Archive for October, 2010

Book Review: Got Fight?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Got Fight? – The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat”. The author is Forrest Griffin (with Erich Krauss). It was published in 2009.

This is a book about fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, but it’s fun and interesting. Because Forrest Griffin is fun and interesting.

Just so you know, Forrest Griffin is one of the top-ranked light-heavyweight mixed martial artists in the world.

There are a few testimonials on the back cover. The last one is the best one:
– “Forrest Griffin has written a masterpiece. Not since Hemingway has an author stimulated and tantalized the readers’ senses through such delicate and colorful prose. This book is destined to become one of the greats, an international bestseller for centuries to come. We should all remove our hats and bow to the genius of this thought-provoking work. Bravo, Griffin. Bravo.”

That testimonial was written by Forrest Griffin.

The book is dedicated to 13 entities, first of which is “To my stepfather, Clifford Abramson, for teaching me how to be a man.” It was his stepfather who told Forrest: “Beer is an acquired taste, so you might as well acquire a taste for cheap beer.”

As I said, the title of this book is “Got Fight?”, but Forrest came up with a few alternate titles on his own:
– Who Moved My Nose?
– Fist Meets Face
– Death Is a Journey and My Bags Are Packed – The Forrest Griffin Story
– Punch Drunk
– Face Full of Scars
– A Few Scars More (for the sequel)

Mr. Griffin discussed the importance, to a fighter, of getting the right manager: “By nature, managers tend to be sleazy people. A good manager is still sleazy, he just isn’t sleazy to you.”

Mr. Griffin went to college, and I believe he actually graduated. He was also a police officer at one time.

Forrest has a theory about the difference between those who call themselves “Martial Artists” and those who call themselves “fighters”. His theory is right on the money, although, as he himself points out, it is not universally applicable.

On the subject of cheating, Forrest opines: “I would rather be known as a cheater than a loser.”

Forrest discusses his relationship with fear: “…street fighting isn’t that big of a deal, so there is no reason to let your fear hinder you going out to the bars with your old lady. If you get whomped on, so what. A black eye will disappear and a broken nose can be mended. Fear is a good thing because it keeps you alive, but if it becomes so great that it hinders you from doing what you want, you need to confront it head-on.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “Right then I realized that I had been a nice guy, and nice guys have no business being in the ring.”

– “Most intelligent stockbrokers will tell us that the past is not a good indicator of the future, but it’s the best indicator we’ve got.”

– “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

– “Everywhere you go, you have to tell them that they have the prettiest women on the planet.”

– “If you decide to fight, do so hard and fast and without mercy.”

As I said at the beginning, this book was fun and interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. Forrest Griffin has a great sense of humor (or maybe he’s just taken too many head shots), and this is an entertaining book. I recommend it to anyone, not just fighters and wannabe fighters.

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2010 Final Report Card

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Five of us have submitted our grades anonymously. The results have been compiled and yield the following result.

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Morning Cup ‘O Joe: Four Aces

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

The league championship series for both the AL and NL start this weekend. Each of the four participants has a guy that can be considered a legit ace of a staff.

My question to you is which of the four would you pick to start for your staff, and how would you rank all four in terms of preference.

I think my first choice is Roy Halladay for the simple reason that he always works deep into the game and has shown he can flat out dominate people. From there I’d take C.C. Sabathia because of his experience in the playoffs with the Yankees. If those two were gone, I’d select Tim Lincecum. I don’t necessarily think he’s better than Lee in the playoffs, but I like his ability to make hitters look silly. If all of those guys were gone, I’d settle on Cliff Lee and be happy. After all, it’s better than Zambrano.

Check back later today when we reveal the final report cards for all of the Cubs players that were reviewed in our series.

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2010 Cubs Report Card: Starting Pitchers

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Ryan Dempster – I like Demp. I like him a lot. He’s got a great personality and he takes the ball deep into games just about every start. He’s been an incredible find by Jim Hendry when he took the chance on him coming back from Tommy John. Some may say that he’s over-priced, but you can say that about a lot of people in baseball. There are a lot of ways you can look at these report cards. You can choose to evaluate guys based on their contracts or their role on the team. There really is no right or wrong way to look at it. As for me, I tend to lean toward evaluating guys based on my expectations of them, which seems even more unfair.

