Archive for August, 2010

In the News: What to do, what to do … with Big Z?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Hello, Cubs fans. Whew! What a game last night. Did you know that if you combined the big league and Triple-A Cubs’ run production from yesterday, you’d get 34 runs? Yep, Iowa beat the Albuquerque Isotopes 20-9 yesterday while, as you presumably know, a sparse Monday night crowd at Wrigley witnessed the big boys trounce the Pirates 14-2.  The (MLB) Cubs now have a 4-9 record against the Bucs this year so, if they win the next two games in the series … well, they’ll still finish the year with an embarrassing 6-9 record. (69, dude!) But at least it’ll be somewhat less embarrassing. Anyway, let’s get on with the news:

So what do we do with Carlos Zambrano?  He’s 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA since returning to the rotation from the restricted list and initiating anger management therapy. His velocity is still somewhat questionable and his walks are still too high, but I guess you can’t argue with those results. (Uh, can you?) To be honest, he appears to me at the moment like a souped-up version of Carlos Silva — basically a ground ball pitcher who goes out there and battles through five or six innings (albeit with, as mentioned, a much higher walk rate).

So I ask you, loyal readers. Should the Cubs cast aside any plans they might have had to trade Big Z during the off-season, or should these better results actually fuel trade efforts. (You see, every other team in baseball, he’s still a starting pitcher! We were just kidding around with the bullpen thing! The line starts here!)

To be honest, I’m pretty open to arguments on both sides at this point. I’m no Z hater — I still think moving him to the bullpen early in the season was an embarrassing panic move (and Carlos himself recently said as much) and his overall season stats aren’t all that bad considering his uneven playing time.

Plus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, the Cubs rotation for next season is chock full of middle- to lower-level starters without many higher-end guys. Now I’m not saying Big Z is a No. 1 or even a No. 2 starting pitcher at this point. But if he can pull himself together enough to be a No. 3ish guy next season, wouldn’t that — along with Demp — be better than nothing at the top of the rotation? Carlos is still only 29.

The benefits of trading him are, obviously, the Cubs could presumably, maybe (depending on the deal) shed some of his salary and lose the perennial distraction he’s become. But much depends on whether Jim Hendry feels that Zambrano’s relationship with the team really did hit the end of the road with this year’s meltdown. If it did, then Jimbo will presumably be pulling out the stops to move Z once the season is over.

Let’s have the Adam Dunn debate!  C’mon, everybody’s doin’ it. Marlon Byrd likes Adam Dunn, and Adam Dunn likes Wrigley Field. So should the Cubs sign the Big Donkey to be their starting first baseman next season? Maybe a two-year deal like the Nationals gave him? Three years, tops?

I’m loathe to use this phrase again, but “much depends” on whether the Cubs intend to pursue one of the Big Three (Pujols-Gonzalez-Fielder) first base free agents in 2012. Now I’d guess Pujols will remain in St. Louis, commanding a truly massive deal, and Gonzalez will either stay in San Diego (as the face of the franchise) or move on to Boston. That leaves Prince, who will be the youngest of the three and certainly familiar with the NL Central. Granted, he’s got some mountain-sized risks of his own, but Fielder is still the guy I’d go after if the Cubs are serious about putting a big name at first base.

If not, then Dunn would be a decent option as long as the price is right. He’ll turn 32 this fall, so the Cubs could still get a decent level of production out of him for at least a couple of seasons. Y’know, .500+ slugging and good OBP to offset bad defense (which is less bad at first base) and a high strikeout rate. Might be worth a shot.

A few miscellaneous notes:

  • An MRI on Geo’s knee came back negative and he’ll probably play tomorrow (Wednesday) in the season-series-ending game against the Pirates. Soto’s OBP currently sits at .401. Will he finish the season at or above .400? I hope so, though it would only serve to make me more frustrated with the fact that neither Lou nor Mike Quade will bat him higher than eighth in the lineup.
  • The Hawk mentioned being open to serving on Ryne Sandberg’s coaching staff, should Ryno get the Cubs managerial job. Imagine a staff with names like Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Bob Dernier and Ivan DeJesus. You couldn’t say the Cubs don’t promote from within.
  • I called it! It felt a little dubious to include former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge in my latest Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings but, sure enough, Jim Hendry did interview the Wedgie last week. Here’s a handy resume to peruse.

