Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Thursday, July 31, 2003
 

Super Urgent Breaking News Mid-Week Flash Update



Sidney Ponson

for

Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss, and Ryan Hannaman


I like it. Reasons why:

*Damian Moss is an average pitcher, at best, in the middle of his arbitration years. He lacks experience, but because of an injury, is already in line to be paid like a veteran. Moss, schmoss.

*Ryan Hannaman is a good prospect, but he still has a long way to go. I'll defer to Sabean's judgement on this one, because he has a stellar record of knowing which prospects to get rid of. Nate Bump is on his way to being one of the best minor leaguers given up in a Sabean deal, and that's only because he's coming on like the Joe Nathan of the Marlins. I'll miss following Hannaman's name in the box scores, but he's a young pitcher with control problems and a little injury history.

*Kurt Ainsworth is tough to lose, and it does upset me. Had he not cracked his shoulder blade in a motorcycle crash -- just admit it, Kurt -- this trade probably wouldn't have gone down. He'll be a big help for the O's, but he was of no use to the Giants this year. If you have a 39-year old Barry Bonds, you can't hope for Ainsworth to catch fire in 2004, and steal the Series. You need help now, and you might have to overpay to do it.

I don't think Moss was going to be back, regardless. He was going into his second year of arbitration, and might have even been a non-tender. With the benefit of hindsight, it sure would have been nice to keep Russ Ortiz. I still see where Sabean was coming from, though. Ortiz is under contract for over $7 million for 2004, and Sabean wanted to free up some payroll for 2003, while also keeping an eye on the following offseason. He took a gamble on Moss and Merkin Valdez, and figured he could trade for a veteran if Moss didn't pan out. He didn't, so he did, if you follow.

Worst-case scenario: Ponson pitches like Wilson Alvarez, yet the Giants sign him to a four year, $24 million deal. Other than that, the Giants will score two draft picks if Ponson leaves after the year, which would dull the pain of losing Ainsworth.

With Schmidt, Rueter, Williams and Foppert, the Giants are fairly set for next season. If the Giants can sign Ponson to something sensible, like a three year/$16 million deal, that would be gravy. Ponson is only 26, and has been, this year at least, as good as the Woody Williamses and Bartolo Colons of the world. Add in a good defense and Pac Bell Park, and he might have found a happy zone. He has given up a good number of homeruns in the past, but that's not so much of a problem in Pacific Bell.

Whenever I start to panic about losing Ainsworth, I just repeat the following: "Now starting Game Four of the Division Series, Jim Brower!". Win now. Keep an eye on the playoffs. Guard Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams. Mission accomplished.

posted by G at 3:46 PM





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     Tuesday, July 29, 2003
 

Time to Coast?




1) I had to work during Thursday's game against Arizona, so I was forced to follow along with MLB.com's Gameday feed. Following the instant updates does have a certain sort of charm attached to it; I like to pretend I'm an early 20th-century shoeshine boy following the 1921 World Series in the middle of Times Square, but that's just me, and possibly the fumes from a Sharpie. Going the GameCast/Gameday route certainly beats following the ticker on CNN's Headline News, which was certainly a sad, pre-internet period of my life.

It would have been better to at least be listening to the radio feed, but there is something to be said for finding this update:
Tim Worrell relieved Jason Christiansen
Shea Hillenbrand: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Hillenbrand singled to left, Counsell thrown out at home by Barry Bonds.
Steve Finley: Finley popped out to shortstop.
End of Inning (0 Runs, 3 Hits, 0 Errors)

Bottom of the ninth inning:
Mike Myers relieved Brandon Webb
Barry Bonds: Hovered in mid-air, channeling the spirts of those both dead and yet-unborn and appearing to move through time in a linear fashion, as that is the only way mortals can fathom his existance. He then hit a homerun, looking pretty danged cool as he watched it.
End of Inning (1 Run, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)


I feel like I was actually there.


2) With Jerome Williams being depended on as a key cog in the rotation, he is on track for the heaviest workload of his career. I would love to see Alou baby his arm in the second-half, with the Giants enjoying a ridiculous 11 1/2 game lead, but that's probably not going to happen.

Hee hee. An 11 1/2 game lead.

