The NY Mets Search For The Diamond In The Rough

I had quite a busy Mets day yesterday as I resurrected my podcast with the help of Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal and then calling in as guest to the Rising Apple podcast.  In between podcasts, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a Mets Bloggers conference call with Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson has been gracious with his time to members of the Mets blogging community and has shown us great respect in regards to our questions and views pertaining to the New York Mets. Alderson has stated to us a couple of occasions how he enjoys the passion we have for the team and time and effort we put in to write and talk about the Mets.  When the Mets and Alderson first started to have these blogger calls the session lasted about 25-40 minutes, last night Alderson stayed on the line with us for about an hour. Name me another team or GM who does that? There aren’t any. As you can see from the transcript, (a great big tip of the Mets cap to Eric Simon and Chris McShane of Amazin Avenue for putting together a transcript of the conference call and while you’re at AA check out Chris’ column on Paul DePodesta and how the team has turned around the player development side of the organization, it’s a great read)

When my turn to speak to Alderson came up, I asked him about the turnover in the roster this past off season and the similarities in the position players he has added.   The players I looked at, Collin Cowgill, Andrew Brown, Brandon Hicks and Jamie Hoffman all poses good walk rates and isolated power percentages. They also have in common the distinction of coming from solid organizations (Cowgill came up through the Oakland A’s system, Brown the Cardinals, Hicks the Braves, Hoffman the Dodgers) when it comes to teaching proper fundamentals in the lower levels of their farm systems. This group also plays the game aggressively as well, on the base paths and on defense.   Here is the Mets GM’s reply to my question:

Well you listed off a lot of positive qualities. And to the extent that the players you mentioned are aggressive defensively, aggressive on the bases, command the strike zone, have some power, can run the bases a little bit. Yes, I would say that these are the kinds of players that we would like to have. Offense plays. You can be a great defender, if you can’t hit you probably can’t play anywhere. I’m not talking about the Mets exclusively. And also, it is possible that there are players that just don’t get an opportunity in certain organizations because they may be deeper at certain positions than they are at others. The minor league free agent market, or the fringe 25 man roster guy, playing for a club with a strong roster, given the opportunity may turn into something valuable. Mike Baxter is another example of this from previous years. Not that Mike has great power, but he’s a very valuable piece and part of the team. There’s no question that we value on base percentage, walk rates, isolated power is important, but as we’ve emphasized with a number of guys here in camp on base percentage, command of the strike zone is important. And look, it’s important on offense, it’s important on the pitching side. If you don’t walk anybody and keep the ball in the ballpark you can win games. Today was a good example of what can happen when you walk seven and give up a number of home runs. The same thing happened yesterday- we out hit the Marlins yesterday 9-5. They beat us because they had 14 total bases on 5 hits and we had, I think, 9 on 9 hits. So right, I think that these are the kinds of players were looking for, that we think can make a contribution at the major league level, and we’re going to find out given some opportunity here in the spring what we have. And, of course, we should have most of them going into the season and so we’ll get a chance to look at them again. You have to look for players wherever you can find them, particularly when you’re weak in that area in your own system.

The players I mentioned are very good complimentary pieces that you need to have on a winning team and as Alderson stated and as we’ve seen firsthand, the skill sets that the players I mention have, are lacking in the organization and as we see Alderson and his baseball ops guys went out looking for this prototype player from different organizations. I think it is also very telling the organization they signed these players from, teams who have rock solid foundation in teaching the right way to play in their minor league systems.

 

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Ike Davis Gets A Vote of Confidence From Terry Collins

 

I’m trying to process the words of Terry Collins earlier today as he has declared Ike Davis will stay a big leaguer for the time being. Is this the best thing for the Mets? Is this the best thing for Ike?

Yesterday during our Mets bloggers conference call with Rusty Staub, Staub thought that Ike would benefit from a trip to Triple A and not look at it as a demotion but a way to get his game right (big time tip of the Mets cap to Mathew Artus of Amazin’ Avenue for putting together the transcript of the Staub conference call) :

Mike Branda (Mets Merized Online): My question is actually currently in regards to what we’ve seen with Ike Davis lately. Every hitter is obviously going to see a tough time at the plate. There’s going to be maybe a month where you’re just not going to see the ball right. You’re just not getting the hits, the swing, anything. What are things that a hitting coach or has done to just help you through a tough time at the plate?

