Archive for That Actually Happened

The Stroman-Walker Effect

It’s been a good Mets season by nearly any measure, but the last game of the first half didn’t go well, and neither did the first game of the second half, or what I call Opening Night for the SHaMs (Second HAlf Mets).

At least we’re not waking up like Red Sox are this morning. Go watch the highlights.

If you saw the SHaMs last night, you’d have also seen a new beginning of sorts for Travis Blankenhorn, who was called up from AAA for the first time this year, and given a dignified number at last–27. He was 73 last year, but I had to look that up. I kind of remembered him in 72 and got briefly excited because I realized had that been the case, it would have represented a Reverse Carlton Fisk (I was aware too at that moment, that the Sox were down by like 25 runs in the 6th inning) so I thought it was like a signal of … something.

If you’re old, you’ll recall Carlton Fisk was the famous Red Sox catcher who was so damaged by a procedural contractural screwup by Boston that made him a Free Agent after 1980. The Red Sox tendered a contract too late for the deadline despite having agreed to terms, so when Fisk signed, he signed with the White Sox and not the Red Sox, and to stick it to them, he flipped his digits from 27 in Boston to 72 in Chicago, which was really unusual in 1981, not just the number, but any player disrupting tradition because he had the power to do so and be meaningful.

One way to show how unusual it was, when another player, with arguably more more juice and meaning to his squad, due to a similar procedural screwup that also landed him on the White Sox, four years after Carlton Fisk donned first that powerfully brutalist SOX uniform, put on his for the first time, but it didn’t have No. 14 on the back. Tom Seaver had other reasons of course, but the point is, here was a guy, with a history of being bruised by the team and a reputation of something of a maverick, and who possessed a fastball frightening enough to have given the Mets the brushback pitch they probably deserved, and that may not even have entered his mind in 1985.

And it’s just not like that today. Players with juice are more Fisk-like generally, and also, don’t have to be Hall of Fame-bound guys who write an unforgettable chapter in baseball history. They also needn’t be pissed off about anything to use their juice to disrupt convention anymore. Juice seems more plentiful, because players have all the juice. So in a sense juice is cheaper, and therefore, player-led disruption is easier, if juice is the fuel of disruption.

There’s a lot of Mets fans walking around today thinking No. 7 is sacred and destined to be retired for Jose Reyes, not because of Reyes necessarily, but because, in 2019, Marcus Stroman decided it was. That was only after having pitched half-a-season wearing No. 7, an ironic act that itself was disruptive, because there had never been a pitcher before him to have ever worn No. 7, in the history of the club.

And for some reason the Mets have actually absorbed this too, since they haven’t issued No. 7 since Marcus Stroman essentially told them not to, and fans seemed to be on his side. The Mets in the meantime have begun retroactively retiring numbers, almost pretending that disruption that rarely existed back then, did, and making people like me want to applaud that they are at least thinking of history while also, wondering what happens when they finally get around to 7 and it’s either Ed Kranepool or Jose Reyes? I personally found this outrageous at first, and I’m still not sure I’m behind this, because to me, retiring numbers ought to be the ultimate thing, but players, and fans, and now clubs, think today maybe, they’ve actually been too thoughtless or even disrespectful. For me personally, I wish the the message was “the Mets actually have had a great and fascinating history, just one not good if you judge ‘great and fascinating’ primarily by the volume of numbers on the wall.” But for the Mets at least, something else is also happening, and that’s the goalposts have moved. Retired numbers are cheaper, because there’s more of them. But actually, statues in front of the ballpark are the new retired number, the retired number is now the Mets Hall of Fame, and the Mets Hall of Fame is now what you pass on the your way to the concession shop, or a waiting room for the outfield wall, depending on which side of the retire-the-number debate you happen to be on, if everything else is to remain truly in perspective.

This was pointed out elsewhere, but when Marcus Stroman (who as we recall, chose 0 as his next act of disruption) and Taijuan Walker (a pitcher who not only wears No. 99 but who has never worn a “normal” uniform number in in his career) opposed one another as starting pitchers at Wrigley Field, it represented an unbreakable record for the widest distance between opposing starters’ uni numbers possible. Also, that Adam Ottavino (0) relieved Walker in that game, amplifying the idea that two pitchers with outrageous uniform numbers from a 1981 perspective, is really just a normal thing now.