Anyways, I understand the idea of limiting the pitch counts of a 21-year old, but I'm also not going to start cursing every time he tops 100 pitches. The hand-wringing is audible every time he goes past 95, and I don't get it. Pitching is to the arm and shoulder what smoking is to the heart and lungs, and there isn't a magic number to quantify the damage.

Smoker: Hey, can you toss me that pack of Marlboros?
Concerned Friend: Sure...wait. How many have you smoked today?
Smoker: Uh, about a pack-and-a-half.
Concerned Friend: NOOOOO! You can't go over a pack a day! And a pack-and-a-half is a Class IV smoking stage! Here, look at these graphs...
Smoker: Ah, f*** it. I'll be outside.

If you smoke 20 packs a day, your lungs will eventually escape through your nose and try to escape down the bathtub drain. If you run a young arm out for 175 pitches every four days, the arm will eventually fall off and wriggle around like a salamander's tail. In the middle is quite the gray area, and I'm not about to condemn Felipe Alou because Williams throws 116 pitches every other start. One pickoff move might cause more stress to Williams' elbow than pitches 106 through 118. Or it might not be even close. Until there's an answer either way, I'm not going to worry too much about it.


3) I fully agree with the approach Brian Sabean is taking to the trading deadline. There's no sense in giving anything up for a pitcher who might be a shade better than Damian Moss, yet could still be a touch worse. And there isn't anything the Giants have to give up --other than Williams or Foppert, that is-- for the more desirable pitchers. Boof Bonser, though still young for AA, isn't impressing either scouts or statheads right now. The vaunted assortment of young pitching the Giants started the year with is in a bit of tatters at the moment. Matt Cain, Francisco Liriano, and Ryan Hannaman have battled assorted injuries, with others just not doing as well as hoped.

The mini-renaissance of Pedro Feliz makes me wonder what value he might have. Feliz, Felix Rodriguez and Bonser for Sidney Ponson? Sign me up. Otherwise, there are too many teams all scurrying for the same bucket of chum.


4) The mystery pitch Jason Schmidt features was confirmed by two different readers as a change-up. Man alive, what a nasty pitch.


5) Sunday marked the 50th time someone found my site by entering some permutation of "Ruben Rivera", "baserunning", and "Jon Miller" into a search engine. I wonder if Miller feels bad about making such a legendary radio call at someone's expense, but whatever the case, people are still interested two months later. My personal favorite search was "2003 poor baserunning released", as you know that was a case of, "Man, what was that goof's name?"

Other than those looking for a recap of Miller's description of Rivera, the other folks hitting on this site are a combination of people stalking Jesse Foppert, and people interested in Eric Gagne's glasses. However, I need to hear from the person who found my site by entering "Kurt Ainsworth recipe" into Google. What in the heck were you looking for? Did you ever find it? Please, I can't sleep at night. Did it involve a dessert or entree? For the love of all that is holy, let me know.


6) A reader recently pointed out I was flat wrong for worrying about Kevin Correia's service time. Service time is accumulated while a player is active on the 25-man roster, it isn't a stopwatch that is permantly turned on once a player reaches the majors. Thanks. My intern is updating his resume as we speak.

posted by G at 12:17 AM





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     Monday, July 21, 2003
 

Feelin' Fine



1) The scene will play out like this: Game Seven of the World Series, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Safeco Field, whatever. Instead of sending Jason Schmidt out on two day's rest, the Giants give the ball to midseason acquisition Pat Rapp. Rapp pitches a gem, but the Giants lose 2-1 in the final at-bat of the game, when a generic utility guy bloops a bases-loaded double. The home crowd goes nuts, and the Giants slink off the field.

Meanwhile, Eric Gagne is at home, plowing through a plate of tourtiere. The dish has no ground meat in it, however, because it was all used in the meatball he threw to Hank Blalock, which gave the A.L. home-field advantage in the first place. Quel âne.