That’s all the news I can muster today. See you next time, Cubs fans. And, remember, it’s not Quade-mania it’s Quaderophenia.

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Free Cubs Ticket for 9/1 game

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

I have four tickets to the game against the Pirates on Wednesday that includes a free lunch at Sports Corner before the game (minus alcohol). One of the guys that is scheduled to go with us may not be able to make it. If you’re interested in going in the event that he has to cancel, please send an e-mail to: with the following:

  • Name (and comment name you use on the site)
  • Age
  • Why you should be the one we choose to go with us
  • Phone # where you can be reached if selected. (I should know this evening.

To be able to win, you must be able to do lunch before the game.

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Game 131: Back to Earth We Go

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Winners: Reds

Losers: Cubs

The Cincinnati Reds showed the Cubs exactly what it takes to be the class of the division.  In a game that was as much a definition of the Cubs 2010 season, as it was a replay of the defensive weaknesses that plague the team, the Cubs lost 7-5.

I know what you are thinking, the Cubs scoring five runs  is in no way a common theme to this season, but the Cubs losing a close game, well that’s called hitting the nail on the head.

The Reds are simply doing what they need to be doing down the stretch….beating the teams they are supposed to beat, payrolls be damned.

I took a look at this Cubs team today and realized something, for the $130 million payroll that they carry there is not one player on this team that would be considered a star.  Not one player that strikes fear in the opposition.

Soriano is pretty much a clown to most opposing teams, as is Aramiz Ramirez.  Yes, their bats show some pop from time to time but their fielding is attrocious.  For every run they drive in they cost us two.  They are pretty much the closest thing to “star power” on the north side.

Today’s game was a seesaw battle that saw the Cubs go down 3-1, bounce back to tie it 3-3, then go down 5-3 and with the sweet swing of Fukudome’s bat on a two run homer to left center, they tied it back up at 5-5 just before the dreadful bottom of the eighth inning.

Jay Bruce managed to get on base in the bottom of the eighth (shocker, I don’t really need to see Jay Bruce anymore this season……we can call him the new Cub killer!)  Ramon Hernandez, the Reds catcher, shot a ball behind the running Bruce into right field. A good jump  had Bruce headed to third in what looked like a close play in the making.  Here is where the Cubs, or more specifically Aramis, took over.   Fukudome’s long throw from right came in a little off target but not by much.  Instead of getting in front of the throw Aramis did another one of his patented ole”, backhand stabs at knocking down the ball.  The ball got by him and the go ahead run, Bruce, scored.  Bob Brenly made sure to comment on the lackluster attempt at knocking down the throw.  Something tells me Aramis is not high on Brenly’s list?

At any rate, another ball was hit Aramis way in the next at bat and he made a flailing effort to make the stop, which of course failed and another run scored.  It  would make it 7-5 Reds and Cordero time!

In a close game the Reds did what they needed to do.  They moved the runners, made contact, and scored the runs.  The Cubs on the other hand did what they do best, which is find a way to shoot themselves in the foot.

Wake me when it’s 2012.

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Friday Discussion: Going to the Game

Friday, August 27th, 2010

This one is going to be short and sweet. It’s simply a question on your feelings for the rest of the season. Each game we continue to see Wrigley Field packed, despite the losing record of the team. As a Cub fan, do you think it’s wrong for those people to be showing up?

I ask the question because I am heading to Chicago with the family Saturday and in the process will be catching two games. I’ll be in attendance tomorrow in Cincinnati and then on Wednesday in Chicago against the Pirates.

Am I total tool for buying two games worth of tickets at this point?

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In The News: Cubs Win! Booooo!