 

Rusty Staub: Well, the most important thing you have to understand is yourself, okay? I don’t know what’s happening; I’m not privy to anything that’s being said down in that dugout. I don’t have an idea what the hitting instructor is talking to Ike Davis about. But, Ike Davis came up as a very good young prospect as a hitter and he had very good talent. And right now he’s so messed up in his head, it’s beyond comprehension.

 I’ve watched the Mets on TV quite a bit and I mean he’s had the bat in different positions. He’s pumping that thing up and down. I don’t think he’s giving himself much of a chance. I think he’s got to slow it down and be quieter and not have so much… especially if your hands start moving down when that ball is coming, you’re not getting there. He does that a lot.

He’s going to get out of this thing. Whether he’s got to go to the minors and get himself together… I had to do that once myself in my career. What Ike has to start doing is starting himself in knowing why he’s doing well what he’s doing well and have an idea. Every pitcher has a strength and a weakness. Some of them don’t have as many weaknesses as others, but you can’t go up there hoping. You have to go up there with an idea of what you want to do against that pitcher and you try to execute that. Right now, I think he’s so confused. I’m not too sure getting a little time to get his act together wouldn’t be the best thing in the world for the young man, as terrible as that sounds. Ike will be back. It’s just not easy to hit the type of long-term injury he had in the previous year and come back automatically swinging the bat great.

 

With the season ending injury last year and the bout of Valley Fever this year, you’d figure that Davis would take a little time to get his offensive game on track but no one thought he’d struggle like he has so far. Maybe it’s effecting his defense as he has not been as crisp at 1st base as we are used to seeing. Rusty mentions Ike’s hands as Keith Hernandez has as well on Mets telecasts, it seems Ike has developed this bad habit of dropping his hands and brings them back up then down again when he’s ready to turn on a ball; this seems like a habit he can’t break.

On the other hand, Ike seems genuinely touched that Terry Collins is showing faith in him to get back on track and I understand Collins making the statement he did today as he hopes it stops all the is Ike going to Buffalo talk for a while but with news that Jason Bay is ready to start playing DH in rehab games in extended spring training, if Ike is still on the Interstate when Bay is ready to rejoin the team, the Mets will have no choice but to send him to Buffalo.

So all Collins vote of confidence does is but Ike some time to get right on offense and maybe stop all the third degree from the media about his inevitable re-assignment.

It’s now up to Ike to back up his managers words.

 

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OH FREDDIE SKILL SETS, THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE

 

When it comes to the Skill Sets financial situation it seems we Mets fans are better off ignoring what they say and instead focus on what they do. From the outstanding reporting of Eno Sarris of Amazin’ Avenue,  we discovered that the Skill Sets have hired  CRG Partners , a firm that works with businesses swimming in red ink and tries to either help them turnaround their business or it they are too far gone, file for bankruptcy. From reading the story, it looks like the Skill Sets are ready to be made comfortable for the inevitable, their loss of the Mets.

Sure, as Mets fans we should be rejoicing that the end of the Wilpon/Katz reign of ownership is closer to a conclusion than ownership as led on, and that has been the primary problem with the Skill Sets, their inability to be truthful with their fan base. If there is one thing indisputable about the Mets fans base, it is loyal and forgiving but it you take their kindness for weakness, you will feel their wrath. I truly believe if Fred Wilpon came to Mets fans with honesty over  the  grave financial situation that has alter severely the way the Mets have done business, instead of the “keep moving nothing to see here, we’re doing great ” deny, deny, deny spin, he would have had the backing of the fan base in trying to keep the team in his and his families stewardship, instead the constant false reports of selling minority shares, or tickets selling like “hot cakes” , or reports of a payroll north of $100 mil with money left for taking on a big contract for a pennant run which in realty is a payroll struggling to reach $90m and the only players signing are non-descript bush leaguers grateful for employment. No one ever learns, the cover up is always worse than the crime.

So due to the disrespect of the Mets fans intelligence, we have a mob with pitch forks and torches at the ready to run the Skill Sets out of Queens. One silver lining in all this though is the emergence of the of writers like Sarris and Howard Megdal, who dig and do the dirty work to bring Mets fans the truth behind the shell game being run at Citi Field. 