2) I've taken a couple complaints from the fans of other teams which I'll try to relate in this fake amalgam of several real e-mails:
Hey, who do you think you are? Your team is in first place, and all you can do is whine? My team, the ______, haven't sniffed first place since aught-seven. Be thankful for what you have, jerk. Also, I have been employed by a Nigerian bank to present you with a great opportunity to take over an unclaimed bank account, while saving tons of money on prescription drugs like Viagra.
There is something to the point, to be sure. The Giants are eight games up in their division, and I lead off with a post pointing out the Giants might get screwed, should they be lucky enough to advance to the World Series. Pointless whining? Of course. Welcome to the paranoid mindset of the typical Giants fan, which is just slightly less paranoid than a Mafia informant hopped up on the CIA-created drug from "Jacob's Ladder". Whether it's the wild-card playoff coin flip in 1998, or the luck-of-the-draw, revolving league system of last year's homefield advantage, the Giants fan takes pride in expecting to get screwed. When the Giants were up 5-0 in Game Six, there was a small part of me wondering, "Geez, what will we have to complain about now?"

So, excuse me if my posts aren't all about putting daisies between my toes because the Giants are leading their division in July. This team has holes and it's still early.


3) Ken Rosenthal provides this trade rumor:
The Dodgers continue to target Melvin Mora, and the Orioles might be willing to take third baseman Adrian Beltre if they also received quality prospects in the deal.
Four years ago, Adrian Beltre might have been the most promising player in the game. Now, there's speculation he might not even bring Melvin Mora in a straight-up trade. Beltre went from the promise of a Please, Please Me to the abject horror of a Give My Regards to Broad Street overnight, when that's the type of decline that usually takes a minimum of fifteen years. Beltre might never reach the Revolver peak Dodger fans were hoping for, but I still think he's good for a Wings' Greatest Hits at some point in his career. Don't even get me started on the Sting analogies, which are more of a Jose Canseco thing.

4) It's just beautiful to see Barry Bonds embarrass National League pitching again, but him going off now is only going to get him fewer pitches to hit in September. A part of me wants Bonds to just be quiet every other game or so, but I know he'll never get a pitch to hit anyway.

And the most, nay, only interesting thing about the whole "wiping out Babe Ruth" thing was the noodle from the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum crawling out from under his rock. There were three ways I was hoping this quote would lead:
"To suggest that those feats are somehow capable of 'wiping out' Ruth illustrates a complete disregard for the history and tradition of our national game, and its greatest player and star," said executive director Michael L. Gibbons....

a. Gibbons then checked his watch, noting that somehow fifteen minutes had just uselessly passed.
b. Gibbons, who was in obvious pain after having Ruth's Strat-O-Matic card tattooed on his chest that day....
c. Gibbons then ended the interview to scout for booze and whores.

Harsh, maybe, but I just found the whole furor to be silly.


5) The best All-Star performance by a Giant pitcher in years was put in by Jason Schmidt, and it involved hitting one of baseball's more likeable players in the head with a 97-mph fastball. Would it be too much to ask for a San Francisco pitcher to come up with just one perfect inning, with no incidents?

Still, seeing Schmidt start the game was a thrill, and I'm glad the rest of the baseball world got to see him strike hitters out on that weird changeup/sinker/splitter thing he throws which runs away from lefties. That pitch reminds me of a quote from Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey.
Anytime I see something screech across a room and latch onto someone's neck, and the guy screams and tries to get it off, I have to laugh, because what is that thing?!

What is that thing, indeed. I've heard it described as a changeup, but it hits the mid-to-high 80s. I think it moves too much laterally for a splitter, and has too much general movement for a sinker. There are some starts where he features it, and other starts where he doesn't throw it at all. If anyone knows the pitch I'm describing, and has a good grasp as to what it is, I'd love to hear it.

posted by G at 11:47 PM





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     Monday, July 14, 2003
 

All Star Breakin' 2 - Electric Boogaloo



1) For those who weren't around or don't remember, I had some interesting notes about the Giants pitching depth to start the season.
The Giantz toatally have depth, dudes. Jesse foppert is gonna strike out four hndred batters, and Kurt ainsowrth is totally gonna be the rookie o f the year. The bestpart is if someone gets injured, we totally have Jerome williams in Fresno. I think Damien moss is gonna be a keeper, so it looks like the team will have the best pitchign in the division for five years at least.