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Greetings, Cubs fans. Are you enjoying “The Quade Bounce”? Yeah, I realize it’s only the perennial under-performing Washington Nationals, who recently had to DL their pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg AGAIN, but I still go to bed a little happier at night with a Cubs win in the books.

Of course, not everyone feels that way. I’ve read a few rants on these here Interwebz as of late decrying how the team is actually hurting itself by winning games and, thereby, lowering its 2011 draft pick position. Look, I understand this line of thinking and agree in a sense. About a month or so ago, I started wishing the Pirates were a better team this year so the Cubs could really hit bottom and get a better draft pick. Of course, as this chart (courtesy of Tales from Aisle 424) demonstrates, the Bucs aren’t the only problem. Remember, the Orioles, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Indians are also God-awful this year.

But, more to the point, I’d like to ask anyone truly angry that the Cubs are winning a few more games: Precisely what would you do to rectify the problem? I mean, if you, angry Cubs fan, were given a managerial or coaching position on the team, would you advise Starlin Castro to intentionally strike out rather than get a clutch hit, as he did last night? Would you advise Ryan Dempster to lower his strikeout rate? Would you engage Aramis Ramirez in a thumb war in hopes of causing a recurrence of the injury that plagued him earlier in the season?

I guess what I’m saying is: The remainder of the 2010 season is going to play out as its going to play out. Yeah, there would be a benefit to being the worst of the worst, but there’s really no realistic way of competing in that arena. So let it go, let the team play and let’s hope the young players get as much good experience as possible.

And now, on with the news:

Joe Girardi to address the Chicago media on the morrow.  The Yankees roll into town tomorrow to take on the contending (argh!) Chicago White Sox and their manager, Joe Girardi, is no dummy. He’s expecting the media throng to pelt him with queries regarding whether he would/will manage the Cubs next season, and Joe’s gone on record as saying he will answer those questions — one last time. Should be interesting.

Carlos Silva to swing by Peoria.  Rehabbing hurler Carlos Silva is expected to pitch a few innings for the Peoria Chiefs tomorrow (Friday) night. Assuming all goes well, he’ll likely be back in the Cubs rotation later next week. I’m curious to see how the team handles its starting pitching staff come September. I mean, Casey Coleman pitched pretty well the last time out. And I believe Jeff Samardzija is still going to get a chance or two. How are they going to fit these guys in with Demp, Da Gorz, Big Z, Wells and Silva firmly ensconced?

Speaking of pitchers … remember the Maine!  How am I supposed to remember him when I don’t know who the hell he is? In case you didn’t hear, the Cubs sent looks-like-a-knuckleballer Justin Berg back down the minors a day or two ago and called up left-hander John Maine. He was acquired in the Aaron Heilman deal and has yet to make an appearance for the North Siders. His strikeout numbers, noted by Bruce Miles in that article, look good. Maybe he’s the LOOGY the Cubs have long been looking for. Or not.

Sammy Sosa, on the record.  Maybe you’ve read it, maybe you haven’t. But click on that link for the full text of Sammy Sosa’s recent interview with Chicago Magazine. To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing but, from what I can gather, Slammin’ Sammy says precious little about the ‘roids issue.  Still, given Roger Clemens recent indictment and Mark McGwire’s apparent success with the Cardinals, the timing is interesting. Would you want to see the Cubs welcome Sosa back to Wrigley Field?

Andre Dawson Day: August 30, 2010.Yes, the Cubs will honor the Hall of Famer Hawk before Monday’s game against the dreaded Pittsburgh Pirates. I still think the timing is a little odd – why not do it on a weekend when more people will be there? But so it goes.


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The Bill James Guide To Baseball Managers

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

The complete title of this book is: “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today”. Bill James is the author. This book was published in 1997.

I was reading a book titled “How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball”, and there was a quote to the effect that if Bill James wrote a book about peanut butter, he (the speaker) would buy it.

That statement prompted me to seek out books written by Bill James, which led me to this one. And now I can say: Bill James has written a book about Baseball Managers and we all should read it!