2010 was a good year for Ryan. He saw his win total increase to 15, which led the staff, and saw a higher strikeout ratio. I wonder a little how all the issues with his daughter’s illness weighed on him and affected his pitching last year. Obviously it would still be an issue in his life this year, but the wound wasn’t as fresh as it was last year when she was just born. Ultimately, I think you’ve got to look at Dempster as a legit # 2 starter in the rotation, which leaves a pretty big hole at the top. I don’t see anyone on this report card list right now that is capable of filling that spot, so we’re either looking at Dempster again in that role or a big fish like Cliff Lee. Grade: A

Randy Wells – I think it’s safe to say that the league figured out Randy Wells in 2010. Now his career can take one of two paths. Either he makes the adjustments needed to pitch the way he did in 2009 or he’s unable to adjust and doesn’t really succeed that way again. What encourages me a little is the fact that he’s a converted catcher. Hopefully that will help with a different perspective in terms of what hitters are thinking. I don’t know if it will or not, but we have to hope it helps. He’s 27 years old, so he’s just coming into the prime years. At this point, it’s tough to count on him as any more than a back of the rotation guy. If we look for a positive from 2010, it’s got to be that he increased his strikeout ratio while still keeping the ball in the ballpark with some reasonable success. Grade: C

Tom Gorzelanny – I don’t know what to make of Gorzo. He shows sparks of brilliance, but at times can be hittable. The fact that he’s a lefty and keeps the ball in the ballpark is probably what keeps him in contention for a rotation spot. The truth is, he’s probably better served as a member of the bullpen, though I know that’s not what he envisions for himself. With Sean Marshall already a member of the pen, it’s tough to find a role for Gorzo in the pen, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s shopped in the off-season. Grade: D

Carlos Silva – In his first 17 starts, Silva earned the nickname “Batman” for far surpassing our expectations to the point that I found myself asking who he was. 9-3 with an ERA of 3.45 had people calling for an All Star selection (deserved) and proclaiming him one of the aces of the staff (undeserved). Unfortunately and injury came into play and as a result we saw the last four starts yield a 1-3 record with a putrid 11.12 ERA. The most disgusting number is that those four starts lasted a combined 11.1 IP. All things considered, I think Silva was very good considering what we were expecting. Grade: B

Carlos Zambrano – How do I loath you? Let me count the ways. I think I’ve made it quite clear my thoughts on Zambrano in his time here. He’s an overrated child. I’m sick of the speeches about how he’s changed his pouty ways and how he’s going to win the Cy Young award this year. He’s a fraud, will always be and fraud and needs to be off this team via trade. He’s a crook in the sense that he’s stealing money from the Cubs based on what he’s being paid versus what we’re getting in return and he’s been burgling money from this team for quite some time. The only thing I have to say that’s positive about his year is that down the stretch he posted an 8-0 record with an ERA of 1.41 in 11 starts to make himself marketable this off-season. Grade: C

Ted Lilly – Perhaps the best FA signing of Jim Hendry’s tenure as a GM in Chicago. In four years in Chicago, Lilly has been the most consistent starter in the rotation year in and year out. He’s not going to overpower you with his stuff, but he’s smart and makes the adjustments to get hitters out with what he’s got. I can honestly see him becoming the next Jamie Moyer, pitching effectively in the Majors deep into his 30’s and early 40’s. Time will tell whether or not we received enough back in the deal with the Dodgers to warrant letting him leave via trade, forgoing potential compensatory picks in the June draft. A lot will depend on what Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach do. We’ve seen what Blake DeWitt can do, and I’m satisfied giving him a shot at competing for the starting 2B job in 2011. Early returns on Wallach have been poor, but he only made a few starts. Smit was actually very good in his time in the Cubs system so I’m curious to see what we get from him and where he starts next year. My guess is that he’ll start in AA, but we’ll have to wait and see. Grade: B