That this happened two weeks ago, and a 23-year-old blog allegedly dedicated to chronicling what happens with Mets uniform numbers is the last to report this, also represents a player-led disruptive change that makes me confront uncomfortable things I’ve also long known, and am learning more about elsewhere in my life. So obsessing about numbers is more plentiful, so that too is also cheaper, and it all has something to do with how baseball players have, over time, gained the upper hand over clubs, and fans. Let’s call this the Stroman-Walker Effect.

And it’s not just star players driving the change. It’s the effect of what happens with all the scrubeenies whom the clubs still rule. I want to argue that the Mets are just lazy when they hustle some meatbag up from the minors wearing No. 86, which might have been necessary in spring training to distinguish him from the all the other guys every club has when spring training begins. That’s why Travis Blankenhorn looked like an idiot out there last year wearing 73. I also want to say I am just lazy when I fail to update the blog and alert the world. But it’s possible also the Stroman-Walker Effect has penetrated baseball culture to a point where a 1981 perspective on what was “appropriate” to wear when you’re in the act of being a Major League Baseball player is just irrelevant anymore. And a 1999 perspective on the fans’ need to know who wore what when also might make this site less useful and gather more dust every day. I’ve known this for a long time, but feel like I should I acknowledge that publicly somehow.

If this feels like a “retirement speech,” it’s not, it’s just that Travis Blankenhorn appearing somewhat unexpectedly in the Mets’ starting lineup last night, somehow knocked something loose for me, and now it’s splattered like blood on the page. And it was a little reassuring, yet also made me think enough to write the first substantial post in a long time here, that Travis Blankenhorn came out wearing No. 27 last night.

Back to baseball for a moment, and I should mention that Travis Blankenhorn’s tenure, as the 30th player in club history to have worn No. 27 for the Mets and the first since Juerys Familia, was over almost before it started. Because shortly before last night’s game, the Mets shipped relief pitcher Colin Holderman to the Pittsburgh Pirates, for Daniel Vogelbach. I just want a second to say I liked Holderman, and his departure is as sure as a sign as any more deals are to come for the SHaMs.

Vogelbach, who doesn’t appear to have been issued a number yet–but I might gamble is 27 despite Blankenhorn’s right to it as long as he’s on the 40-man roster, because of the Stroman-Walker Effect on clubs– will also make Mets uniform history soon but not for the number: It’s possible they just won’t have a uniform in his size. I don’t know if you’ve seen this guy, but he’s a low-average punisher of right-handed pitching generously described as an “infielder” but like, even his hair is fat. And his nickname is “The Babe.” I don’t know if the Mets have ever had a player quite this size. Heath Bell was a hefty guy. Mickey Lolich was kind of walrus-like. Vogelbach is something else, and for the moment, he’s the Man, for the SHaMs.

Oh and just in: In a separate deal, just reported non Twitter as I was writing, the Mets also paid cash to the Pirates for some guy called Michael Perez, a left-handed hitting catcher with a career .155/.204/.305 slash line in 193 games over five years with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. This must related to Tomas Nido‘s injury yesterday, but talk about your SHaM Poo.

 

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He’s Keith Hernandez

An insightful commenter and a goofy companion for us as we watch Mets games 30+ years after he played in one.

Played himself magnficently on Seinfeld.

A mustache.

In a crouch, down by first base, in the sun, elbows bent just so, anticipating …something.

“And for you kids out there….”

Snorting coke, after games, with teammates, in bars, in Queens.

Charging a bunt that he intercepts on the third-base side of the pitcher’s mound maybe 25 feet from the plate, and getting the guy out at third.

Writer of 3 books, and you’ve probably read all of them.

Occasionally reminded of a short-term teammate who’s slipped his mind and he goes, “Ahhh! The Gaffer!”

That particular kind of New Yorker, who escapes to the Hamptons in the summers and to Florida in the winters and lives otherwise on the Upper East Side.