As Dan Gutman of Newsday is quoted on the back cover: ”He’s proven that he knows more about baseball than anybody in the whole world”.

Also on the back cover is this observation (from the book) by Dick Young about Leo Durocher: “You and Durocher are on a raft. A wave comes and knocks him into the ocean. You dive in and save his life. A shark comes and takes your leg. Next day, you and Leo start out even.”

Bill James’ bio on the inside back jacket cover includes the following items: “From 1977 through 1988 James wrote and edited ‘The Baseball Abstract’; from 1990 to 1992, ‘The Baseball Book’. His other books include ‘This Time Let’s Not Eat the Bones’, ‘Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame’, and the ‘Historical Baseball Abstract’, winner of the Casey Award as the best baseball book of 1986.”

In introducing this book Mr. James observes: “A manager is not someone who excels; a manager is someone who copes. I’ll manage somehow.”

His introduction continues: “There is one indispensable quality of a baseball manager: the manager must be able to command the respect of his players. This is absolute; everything else is negotiable.”

The introduction also includes: “Managers are fascinating people. Of the twenty-five greatest managers of all time, at least eighteen were alcoholics. Is this a coincidence, or is there a reason for it? Should we, in looking to hire a manager, make sure he has Betty Ford on his resume?”

The chapters of this Guide to Managers are arranged decade by decade. Here are a few of the decades and the managers profiled within:
– 1930s: Stengel and Southworth
– 1940s: Leo Durocher, Jolly Cholly Grimm
– 1950s: Casey Stengel, Paul Richards, Al Lopez, Fred Haney
– 1960s: Walter Alston, Bill Adair, Joe Adcock
– 1970s: Sparky Anderson, Earl Weaver
– 1980s: Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda
– 1990s: Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, Tony LaRussa

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

– “The most important question that a manager asks is ‘What needs to be changed around here?’ Any manager, over time, loses the ability to see what needs to be changed.”

– “Almost any manager, when a pitcher gives him a big season, will make a commitment to that pitcher. If he has a couple of bad starts, the manager will say ‘It’s just a couple of bad starts; he’ll get it turned around.’ If he has another bad start, the manager will say, ‘Well, we need him to pitch well if we’re going to contend.’ Then he’ll have a good start or two, and the first thing you know, he’s 5-13, and you’re out of the race.”

– “Stengel didn’t do that. With Stengel, unless you were Vic Raschi or Whitey Ford, you were only as good as your last start. And that was a large part of why he was able to stay on top, year after year, in a way that few other managers ever have. It’s not that he wasn’t ‘loyal’ to his players, but his idea of loyalty wasn’t ‘Joe helped me win the pennant last year, so I owe it to him to let him work through his problems.’ It was ‘These boys are trying to win. I owe it to them to do everything possible to help them win’.”

– “A famous Stengel quote occurred when Casey was asked by a reporter why he had used three pinch hitters in the first three innings of one game. ‘Whaddaya want me to do,’ he asked. ‘Sit there and lose?’”

– “Both Richards and Lopez were ‘defense first’ managers. Lopez once said that all a team really needed was pitching and defense, because if you didn’t allow the other team to score, eventually they would give you a run, and you’d win the game. Richards was less extreme in this regard.”

– “As anyone who has been around athletes ought to know, the most difficult years of an athlete’s life are the years when he is coming to grips with the fact that his skills have gotten away from him. By loading his roster with players at that stage of their careers, Haney virtually guaranteed an unhappy clubhouse.”

– “We know this already, but it is worth noting: In hiring a manager, look for someone who is ‘secure’ and ‘positive’.”

– “He looked for an attitude, a willingness to get it done. When a player lost that edge, that fearlessness, that love of risk, he lost his value, and then his manager had a problem. If the manager faced that problem head-on, there would be conflict. If he didn’t, there would be mediocrity.”

– “What do you put on the back of a manager’s baseball card?”

