of the resources used by the Hall of Fame, has Wagner with 3,420. It also has Anson with 3,435, compared with 3,011 by Elias, which does not count the 424 hits Anson collected during 1871-75 in the National Association, forerunner to the National League, where Anson then played 22 years with the Cubs.
Steve Hirdt, executive vice president of Elias, said, "Major League Baseball for as far back as I know has dated its origins to 1876, the first year of the National League. The National Association is regarded as the first professional league but not major league." As for statistical differences related to Wagner, Hirdt said, "As good a job and as clean cut and as beyond reproach as the statistics are today, when the whole enterprise started back then they weren't kept with the same type of precision."
Sean Forman, founder of Baseball-Reference.com, said Anson's hits in the National Association should count.
"Our view is that the number of players who continued from the National Association into the National League in 1876 was significant," he said. "The level of play, based on how those players did, moving from the National Association to the National League, indicates that it was at a high level of play." Five players from the National Association are in Cooperstown.
"People expect to have solidity in these numbers and high confidence in these numbers and from 1970 on that's essentially true," Forman said. "Previously these were clerical workers working with pen and paper inserting everything in large ledger books every day. Mistakes were made. It's part and parcel of the business. We're 100 percent confident in Jeter's hit total, but people like Anson and Wagner, their hit totals were calculated retroactively in a lot of cases 30, 40, 50, 60 years after the fact. We're looking as carefully as we can."
Hall of Fame spokesman Craig Muder said, "The Hall of Fame does not endorse any singular set of historical statistics. Official stats are kept by MLB and as such the Hall of Fame recognizes them. As a museum and library research center the Hall and the museum consults a variety of sources. We provide equal access to all these sources for our patrons. Baseball-Reference would be one of the varieties of sources that we use."
A spokesman for MLB said, "We recognize Elias as the official stats."
Relatives of Wagner and Anson expressed little concern over whether the numbers are in dispute. "I'm happy that Jeter is up in that lineup of men," said Leslie Wagner Roberts, Wagner's granddaughter and the last surviving relative of the Pirates shortstop. Roberts said her grandfather, like Jeter, was never much interested in statistics. "When they asked what stats and records he wanted put on his statue, he said he wanted children on it." Roberts' childhood likeness is contained in the monument in PNC Park.
Jeff Smith, Anson's great-great-grandson, said, "For the most part, he's recognized as the first player to get 3,000 hits."
Probably out of reach for Jeter would be Tris Speaker, who is fifth all-time. Elias has him with 3,515, Baseball-Reference.com with 3,514.
Speaker's 96-year-old niece, Tris Speaker Scott, will be rooting for Jeter.
"I'd be proud if it happened," she said from Hubbard, Texas. "I don't like the Yankees, but I think Derek Jeter is a nice fella."