Casey Coleman – I feel bad evaluating Coleman seeing that I only watched one of his starts. I liked what I saw from him and I’m curious to see where he goes from here. There are going to be a lot of guys to consider for next year’s rotation and Coleman certainly should be in the mix. Right now, you’d have to think we’d be looking at the names reviewed here along with Jeff Samardzija, Jay Jackson, Thomas Diamond, Mitch Atkins and perhaps even Chris Archer. Grade: B

Ryan Dempster 33 15 12 3.85 34 215.1 208 113 1.319 8.3 1.0 3.6 8.7 2.42
Randy Wells 27 8 14 4.26 32 194.1 144 102 1.400 9.7 0.9 2.9 6.7 2.29
Tom Gorzelanny* 27 7 9 4.09 23 136.1 119 106 1.496 9.0 0.7 4.5 7.9 1.75
Carlos Silva 31 10 6 4.22 21 113.0 80 103 1.274 9.6 0.9 1.9 6.4 3.33
Carlos Zambrano 29 11 6 3.33 20 129.2 117 131 1.450 8.3 0.5 4.8 8.1 1.70
Ted Lilly* 34 3 8 3.69 18 117.0 89 118 1.137 8.0 1.5 2.2 6.8 3.07
Casey Coleman 22 4 2 4.11 8 57.0 27 107 1.421 8.8 0.5 3.9 4.3 1.08
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Morning Cup O’ Joe: Favorite Morning Leftover

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Before we get started today, for those that are regular readers of the comments, last night we had Monte Cristo sandwiches for dinner. What makes them so extraordinary is the fact that morning I was able to bring a leftover one to work to eat for breakfast. It’s like having french toast in the morning. That got me thinking about morning leftovers.

Q: What is your favorite food to eat leftover in the morning?

For me it would have to be leftover Mexican food, particularly a chimichanga or a burrito. I will eat that stuff, complete with the beans, right out of the fridge. No need to re-heat it. I like it ice cold.

In the News

  • Carrie Muskat reported that Tom Ricketts has interviewed four manager candidates (Mike Quade, Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin). I’m not sure if that is separate from interviews Hendry has conducted, but I found it odd that Ricketts did the interviews. I don’t think it means that Hendry is going to be fired, but perhaps we can deduce that a) Ricketts is going to be involved with this team and b) he may not be 100% committed to Hendry just yet.
  • I mentioned on Monday that Larry Rothschild had to make a decision on whether or not to excercise his option for 2011 with the Cubs. He has elected to return, which contrary to a lot of people’s opinion, is a good move for the Cubs.
  • John Sickels of came out with his hitter and pitcher Top 50 in review summaries the other day. There were a few Cubs on both lists.

    Starlin Castro (18th) – Promoted to majors a year earlier than I expected, hit .300/.347/.408 at age 20, obviously very successful.

    Josh Vitters (34th) – Hit .291/.350/.445 in High-A, .223/.292/.383 in Double-A, had injury problems. He really needs some consolidation time at one level.

    Jay Jackson (36th) – 4.63 ERA with 119/48 K/BB in 157 innings in Triple-A, 153 hits. Erratic season, very good at times, poor at others.

    Andrew Cashner (37th) – 2.05 ERA with 59/15 K/BB in 57 innings in Double-A and Triple-A, 4.80 ERA with 50/30 K/BB in 54 innings in the majors. Command was good in the minors, not so good in the majors, should improve eventually.