Not exactly what I wrote, but not far off. The sky isn't falling -- the team leads the division by a healthy five games -- but the rotation is a big worry. "Williams and Schmidt, the rest ain't...uh, quite as good", isn't going to hold up without reinforcements. As I see it, Brian Sabean has three obvious options:

a. Hoping for Kirk Rueter to come back soon, with either Foppert or Moss improving substantially.
b. Giving up a little piece of the future for a decent 4th starter, like Steve Trachsel or Ismael Valdes.
c. Donating a chunk of the future for a decent 2nd starter, like Sidney Ponson or Brad Penny.

All three have some merit. After five beers, I'd be tempted to say screw it and try to drop four of our best prospects for Brad Penny. After some deep breaths, it's pretty obvious there isn't too much out there.


2) After looking terrible in Colorado, taking two of three from Arizona was like finding a twenty in an old coat. You just know the 840-foot homer from Bonds really, really pissed Curt Schilling off. You always hear about Bonds being a surly hot dog, but he's a bigger man than I am. I wouldn't have started jogging until halfway 'round first.

3) With Jesse Foppert not making a start until well after the All-Star break, the Giants called up Kevin Correia. As a tactical gambit, it makes sense. If Foppert isn't available, his roster spot should be taken by someone able to pitch in a blowout. Great, but why Correia? If he wasn't going to start, he wasn't going to come into a close game. If he's not going to come into a close game, why not call up Manny Aybar, Matt Blank, or Ryan Jensen? If the intent is to show Correia off as trade bait, it was a silly move because he only got an inning of work. Now, if Correia ends up a valuable major leaguer, his service time has already started. In the unlikely event he becomes a pitcher worth paying big money for, he's a lot closer to that payday and arbitration than he would have been with another year in the minors.


4) Were this 1999, picking up a free Jeffrey Hammonds and Dustin Hermanson would have been quite the coup. Now...not so much. Hammonds has been in the Arizona League, killing the ball this past week. The Giants are hoping this will help his confidence, as well as his ability to stay back on breaking balls covered in Clearasil. The team doesn't need another lefty-pounder, but he's a good player to have laying around. If the Dodgers decide to replace their rotation with a quintet of 18-year olds, the Giants will be ready.

I can't imagine a scenario where Hermanson isn't done. The Cardinals aren't exactly brimming with pitching options, and they released him. Brian Powell isn't even a poor man's Ryan Jensen, so there isn't much to lose by giving Hermanson a couple of starts. Still, this would be like the Dodgers snagging a castaway hitter from the Tigers.


5) There were some iffy Armando Benitez-to-the-Giants rumors wafting about, but they don't seem to have much truth to them. Brian Sabean annointed Tim Worrell closer for the rest of the year, regardless of who they pick up. The statement by Sabean was timed beautifully, as the Giants just traded for Former Closer for two weeks in Montreal Matt Herges. Herges is a nice guy to have, and a better bullpen arm than anyone the team had in the wings. I liked the guy they gave up, Clay Hensley, as much as you could like a 23-year old struggling in High-A, but Herges is an improvement.

Still, my first thought was, "What, Doug Henry wasn't available?"


6) The Yankees have been slobbering over Felix Rodriguez, and they do have Jeff Weaver to offer back. The problem is that Weaver is due about $15 million over the next two years, which would be fine if he came with a guarantee. He doesn't, and would scarf up the limited money the Giants will have to spend this coming offseason. There's no way the Giants end up with Weaver unless the Yankees eat a good deal of salary. Or the Yankees could swap Nick Johnson for J.T. Snow in the deal, evening out the salaries for this year. Also, the Diamondbacks could put Randy Johnson on waivers, and the Giants pick him up.

If there is a way to get Weaver without damaging future payroll, 19 poor games for the Yankees this year notwithstanding, he would be a perfect fit for Pac Bell. He's the same age as Damian Moss, and just one year removed from being an ace.


7) It's trendy to not put so much emphasis on the closer's role, and for good reason. When you see a freshly exhumed Rod Beck nail his first seven save chances for the Padres, it tarnishes the closer mystique just a tad. But it shouldn't take away from the job Tim Worrell has done this year. If he had coughed up two or three more wins, this team could be panicking and it would have been a messy trade deadline. Even though Bill Mueller turned into Wade Boggs, Worrell has given the team a hell of a lot in his short tenure.