A statistic that modern analysis has rendered laughably irrelevant, and so we don’t even care about the Game-Winning RBI anymore, except that when we remember it, we also remember who was seemingly always among the National League leaders.

Fundies.

“I don’t like it, Gar.”

A friend to Rusty and to Ed Lynch.

Younger than his brother Gary and got along with him in a way that Gary Carter never got along with his older brother, and that was sad.

Never hit nearly enough home runs or had nearly a long enough a career peak to properly assess his Hall of Fame deservedness while also leaving guys like Fred McGriff on the doorstep and triggering massive cognitive dissonance.

Never for a second unproud to also think of himself as a St. Louis Cardinal no matter how that sits with us.

On the mic and not always on his best behavior, and often it’s funny, and sometimes, it’s definitely not funny.

“Guard the line!”

Hitting a two-strike double against a difficult lefty.

Was not in good shape for a time, and you think, it probably shortened his career.

A cat owner, and we know so much more about Haji than we do his wives.

A unique, fascinating figure as a player and arguably as unique and fascinating as not-a-player.

So unique in fact, that 20-some years of debate is to be settled forever this afternoon, and not a moment too soon.

Or a moment too late.

He’s Keith Hernandez

 

 

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38+62+30+67+39=0

How great was that?

I have to say, I enjoyed this one more than Santana’s effort, because I was little conflicted on that one. No-hitters are just random enough events that I admired the Mets’ distinctive futility in achieving one, and in a matter of taste, kind of disagreed with how aggressively they went after it, especially given Santana’s wrecked-arm aftermath and the controversy of the Beltran call.

Last night, it was five guys all doing the job asked of them, with no controversy and little danger beyond the Nimmo catch and what might have been even more difficult, the 5-3 putout on the very first batter of the game. That wasn’t a spectacular play but if Escobar doesn’t do everything right it’s a leadoff single we all would have forgotten.

As we’ve seen so far, the Mets are plowing into one of these team-of-destiny kind of seasons, where unlikely breaks go their way, the surprises turn out to be good ones, the win the kind of games that humiliate their opponents, and a camaraderie is being forged by defending themselves against fastballs in the ear. Even anti-vaxx idiots missing games because of preventable deadly diseases haven’t hurt that much. LGM!

Catching up with the uni-verse (I was away on vacation in Arizona, and caught one of those good-break games live, last Friday night’s extra inning win that most Met teams in most years lose but this year’s squad can’t help but win), we’ve seen the reappearance and disappearance of Matt Reynolds, who wore No. 15 again and will be remembered for having been called up for the first time as Ruben Tejada’s injury replacement in 2015 the playoffs (wearing 56 but not playing), finally debuting wearing No. 15 in 2016, then circling back to the organization as a minor-league vet this year, also in 15 before being claimed by the Reds as we tried to shove him back down again.

Adonis Medina (who?) is a former Phillies prospect, purchased from the Pirates a few weeks ago, and appeared for the first time as a Met wearing No. 68; Yoan Lopez, a former Diamondback, did No. 44 proud in his first appearance when he took aim (perhaps a little too high) at Cardinals crybaby Nolan Arenado. We also got a brief glimpse of outfielder Nick Plummer wearing No. 18.

Tipping my cap to the laconically solid Tylor Megill, the breakout star Drew Smith, the smartly acquired Joelly Rodriguez, the ever-reliable Seth Lugo and to Edwin Diaz’s finest moment as a Met. So far.

 

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Max Power

Hello from the most active offseason since Omar Minaya reeled in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez.

You are no doubt in receipt of reports today that the Mets have reached a massive 3-year deal with free agent pitcher Max Scherzer after making successful bids late last week for veterans Starling Marte, Mark Cahna and Eduardo Escobar. And with trades, relief-pitching, depth deals and a new manager still ahead, that’s a mighty heavy workload for newly arrived GM, Billy Eppler.

Scherzer has worn 31 in Washington and in LA, but with Mike Piazza having taken that out of the Mets’ rotation, we’re tentatively anticipating he’ll take it up a notch the 32. That figure belonged most recently to Aaron Loup, who departed to Anaheim on a free-agent deal following Noah Syndergaard, who made the very same move.