I wonder if the news that Bank of America has put notice on small businesses they lend money to that they are calling in the loans on those businesses they feel is a bad risk.  Mets have just taken out a $40 mil note from BOA, what would happen if that loan was recalled?

As much as we all want the Skill Sets out of the way and a new owner with deep pockets to take over our beloved Mets, how can we as a fan base be happy with all this financial bullshit that has had a negative effect on our beloved baseball team? My wanting the Wilpon’s out of the owner’s box at Citi Field is not due to personal malice, it’s due to the destruction of the core of my favorite baseball team. I don’t want to care about the Wilpon’s financial straights but I have to as it has an adverse effect on something I love, The New York Mets. That pisses me off to no end.

 

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THE NEW YORK METS ARE UNDER MY SKIN

Now that we have the holidays out of the way, we can now look forward to spring training for what should be quite the interesting Mets season.

Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue had an interesting post today on how bad will the Mets be in 2012? Of course the number one item on his list of things that will impact the season is the Skill Sets financial situation, something that will most likely overshadow what goes on, on the field but Simon also touches on the health and availability of Johan Santana, the hitting of Jason Bay and David Wright and where the offensive production lost from Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes will come from.

So my question to you my loyal readers, what is your expectation for the Mets this coming season? What is a realistic expectation of this team and what will be their standing in the NL East, a division that could be up for grabs if the reports of Prince Fielder signing with Washington are true. Can you see anything short of a last place finish in the division? Right now, I can’t.

Where do you see Johan Santana this season? For me, I’d be surprised if we see Santana pitch for the Mets before June.

What to do with David Wright? Wright is not a player, right now that could realistically bring back a treasure trove of young talent but what if he is invigorated by good health and more friendly dimensions of Citi Field and puts up a .300/.380/.500 line with 15-17 HR’s and 75-80 + RBI by the All-Star break, do you keep him and hope a new owner comes in with cash to re-sign him or is the lure of young robust baseball players to tempting to turn down in a trade?  I’m still undecided on this one but I am leaning towards a deal if the Mets get back a blue ribbon prospect or a young Major Leaguer under club control.

When I go to opening day at Citi Field, who else will be there? If you are a true blue Mets fan and having been going to Mets games your whole life I can’t see how now you decide to sit this season out. No one has a right to tell you how to spend your time or money but as Boggy said, “a hot dog at a ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz”. So true, I mean today when I left for work I had on a sweater, coat, scarf and wool hat. You know what? That sucks. I want to wear shorts and t-shirt and have a scorecard in my hand. I have made peace with myself that the Mets will not be very good this season to the point that 100 losses would not shock me. However, there is still a part of me that small sliver of Mets fan naivete` that still has me holding out hope that this season could be full of surprises and I want to be there to enjoy them.  I know all the die-hards will be out at Citi Field on Thursday April 5th at 1:10PM, will you be there? If not tell me why not?

It’s funny the other teams I root for in other sports are playing at a level where they are contenders for championships in their respective leagues but it’s the Mets that are on my mind the most  and my biggest concern. Crazy shit eh?

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SANDY ALDERSON TALKS WITH NY METS BLOGGERS

Last night I had the privilege to be invited to be part of the Mets bloggers Q & A conference call with Mets GM Sandy Alderson. Eric Simon and the staff at Amazin’ Avenue have done another outstanding job of putting together a transcript of the conference call (click the link and read the whole transcript it will be the most informative information you’ll get about the Mets anywhere) and I thank them very much for undertaking the chore of transcribing and crediting each blogger with a link to our sites along with our questions, Thanks again Eric.

A few observations I took from the call:

Alderson is playing his hand in the Jose Reyes sweepstakes like a top poker player. In years past, the Mets were always duped into not just setting the market price on free agents but bidding against themselves. His answer to the question on whether he thought of Reyes as a franchise player was 100 % spot on:

Do I consider him a franchise player? Yes. But a franchise player is only valuable as such if he is contributing to a winning franchise as opposed to simply acting as eye wash for a team that is not very good.

Again, everybody loves Reyes and wants him to be a Met For Life, yet less than 5,000 fans showed up on the final day of the season and what may have been Reyes last game as a Met. That’s why Alderson doesn’t play to the lunatic fringe of Metsfandom and for that I am so grateful.