Great Moments in Superhero Cake History

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2010 Cubs Report Card: Bullpen

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Cubs’ relievers combined for an ugly 4.79 ERA and 1.48 WHIP this season. Despite the disaster that was the pen, two pitchers made significant contributions:

Carlos Marmol— Carlos is amazing on many levels. First and foremost, you can’t say enough about his stuff. In case you forgot, the Cubs closer punched out 138 batters in only 77.2 IP, holding opponents to a miniscule .149 average. Just as amazing was his lack of command. Marmol’s 52 walks would make Mitch Williams hide his eyes. The control issues didn’t hurt him this year, but that trend won’t continue going forward. Having said that, Marmol’s season was something to be remembered. GRADE: A-

Sean Marshall—Don’t even try to tell me that you saw this coming. A league average pitcher coming into 2010, Marshall was a force out of the Cubs’ pen. In 74.2 IP, he allowed only 58 hits and 3 home runs, striking out 90 and walking 25 (5 intentionally). Perhaps this is the start of something great, but I doubt it. Hopefully I’m wrong, but it would be almost impossible for Marshall to duplicate last year’s performance. I’ll settle for 80 percent of what he did in 2010. GRADE: A

And now for the rest of the story (WARNING! It’s not pretty. Read at your own risk!):

Andrew Cashner—The good news… Cashner has tremendous upside. The bad news…he really struggled in 2010. Despite his bionic arm, the rookie righty was drilled for eight homers in 54.1 IP. Add to that 30 walks, and you have the makings of a rough year. He showed flashes of brilliance, striking out almost a batter per inning. At age 23, I think the pluses outweigh the minuses, but Cashner is far from polished. His development will be crucial to the success of next year’s bullpen. GRADE: C

James Russell—If I hear one more announcer tell me that James Russell is the son of former big leaguer Jeff Russell, I may chop off my ears. Who cares? In case you haven’t figured it out, bloodlines mean nothing in professional sports. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Pete Rose Jr.  Anyway, Russell showed impressive control in his first year, walking just 11 batters in 49 innings. Unfortunately, opposing hitters beat him like a piñata. The youngster allowed 55 hits and 11 (not a typo) home runs in 2010. He did hold lefties to a .238 average, so perhaps there is hope for him as a specialist. GRADE: D

Justin Berg (not to be confused with Alec Berg from “Seinfeld”) – The fact that this guy appeared in 40 games shows us just how bad the Cubs bullpen really was. Berg walked 20 batters (compared to only 14 strikeouts) and allowed 45 hits in his 40 innings of work. He also plunked three men, which adds up to 68 total base runners and a 1.63 WHIP. Justin is lucky that his ERA was only 5.18. GRADE: F

Thomas Diamond—Watching the 2010 playoffs, I’m trying to pay close attention to each team’s pitching staff. One thing I’ve noticed is there aren’t many relievers like Thomas Diamond (who is a former Texas Rangers’ first-round pick) on postseason rosters. That’s not so much a knock on Diamond, who has some talent, but rather a comment on the Cubs ability to find guys who can consistently make quality pitches. With apologies to his family and friends, guys like Thomas Diamond, now age 27, are a dime a dozen.  As far as his 2010 performance, the brutal numbers say it all. On a happier note, his Uncle Neil is a great singer. GRADE: D

John Grabow—Injuries cost Grabow most of 2010, limiting him to only 25.2 IP. But while he was on the mound, the former Pirate did everything he could to torture fans, coaches, and teammates. To say that Grabow was awful would be an insult to all things awful. And you know what’s funny? Lots of people predicted this exact outcome (OK, maybe not a 7.36 ERA). The decision to throw a lefty with so/so stuff and shaky command into the primary setup roll had trouble written all over it. Pitchers like Grabow have to be handled very carefully, with appearances based only on matchups. This guy isn’t Hong-Chih Kuo or Matt Thornton. Hell, he’s not even Phil Coke. GRADE: F

Carlos Zambrano—For reasons that we’ll probably never fully understand, the Cubs used Big Z out of the bullpen for 16 games. Here’s how he fared as a reliever:

16.2 IP, 22 hits, 7 BB, 14 SO, 4.32 ERA

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and Zambrano returned to the rotation after his well-publicized meltdown. As a reliever, he was certainly nothing special. Here’s hoping the next Cubs manager doesn’t try that experiment again. GRADE: C-

Others—How’s this for a depressing list? Marcus Mateo, Bob Howry, Jeff Samardzia, Jeff Stevens, Scott Maine, Mitch Atkins, Jeff Gray, and Brian Schlitter. This collection of useless arms needs a catchy nickname. The Gas Can Gang? Quade’s Quagmire?  Please post your ideas! GRADE: D-

