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The numbers don't lie . . . unless, of course, they do

Wade Boggs passed Hall of Famer Cap Anson on his way toward 3,000 hits a couple weeks ago. And in the coming weeks, Boggs has a chance to pass him again.

You see, Anson officially has 2,995 hits. Or 3,041 hits. Or 3,081 hits. It all depends on which official source you trust.

Recent research (or revisionist history, depending on your perspective) has cast some doubt over some of baseball's most hallowed numbers in recent years. Hack Wilson's longtime RBI standard, for example, was just changed from 190 to 191.

And if you believe Total Baseball, which is the official encyclopedia of the Major Leagues, Cincinnati was a few days late throwing a party for Pete Rose in 1985.

The book claims Ty Cobb's career hit total is 4,189 instead of 4,191. Which means when Rose cried, hugged his son and pointed skyward after hit No. 4,192, he was overreacting. He actually became the all-time hits leader three days earlier in Chicago.

"Baseball stats are more accurate than your credit report at some credit bureau," said Pete Palmer, an editor at Total Baseball. "But there is a human element at work. Baseball does not like to admit that their stats are not completely accurate. They are reasonably accurate, but not completely accurate."

There are a number of reasons for this. Records for the National League were destroyed in the early 20th century. Rules were different in earlier eras. And newspapers often eschewed official scorekeeping and ran the box scores kept by their own reporters in the 19th century.

All of which explains the varying hit totals for Anson. When Boggs reached 3,000 hits, MLB's official encyclopedia, Total Baseball, claimed he was the 22nd to do it. MLB's official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, claimed he was the 23rd.

The dispute surrounding Anson begins in 1887 when walks were credited as hits, causing some historians to deduct 60 hits from his career total. There also is some evidence he was credited with 20 more hits than newspaper box scores indicate in 1879. Several other discrepancies exist.

Commissioner Bud Selig has yet to make a ruling, but Jerome Holtzman, recently hired as baseball's official historian, said he is recommending that Anson be credited with 3,081 hits.

"The walks should be counted as hits for Anson because that was the rule of the day," Holtzman said. "If that was the rule in 1887, the scorekeepers today should not be able to change it."

When he retired in 1897, Anson believed he was baseball's all-time hits leader with 3,418.

Turns out, there were a lot of errors in there.

THE THRIFTY WAY: When he traded closer Billy Taylor to the Mets on July 30, GM Billy Beane acknowledged it was a painful move, but said Oakland had more pressing needs. "Yeah, we don't have a closer," Beane said, "but it's tough to build the perfect team with 22- million bucks." Oakland should have chosen somewhere else to skimp on the payroll. In his first five appearances as closer, Doug Jones blew two saves and lost a game that was tied 3-3.

IF THE SHOE FITS: Juan Guzman might have had a complete game in his first victory for Cincinnati, but he had to come out because of blisters on his feet. Acquired from Baltimore a week earlier, Guzman's shoes had Orioles orange on them. His new Reds shoes were size 9{ instead of 10{. "My company sent me a couple of pairs, but they were the wrong size," Guzman said. "Nobody on the team had 10{s, besides, I was going good and didn't want to change."

EARLY RETURNS: Hank Aaron may not have to worry about Ken Griffey anymore. Griffey is thought to have the best chance of challenging the all-time home run king, but his odds apparently went down when the Mariners moved into new Safeco Field. In the first 21 games at Safeco, home runs are down by nearly half and scoring is down 2.3 runs per game. "I can never say this is a hitter's park," Alex Rodriguez said. "But if it's going to help us win ballgames, I'm all for it."

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Mark McGwire has always said there is too much focus on his home runs and not enough on whether the Cardinals win. He may be right. After 117 games, the Cardinals were a pedestrian 59-58. Of even more interest, St. Louis was 17-23 in games in which Big Mac hit a home run. The Cardinals were 42-35 when he did not.

CHANGE OF HEART: When Philadelphia's Paul Byrd hit Braves catcher Eddie Perez with a pitch recently, Perez let it stew a bit. Then, when Byrd batted in the next inning, Perez confronted him and a brawl was on. But once he wrestled Byrd to the ground and players jumped on top of them, Perez had a change of heart. It seems he heard the devout Byrd praying at the bottom of the pile. It struck Perez that they used to be teammates and friends and he began protecting his foe from the rest of the brawlers. "I just stopped what I was doing," Perez said. "I said, "Stick with me Byrdie, We used to be best buddies.' "

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.