The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers contains a lot of discussion about topics I wasn’t expecting to see here, including “the definitive history of the sacrifice bunt”, and “fundamental analyses of the several billion options available to a manager setting a batting order”, among other things.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was both entertaining and informative. I do believe that Bill James could make a book about peanut butter be fun and educational, yet somehow relevant to baseball.

I recommend “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today” to anyone with an interest in baseball &/or good writing. It’s too bad that the analyses only go up to the mid 1990s. But after reading about the earlier decades the reader can supply his own ending.

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Game 128: All’s Well That Ends Well

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Before we get to the recap of tonight’s game, let me express my feelings about Derrek Lee In The Rearview Mirror: “I will try to remember the good times, but it’s been over for a while now.”

Moving right along: Wednesday’s game (#128) was the final meeting of the 2010 season between the Cubs and the Nationals.  The two teams seemed pretty evenly matched at the git go.

Jason Marquis balked early in the game, and the Cubs returned the favor in the late innings.

Blake DeWitt, Starlin Castro & Micah Hoffpauir teamed up to create an outstanding  4-6-3 double play in the first inning.

Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis took their scoreless pitcher’s duel into the eighth inning.  Mr. Dempster allowed only 2 hits (and no runs) through seven innings.

Colvin & Castro (“The C.C. Riders”) worked together to score the 1st run of the game in the top of the 8th inning.  Tyler Colvin (pinch hitting for Ryan Dempster) drew a walk and Starlin Castro doubled him in.  Aramis Ramirez drove Castro in with a two run homer.  Alfonso Soriano added a solo shot in the 9th.

Andrew Cashner and Carlos Marmol maintained the shut out through the 8th and 9th innings.  The Cubs won 4-0 and completed the three game sweep of the Nationals in D.C.

With this victory Mike Quade improved his record to 3-0 as a Major League manager, and the Cubs are back up to 20 games below .500.

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Five Questions……Among Many.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

As the Cubs season trickles to a close I find myself wondering what the future has in store….or doesn’t.

Five questions …….five lingering little thoughts of doubt, and intrigue that keep me up at night and threaten to strip me of my sanity (not really, but it sounds more dramatic this way).

Without further ado, here they are…….

Question 1: How many moves need to be made?

Recently Jim Hendry made the statement that the Cubs are “four for five moves away from contending next year”.   This concerns me because over the past five years you will remember that Jim has made statements along the lines of “We really only need to make a move or two to contend” ….now that number is up to four or five.

My theory is that if Jim thinks we need to make one or two moves then we really need to make four or five.  If he thinks we need to make four or five then we need to make eight or nine and so on.

His favorite line going into each season is “If  (insert player name here) plays like they did in (insert said players best year in the last five here) then we should be just fine.”

Hope floats, huh Jim? Not quite, and the Cubs have paid for that two straight seasons.  I can remember earlier on in the decade when we were “hoping” for Prior and Wood to “return to form” and nowadays it’s A-Ram, Soriano, Soto, or Zambrano. Hope doesn’t float on the Northside and should not be used as a strategy to win.

Question #2: What if Mike Quade pulls off the sensational?

Lets just say Mike Quade wins 80% (or some ridiculous number) of the games down the stretch.  I know, he has won his first two, and no I am not drinking anything.  Just wondering what kind of wrench this throws into the management search?

Most of Cub nation wants to see either Ryne Sandberg or Joe Girardi as the new Cub Manager.  What if though? What if Quade rolls through the end of our season? What if he goes a miraculous 30-7 down the stretch?  How do you look at the guy and say thanks for effort, but third base is your home.

Then again, how do you pick Mike Quade over Ryne Sandberg or Joe Girardi? That’s like picking a Yugo instead of a Porsche or Mercedes….or is it?

Question #3:  Who will be the Cubs first baseman next season?

Okay, finding a guy who can pick it like D-Lee will be a challenge but with all the defensive holes on this team we can ill afford another liability in the field.

I am also a little afraid we are going to grab a guy on the downside of his career.  One name that stands out, and is the one I fear the most becoming a Cub, is Adam Dunn.