Saying the Cubs have to revamp the bullpen is like saying the city of Detroit has to address its crime problem. At the end of the day, this mess may be too big to clean up. Luckily the free agent market will provide some intriguing options: Scott Downs, J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Jason Frasor, Chad Qualls, Jeremy Affeldt, and Grant Balfour, just to name a few. Signing two pitchers from the list would be a good start, especially since Marmol and Marshall are likely to regress.  Otherwise, we’re likely to see more of the same from the 2011 pen.

2010 Cubs Stats

James Russell* 24 1 1 4.96 0 49.0 88 1.347 10.1 2.0 2.0 7.7 3.82
Sean Marshall* 27 7 5 2.65 1 74.2 165 1.112 7.0 0.4 3.0 10.8 3.60
Marcos Mateo 26 0 1 5.82 0 21.2 76 1.338 8.3 2.5 3.7 10.8 2.89
Carlos Marmol 27 2 3 2.55 38 77.2 171 1.185 4.6 0.1 6.0 16.0 2.65
Scott Maine* 25 0 0 2.08 0 13.0 215 1.077 6.2 0.7 3.5 7.6 2.20
Thomas Diamond 27 1 3 6.83 0 29.0 64 1.759 10.2 1.6 5.6 11.2 2.00
Andrew Cashner 23 2 6 4.80 0 54.1 91 1.564 9.1 1.3 5.0 8.3 1.67
Mitch Atkins 24 0 0 6.30 0 10.0 71 1.800 10.8 1.8 5.4 9.0 1.67
John Grabow* 31 1 3 7.36 0 25.2 60 1.870 12.3 1.8 4.6 7.0 1.54
Jeff Stevens 26 0 0 6.11 0 17.2 73 1.755 10.7 2.0 5.1 7.6 1.50
Brian Schlitter 24 0 1 12.38 0 8.0 37 2.875 20.3 2.3 5.6 7.9 1.40
Bob Howry 36 0 3 5.66 0 20.2 78 1.742 12.6 0.9 3.0 3.5 1.14
Esmailin Caridad 26 0 1 11.25 0 4.0 42 2.250 9.0 2.3 11.3 9.0 0.80
Jeff Gray 28 1 0 6.75 0 9.1 67 1.821 11.6 1.0 4.8 3.9 0.80
Justin Berg 26 0 1 5.18 0 40.0 85 1.625 10.1 0.7 4.5 3.2 0.70
Jeff Samardzija 25 2 2 8.38 0 19.1 53 2.121 9.8 1.9 9.3 4.2 0.45
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Morning Cup O’ Joe: Tuesday Trivia

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Let’s get right down to business today with the trivia question. As always, put your guesses in the comment section and I’ll respond throughout the day.

Q: Four active players have 2000+ hits, but less than 100 HR. Name them.

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GirlieView (10/11/2010)

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Happy Monday Evening!

Let’s get right to it. Only two items of interest today.

1. Just about one more week to be heard by completing our Annual VFTB Reader Survey. Trust that we have already been reading your suggestions and commentary and are planning changes already to better accommodate our readers. We really do hear what you’re saying. Once we close it out I’ll be doing a summary of the trends that we were able to spot and ideas we’re planning to implement thanks to your feedback. We can’t thank you enough. No joke.

2. The Lizzies!! Hope you all have a great week!


  • Welcome to the off-season.
  • The Cubs really need more players that can work counts.
  • That’s like swapping cub tickets for ballet.
  • if the general attitude is that defense doesn’t matter, we’d be hosed.
  • If fans think Dunn is a bad defensive player, wait unitl they see a full season of Prince Fielder at 1B. The league should make him change his last name.
  • Updated manager handicapping: Sandberg = 49%, Quade = 49%, Midnight joyride with hookers = 2%
  • I really don’t care what players, coaches, and executives say to reporters. They’re likely not telling the truth anyway.
  • Gee, a GM wouldn’t praise a player like Zambrano to build his perceived value on the trade market would he?
  • Perhaps you’re a decaf guy.
  • Even though he was dreadful this year, I still find myself rooting for D-Lee.
  • As for Soriano, I can’t even imagine how poorly another position change would go at this point in his career.
  • Despite the economy, there are still plenty of people with more money than brains.
  • He can’t drink a beer legally, but he sure can hit.