Syndergaard’s departure marks the final end to a durable, multipronged trade chain dating back to Tim Bogar, who debuted with the Mets in 1993, was traded to Houston for Luis Lopez, who went to Milwaukee for Bill Pulsipher, who went to Arizona for Lenny Harris, who went to Milwaukee for Jeromy Burnitz, whose trade to Los Angeles yielded Victor Diaz, who was traded to Texas for catcher Mike Nickeas, who was sent to Toronto in the Syndergaard trade.

Noah departs as the Mets’ all-time leader in winning-percentage and strikeouts among Guys Who Wore 34. He was three wins short of Mike Pelfrey for the victory title.

Marte is a sports-car enthusiast (true story: I met his car-dealer at a convention in Las Vegas) who looks to take over center field duties as Brandon Nimmo slides over to left field and Canha takes over in right. Marte has worn No. 6 with Pittsburgh and Miami and No. 2 with Oakland and Arizona. One or both could be available depending on whether change-ofscenery trade candidates Dom Smith and Jeff McNeil survive Eppler’s dealmaking in the weeks ahead. Cahna has worn 20 with Oakland and will need a new issue. Escobar, a switch-hitting infielder who looks likely to take a role similar to Jonathan Villar last season, has worn 5 most often in his career and so encounters a retired number in New York. Scientists project he could wind up in 7 here.

More to come!!

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Beane Counter

So that’s a wrap on a really disappointing 2021 season, and manager Luis Rojas’ career is over. Whatever promise he represented, the record shows Rojas’ clubs missed the playoffs in two of the easiest seasons ever to have made them, and with clubs that looked capable of getting there, especially this year when they’d allegedly shored up the pitching and defense deficiencies that prevented them from succeeding a year before, despite a more-than-adequate offensive attack.

The starting pitching came down to injuries: Sydergaard (2 starts), deGrom (15), Carrasco (12), and Peterson (15) all missed considerable time, combining for just 41 starts between them. The first-line depth guys–Yamamoto (2), Lucchesi (8) and Eickhoff (4)–were awful and/or got injured themselves over a combined 14 starts. Only the free-agent-to-be Marcus Stroman (33), and Taijuan Walker (29) lasted the year; the club was fortunate that Tylor Megill arrived and chipped in 18 starts; and Rich Hill 12. The remainder were divided between relievers who began a series of “bullpen games” (Loup 2, Castro 2, Smith 1, Gsellman 1) and secondary-market depth guys Trevor Williams (3), Robert Stock (2), Tommy Hunter (1), Corey Oswalt (1). That’s 19 starters. Holy moly.

The Defense was bolstered by the arrivals of Lindor and McCann, but played a role in an undercurrent of dysfunction that played out elsewhere. The fist-fight between McNeil and Lindor was the Story of the Year–so much more so than the overanalyzed Thumbgate or Donniegate. It showed fissures in dynamic of the club, the camaraderie of the wholesome and harmonious 2020 club seemed disrupted, and it all attached at some level to the offensive struggles of the principal combatants and their cookie-eating teammates like Smith and Davis. This also led to an odd trade deadline that only further complicated things, not just because of Thumbgate and the benchings, but because by mollifying an unhappy Lindor better options to fix the club went elsewhere, like Kyle Gibson to Philadelphia and Adam Duvall to Atlanta, clubs that in no time at all left the Mets behind.

Dysfunction and a brainpower shortage in the front office contributed to that, leaving the club with the offseason task of rebuilding from the top down.

Billy Beane, whose presence in the 86 Mets ESPN documentary brought him into contemporary focus, is the right guy to get here. He’s got a history with Alderson and the Mets, and a 20 year track record of clean-living and success as a front-office executive in Oakland. He ought to trade himself for Jeff McNeil, and we’ll be on our way. It’ll free up No. 6 for Bob Melvin.

 

 

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Mets Give Hand Job

Couldn’t resist, and sorry.

Brad Hand today became the third guy to wear No. 52 this season; he takes it from Jake Reed, who (I’m pretty sure) is still on the 40-man roster but rehabbing an injury in the minors. Reed took it from Nick Tropeano. Just saying: Joe Pignatano wore 52 for 14 years out in the Shea Bullpen Tomato Garden.