Yes Adam hits for power, but he also has suspect defense (that’s being kind) and he strikes out a ton!  We have a lot of this already, the only problem is I am not sure what else will become available?  Do we resign D-Lee?

This is a scary topic and really needs your thoughts, what do you think the Cubs best options are?

Question #4: What new and obnoxious  advertisements will we see at Wrigley next year?

I walk by the Kraft noodle at least once a week.  Every time I walk by I feel like the Cubs organization is collectively standing on the corner of Clark and Addison hookin’!

“What can I get for $10?”

“Anything you want!”

What new and obnoxious, soul sucking, yet revenue generating ideas will flow from the Cubs brass for 2011?

Question #5:  What is the most important move that needs to be made?

Of the four or five moves needed per Jim, what do you think is the greatest need for this team?

Do we need a true ace on the mound? A stopper? A Cliff Lee type guy?

How about that power hitting first baseman with a good glove?

I would say the relief core needs a boost but picking up relievers in free agency is a large expense and usually a gamble.  It seems to me that relief pitching is very much luck of the draw.  You either happen to stumble upon it within the organization and it flashes for a season or two and dies out, or you try to buy it and almost always end up disappointed.

Among the many needs this team seems to have,  is this where they want to sink their money? Or is there a greater need?

So there you have it!  Five questions, among the many, for you to answer. What are your thoughts?

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Game 127: How The Mighty Have Fallen

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

An old baseball saying tells us, “Pitching wins championships.” Perhaps we should change that to, “Good pitching wins championships. Lousy pitching sandbags your season.” Just ask the Cubs and Nationals.

Tuesday’s matchup featured the aggravating Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 4.97) and the disappointing John Lannan (5-5, 5.13). Both “aces” took the hill on opening day, and both were beaten soundly. Would it be more of the same at Nationals Park?

The Cubs wasted a Starlin Castro double and came up empty in the top of the 1st. The Nationals put two men on in their half of the inning, but an Adam Dunn doubleplay ball kept the contest scoreless (don’t worry Adam, we’d still love to have you at 1B next year).

Two straight singles by Baker and Soto got the Cubs going in the next frame. Former National Alfonso Soriano turned back the clock and drove a breaking ball over the LF fence. Cubs 3, Nats 0. It’s hard to believe that only four years have passed since Soriano swatted 46 homers for Washington. Time flies when you’re underachieving.

The quick lead seemed to fuel Big Z’s confidence as he attacked the strike zone aggressively (for a change). Though his velocity is still down, the command appears to be coming around. Zambrano’s remaining 2010 starts should be worth watching.

Future star Ryan Zimmerman got the Nats on the board with an RBI single in the 3rd. Yet another player I wish the Cubs had! Zambrano pitched around Adam Dunn to load the bases, but a Bernadina flyout kept the score at 3-1.

Tyler Colvin flexed his muscles once again in the 4th. His two-run shot put the Cubs up 5-1. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 14 homers in 212 at bats vs. RHP for Colvin. If he could only do something about that dreadful on-base percentage.

Meanwhile, Zambrano was locked in. Through 7.1 innings he fanned eight batters and showcased a sharp breaking ball. It was refreshing to see him throw so free and easy. Granted, he wasn’t exactly facing the ’27 Yankees, but I don’t want to pick apart a solid start (hey, that rhymes).

Sean Marshall took over with one on and one out in the 8th. Two straight walks loaded the bases and opened the door for Carlos Marmol. The Cubs closer got out of that jam but started another in the 9th. As usual, the last inning was extremely uncomfortable as Marmol struggled to find the plate. A bases loaded double by Adam Kennedy made it a 5-4 nail biter. With the tying run at second, Marmol pulled it together and got Zimmerman on a flyball to RF. Phew!

Mike Quade’s undefeated season continues. Maybe the Cubs should start wearing lightning bolt patches on their sleeves.

Update: Carlos Zambrano has flown back to Venezuela to be with a nephew who has contracted a deadly infection. He’s expected to rejoin the team in Cincy this weekend and make his start against the Buccos on Monday.

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