  • Big Z= Big mouth

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2010 Cubs Report Card: Outfield

Monday, October 11th, 2010

What amazes me the most about the OF this year was the health of the collective group. There were really only four guys all year that actually played with any regularity. With Soriano’s injury history, that surprises me a little.

Alfonso Soriano – Love him or hate him, but the fact remains that he improved his game this year as compared to 2009. That was one of the things we said at the beginning of the season was key. We needed Soriano and Geovany Soto to step up their games. Obviously we’re never going to get the 40 HR and 40 SB guy anymore. It’s important to come to grips with that. We’re also not going to be able to move him before his contract is out. That being said, we need to evaluate him not based on his contract that this point, but rather based on normal expectations for an above average OF.

This year he saw some power return, especially when you factor in the doubles, which were almost two times what they were in 2009. That helped him get that OPS over .800, which is my benchmark for evaluation. In the field, I think he got a lot better once the season went on. Obviously we’re not talking about a gold glove guy out there, but his defense wasn’t atrocious as it has been in the past. Unfortunately he’s in the tail end of his career so we’re probably not going to see much more from him next year. As for this year, I’ll take it. Grade: C+

Marlon Byrd – We’ve seen our share of free agents come to Chicago and vastly under perform. Byrd is not one of them. His defense was spectacular, which surprises me because his body type doesn’t remind me of someone who would have as much range as he does with his short and stocky frame. There were a good amount of writers and commentators that questioned the move. There was a general opinion that 2009 was a fluke year for Byrd and that he’d show his true colors in 2010. Instead we saw a guy that played hard every day, got on base more than he did in 2009, and played the most games in a season in his entire career. I like what I saw from Marlon Byrd and I’m excited that he’s not signed for a terrible albatross of a contract. Grade: A

Kosuke Fukudome – It’s time to wake up and realize exactly what we have with Fukudome. We don’t have a cross between Ichiro and Hideki Matsui as was originally pitched to us in scouting reports. What we do have is a guy that can draw walks. We have a guy that doesn’t strike out near as much as it looks like he would based on how he looks when he does it. We have a guy that can play RF very well, which is tough to do with the sun at Wrigley Field. Lastly, we have a guy that is paid far too much to do all of those things. If Jim Hendry can move him this off-season he needs to try. Random note: Fukudome finished with the highest OPS+ (Adjusted OPS) of all the Cubs outfielders in 2010. – Grade: C+

Tyler Colvin – I’ve been a Colvin guy since the day he was drafted. I’ve praised him and consistently said he wasn’t an overdraft in the first round, but rather a bargain considering what they paid for him in signing bonus. We saw a nice year, for a rookie, from Tyler. In the end, there are some major areas in his game that need to show improvement for him to be a legit player in the league. There are a lot of guys that can hit 20+ homeruns if given the chance, but there aren’t very many that can do it while also hitting for contact and putting the ball where it needs to be when it needs to be there. As nice as it was to see Tyler hit for power, it will be even nicer to watch if we can see him strike out less and get on base a little more and stay out of the way of flying bats. Grade: B-

Final 2010 Cubs Stats

Alfonso Soriano 34 147 548 67 128 40 3 24 79 5 1 45 123 .258 .322 .496 .818 110
Marlon Byrd 32 152 630 84 170 39 2 12 66 5 1 31 98 .293 .346 .429 .775 102
Kosuke Fukudome* 33 130 429 45 94 20 2 13 44 7 8 64 67 .263 .371 .439 .809 111
Tyler Colvin* 24 135 394 60 91 18 5 20 56 6 1 30 100 .254 .316 .500 .816 109
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