Mr. Hand, whom the Mets reportedly had coveted over the offseason but were unable to secure due to the fact that they didn’t have a GM in place: That GM quickly got himself fired, and the GM they got to replace the GM who got fired did something that’ll probably get him fired too but at least he got Brad Hand, came to the Mets via the Nationals via the Blue Jays via the waiver wire. It’s all very clear.

The powerful database where my number data resides is unhappy: It wants me to assign uniform numbers to the five guys who played in the resumption of last Tuesday’s suspended game who joined the club following its beginning back in April: This is because the stats accrued “belong” to the game initially scheduled. OK, so I backdated Patrick Mazeika, Brandon Drury and Heath Hembree with no issues. Chance Sisco is now ahead of, and also behind, Anthony Banda in progression of Met 77s.

But the Flux Capacitor ran out of plutonium while trying to transport Javier Baez back in time. That’s because his 23 on April 11 belonged then to David Peterson. Should we just pretend the game never started in April? I guess we sorta have to, even if this introduces conflict with the official stat line and secondary data like the the progression of Mets, by the way. Instead of being the 1,148th Met ever if we’re counting along with the calendar, Baez winds up being something like 1,123–and we haven’t won 7 in a row, but 6 (I’m writing this between games of the Sept. 4 double-dip.

Amazin’ still we’ve added this many guys in one year and just keep on adding.

Other options would be to “unassign” Peterson 23 for that one game (fortunately, he didn’t appear but it wasn’t like he wasn’t occupying a jersey) or perhaps, solving these conflicts by creating a special character instead of a number, such as ¥, or ∞, or ≠, to indicate when and where these things happen. This seems like an offseason project, like getting a new GM and trading away Jeff McNeil. What a nutty season.

 

 

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I Smell A Rat

In the aftermath of the explosive controversy and heroics surrounding last night’s extra-winning walkoff comeback victory over the Diamondbacks, the MBTN’s Investigative Team put on its journalism shoes and uncovered exclusive footage from the tunnel leading to the Citifield home clubhouse to confirm that indeed, Francisco Lindor was full of it when he told reporters a between-innings punch-up with teammate Jeff McNeil concerned a disagreement over the teammates saw a rat or a raccoon in the tunnel. Watch:

Indeed, it was tradition. One that brought to mind another high-priced savior import Bobby Bonilla, who once asserted a mid-game press box phone call was to check in on the health of an official and not to lobby an official scorer’s decision.

This tall tale–and Luis Rojas’ weak demonstration of his role as a leader of men–obscured a few historic moments including the debut hit and RBI for both Patrick Mazeika and all Mets who ever wore No. 76 (zero till last night despite Mazeika’s few no-show appearances); two surprise scoreless innings from new arrival Tommy Hunter; and Lindor’s own awakening for a season-long slumber. Maybe we should all punch Jeff McNeil in the face; I’d be lying if I said he didn’t seem to need one himself from time to time.

Thanks for the updates as new coaches Hugh Quattlebaum is now in 56 and Kevin Howard in 54.

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Giveaway Day

We’re piecing the numerical roster together as guys appear and the job would have been easier and less stressful had our overmatched young manager Luis Rojas not made a complete disaster out of last night’s opener, showing off his new team instead of trying to win.

I probably don’t need to remind you of this but Rojas was the second choice of the previous administration, managed the best-hitting team in the league to miss the playoffs by a mile in the easiest season there ever was to make the playoffs then shamefully turned last night’s mismatch into a giveaway.

I’m trying not to come off as your dad here. Rojas himself said deGrom would have been good for 100 pitches beforehand, only to fall back on a cowardly and unconvincing revelation that it was “ups” and not pitches all along, but essentially, arguing that either would have valid when neither was. This is a confused and untrustworthy kid out there. What an awful waste. I hadn’t been so excited for an opening day in five years.

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Caught On Tape

The most famous 61 since Roger Maris’ shot off future Met Jack Fisher has come gloriously back to life.