8) The Giants are up by five games at the All-Star break. Sounds good to me.

posted by G at 1:20 AM





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     Sunday, July 06, 2003
 

Warning: Extremely Long Post Ahead



1) On Thursday, I attended my first minor league game in Eugene, Oregon, watching the Padres' short-season A-ball team take on the Giants' affiliate. While David Aardsma, Brian Buscher, and Nate Schierholtz were all assigned somewhere other than Salem-Keizer, there were still some interesting prospects to watch.

The prospect I was able to get the closest look at was Load Bearing Stadium Post. Post did a yeoman's work throughout the game, helping with the team effort to keep the stadium roof aloft. His positioning was sound and consistent, requiring me to choose between craning my neck to see the batter, or stretching the other way to watch the break of the pitch. As impressed as I was, it is worth remembering these sort of prospects rarely pan out. I'd be surprised if Load Bearing Stadium Post ever obstructed anyone's view in the big leagues, but there's always a chance. Stupid general admission.

The starter for Salem-Keizer was Ryan Sadowski, who reminded me a lot of Ryan Jensen. Any pitcher that ends up as successful as Ryan Jensen will have had to buck some incredibly long odds, so that's hardly damning with faint praise. His mechanics and control were very impressive, but it was apparent that his mediocre stuff allowed him to slide to the Giants in the 12th round. He was able to get batters to chase his breaking pitches, but it remains to be seen if that skill will hold up as he advances to the higher levels. He got outs, and he got them quickly, so for a mid-round pick he was very encouraging.

Sadowski pitched four scoreless innings, then gave way to Brooks McNiven. McNiven took the loss, but pitched very well. His delivery is very busy, with his throwing arm hanging back as the rest of his body hurtles toward home. When he does bring his arm around, it's very quick and, uh, windmillish. If you want an adjective that's not made up, here's what an actual scout had on McNiven for MLB.com:
Very lean, angular build. Long arc, loose arm. Lots of K's. Poised, competes well. Shows 2 ML pitches now. Lacks overall body strength.
The speed on his fastball seemed to be above-average at best, but he was blowing people away, which makes me believe this funky delivery is very deceptive. His mechanics are unique enough to avoid most comparisons, but he reminds me a great deal of Ryan Vogelsong. Both had similarly violent deliveries, and both were able to rack up the strikeouts. If McNiven can avoid the injuries that Vogelsong has had to suffer through, which is certainly no given, he could move quickly.

Salem-Keizer was shut out, so there wasn't too much to watch on the offensive side. Travis Ishikawa's first at-bat was awful, with him taking two called strikes down the middle and ending the at-bat with a horrific swing at a breaking ball in the dirt. The next time up, against the same lefty pitcher, he pulled an outside pitch for a single that was probably the hardest hit ball of the night by either team. He also worked out a walk later in the game. He has the slight frame of a 19-year old, looking very out of place even in the Northwest League, so the Giants are hoping he'll add a lot of power. He has a lot to prove after struggling as badly as he did in Low-A, but he's definitely one of the best hitting prospects in the organization.


2) VanLandingMoss. There, I wrote it. I don't feel any better.


3) The Diamondbacks are charging into contention, and they're doing it with chumps. Brandon Webb is a swell pitcher and all, but he's not supposed to pitch like Kevin Brown yet, if ever. Robbie Hammock? Matt Kata? If those aren't members of a band that would open for Creed, they're at most players from the NES game Bases Loaded. None of the above players had this sort of success at any level before this year, so they won't continue at this pace. I can only hope this will give the front office some false confidence to leave the offense alone, which would be similar to the Giants counting on torrid streaks from Jeff Clark, Lance Niekro and Joe Jester to continue through the season. When Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling come back in the second half, I'd like nothing more than to watch them lose a string of 3-2 games.

As an aside, this picture of Andrew Good makes him look like he's a spandex suit away from battling Spiderman. Yikes.