Just in, Met historian Dennis D’Agostino alerted me to a newly published Youtube of the entire WGN broadcast of 1979’s Opening Day Mets-Cubs game at Wrigley Field that included the major-league debut of the Mets’ Jesse Orosco. As readers of this site know this was an important historical moment not just because Orosco would go to make another 1,251 appearances–the most for a pitcher in baseball history–but that for the unusual circumstances under which he appeared: Wearing a jersey that bore No. 61, with no name on the back. Verifying this bit of odd history–Orosco made all of his subsequent appearances for the Mets wearing No. 47–and maintained that number for 23 years until a career-ending 8-game stretch with Minnesota when teammate Corey Koskie wore 47–was one of the landmark Holy Grails of this project.

Over the years and with the help of good people like like Dennis, my Cub fan friend Kasey Ignarski, who provided his own hand-scored scoresheet, and a third fan who provided video stills of the game, we nailed this. But I never saw the whole broadcast until yesterday. You will die when you hear Jack Brickhouse’s commentary at the 2:25:30 mark. Start here:

As previously relayed, that a 22-year-old Orosco even made the trip was something of a surprise it itself. The lefty was selected ahead of more accomplished contenders like Nelson Briles, due primarily to the austerity measures enacted as the ’79 club crawled to the finish line of the Payson-deRoulet Era as a destitute franchise. Its likely the club simply didn’t have the time or money to spring for a “proper” jersey (61 was outrageously high then) that wasn’t a spring training used jersey. ’79 was also the first year that Mets affixed names to jerseys but as shown they didn’t get around to all of them.

Lee Mazzilli also lacked a name on back–but Kelvin Chapman did not.

Joe Torre preferred Briles to Orosco, Scott and Allen

 

 

Kasey Ignarski’s hand-written scorecard: The same data Jack Brickhouse had!

 

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Bauerless, Not Powerless

It’s easy to make an argument the Mets dodged a bullet this week when the arrogant free agent pitcher Trevor Bauer left them at the altar and agreed instead to a deal with the Dodgers that’d make him the best-paid player in the game and grants him multiple opt-outs should he want to try to pull this clown show again either of the next two years.

And they did given all that baggage but I’d certainly like to see another Cy Young winner on the staff, given what they were evidently willing to part with and the abuse they were willing to withstand should they have added yet another guy without the common sense to behave himself on the Internet, even if it comes off a giant douchy act.

Where to from here? There’s free agent Jake Odorizzi out there still, a 15-game winner in 2019 who missed most of last season after taking a line drive off the No. 12 on the front of his Twins jersey. There’s money in the bank were the Mets to lock in guys like Conforto and Lindor, or buy a free agent center fielder, and flexibility were they to take advantage of the Wrigleyville’s teardown and acquire Kris Bryant in a trade. It’s not like the Cardinals’ addition of Arenado is going to increase their chances this time.

I’m expecting something, is what I’m saying.

Catching up on recent moves that didn’t accompany all that much hype the Mets traded with Miami for pitcher Jordan Yamamoto, a young righty starter with terrible big-league numbers but the kind of curveball spin rate that gets the geeks excited. Yamamoto is from Hawaii and naturally wears No. 50 in the tradition of Sid Fernandez and Benny Agbayani. Adding Yamamoto to the 40-man roster also cleared the Mets of a seeming controversy with infielder Robel Garcia who was issued a placeholder 00, waived and subsequently claimed by the Angels.

Miguel Castro, the kind of down-on-his-luck would-be relief ace the Mets always seem to scoop up in the hopes he’ll improve next year (see AJ Ramos) wore No. 50 last year. He’s got that Brody stink and maybe he goes in my fantasy Kris Bryant trade which is built around the $16 million the Cubs save by taking JD Davis, and a friend suggests, taking a real prospect for Kyle Hendricks. They can even have Jordan Yamamoto in that case. Bryant by the way wears No. 17 with the Cubs and will test the quiet mothballing of those figures here should he arrive.

I dunno what to say about another black eye for the organization re: Mickey but in retrospect I was far too kind to a guy who hardly ever won a game with X’s and O’s, fished with Donald Trump Jr., batted the Mets out of order, blew up at reporters, couldn’t say “I’m sorry,” and finally, was a creep.

 

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