4) The Giants' abysmal record of developing major-league hitters is worthy of a feature-length documentary. Not since Rob Deer has there been an above-average outfielder produced by the San Francisco organization. The team hit on two first round picks in the '80s with Will Clark and Matt Williams. Since then, it's been "Marvin Benard and Bill Mueller, pray for roster filler".

The scouting is obviously awful. This kind of ineptitude doesn't just happen, but there is also a measure of terrible luck which has to be involved. Here's a list of players drafted in the fifth round, or later. Every team missed the boat on these players at least four times, with the selecting team mixing a combination of luck, astute scouting, and luck.
Anaheim - Jim Edmonds (7th)
Atlanta - Marcus Giles (53rd)
Atlanta - Jermaine Dye (17th)
Arizona- Lyle Overbay (18th)
Arizona - Junior Spivey (26th)
Boston - Shea Hillenbrand (10th)
Cincinnati - Reggie Sanders (7th)
Chicago Cubs - Mark Grace (24th)
Chicago Cubs- Eric Hinske (17th)
Chicago WS - Ray Durham (5th)
Chicago WS - Mike Cameron (18th)
Cleveland - Brian Giles (17th)
Cleveland - Richie Sexson (24th)
Kansas City - Mike Sweeney (10th)
LA - Mike Piazza (62nd)
LA - Paul LoDuca (25th)
NY Mets - Fernando Vina (9th)
NY Yankees - Jorge Posada (24th)
Philly- Marlon Byrd (10th)
Minnesota - Matt Lawton (12th)
Montreal - Larry Walker (undrafted, were Canadians draft eligible?)
Montreal - Jose Vidro (6th)
St. Louis - Albert Pujols (13th)
Tampa Bay - Aubrey Huff (5th)
Texas - Rich Aurilia (24th)
Toronto - Jeff Kent (20th)


This was a very cursory look, and I'm sure there are a few I've missed. The Giants have already bucked the odds by not backing into a solid hitter, and though trading for Rich Aurilia takes a little of the sting out of this list, few teams have been as unlucky as the Giants in not finding a diamond in the rough.

Here's a list of some international free agents signed in the past 15 years:
Arizona - Erubiel Durazo, 1997
Atlanta - Rafael Furcal, 1996
Chicago WS - Carlos Lee, 1994
Florida - Edgar Renteria, 1992
Houston - Bobby Abreu, 1990
Los Angeles - Adrian Beltre, 1994
Montreal - Vladimir Guerrero, 1993
NY Mets - Edgardo Alfonzo, 1991
NY Yankees - Cristian Guzman, 1994
Oakland - Tony Batista, 1991
Oakland - Miguel Tejada, 1993
Texas - Ivan Rodriguez, 1988
Toronto - Carlos Delgado, 1988
Oakland - Angel Berroa, 1997


Again, I'm missing a whole bunch. The sad thing is the Giants are trying here. They have a Latin American scouting program, but seem to end up with more Francisco Santoses than Miguel Tejadas. These players were available to every team with a scout. Some were tied up by their teams before they could be scouted heavily, which is little more than being in the right place at the right time. Signing 16 and 17-year olds is like playing Powerball to begin with, as I'm sure the Giants have signed a lot of kids they were excited about at the time, so why haven't the Giants gotten lucky once?

Then there are the guys drafted from the 2nd through 4th round, like Adam Dunn or Jeff Bagwell. They're generally highly regarded, but are still passed on by every single team. The Giants have pulled their fair share of Sean McGowans and Doug Clarks, which should be expected but have never gotten truly lucky even with the higher draft picks.

Finally, there are the first rounders. The guys like Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter. Here's where the scouting is more important than luck, but having some luck doesn't hurt. The Giants have a litany of Steve Hoseys and Arturo McDowells, with the world not exactly holding its collective breath for Tony Torcato. The best hitter drafted in the first round since Matt Williams is easily Adam Hyzdu. Easily.

It all adds up to a quite impressive resume of not acquiring anyone who can hit. Tommy Lasorda couldn't have done better. Todd Linden offers hope the curse will be broken, but he's still young. The team has been very good for years now entirely on the strength of the player development skills of other organizations, so it's not like this futility has to change for the Giants to win. It would just be freakin' nice for once to get lucky.

posted by G at 5:57 PM





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