Alderson got into the business end of running the Mets as Howard Megdal, who should be your go to read with the anything Mets related but most certainly on learning the financial end of what the Skill Sets and the organization are up against in these trying money times with the Mets. It may a bit simplistic on my part but it seems Alderson is saying that he has x-amount of dollars in his budget given to him by ownership and he has to do the best he and his staff can to fill the roster with players good enough to compete and not hurt the bedrock of foundation of the organization, the farm system. There are some (I’d say a minority) of Mets fans who don’t get the fact that finances of this franchise are in a total state of flux but no matter the outcome, it would take either a discovery of oil or gold during the renovation of the Citi Field outfield for the Skill Sets to own this team for the long term.  

I really believe Alderson enjoys doing these Q & A’s with the Mets bloggers more than dealing with the MSM. The first one we did last year lasted about half an hour, then when we met with Alderson face to face at the Mets Holiday Party he joined us in our own little group for more questions and didn‘t seem to be in a hurry to get away from us. Last night he spoke to us for an hour and seemed to enjoy the questions and giving us insight into what he and his staff are doing to making the Mets into a top flight franchise.

His answer to my question was about that, he is hell-bent in turning around the perception of the NY Mets franchise, as much as Alderson feels there has been progress in that direction he knows the only way to advance it is for him to put together a winning team:

{Steve Keane (The Eddie Kranepool Society): Your first year as a Mets general manager, how would you assess your progress that you and your staff have made in the first year with the Mets? What has been the most challenging situation or thing that’s happened with you as the GM of the Mets, and what’s been the biggest surprise on the positive side and on the negative side?

 

Alderson: I look at things in three areas. The organization as a whole, the infrastructure, what’s happening in player development and scouting, and what’s happening at the major league level.

 

Organizationally, I’m very pleased with where we are. We’re not fully where we want to be. In the areas of structure and process and personnel, we’re making a lot of progress. We made some personnel changes last year, we’ve made a few this year. The more important changes organizationally have come in the area of process as we blend the pre-existing staff with newly added staff. From an organizational standpoint, we’ve made some progress.

 

Player-development-wise, we’ve made significant progress, I think our approach to the draft last year was a departure from previous years, and I think at least early returns are that it was a positive change. If you look at our top prospects, we were able to add to that list not only from not only the further development of existing players, but also from the draft as well as the trade, most prominently the trade for Zack Wheeler. I think player-development-wise, the continued development of Matt Harvey and some others, and remember at this time last year, Matt Harvey had never thrown a professional pitch. I think some very positive things are happening at the player development and scouting level.

 

At the major league level, I’m very pleased with Terry Collins last year and I think our major league staff will be even stronger this year than it was. Dave Hudgens did a great job in refocusing our offensive philosophy. I think we’ve made a lot of progress philosophically at least in how we are approaching the game, not just in respect to hitting, but a more aggressive approach, a more accountable approach that Terry has demanded.

 

If you tie those three things together, what I’d hoped to achieve in the first year primarily was to change the perception of the organization. Despite the fact that we didn’t finish over .500, I think overall, the way the team played, some of the other things that happened over the course of the year, did help to change the perception of the organization and its direction and its chances of success in the future.

 

My biggest disappointment going back to last year was just the way we finished the season. We finished poorly, we started poorly. Part of that was attributable to injury, but some of it was a result of weakening the team later for long-term benefit. I think for example, if we’d kept Frankie Rodriguez, we would have finished well over .500. I think that the lack of a closer cost us a number of games.

 

But, the overall perception did change. I think that there is some greater confidence in the future for the Mets and that was an important thing to accomplish. I think the way we finished detracted from that somewhat, I think we were able to move people’s thinking in that direction.}

I’d like to thank Danielle Parillo and Shannon Forde for putting this and all the Mets bloggers event together and of course a big thank you to Sandy Alderson for his time and insight    

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THE ALDERSON TAPES

I was so pissed that I missed hearing Sandy Alderson on the SNY telecast last night. But, thanks to Chris McShane at Amazin’ Avenue who transcribed the whole interview Alderson did with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling, I’m caught up with what the Mets GM is looking to accomplish going forward with the team. What has me puzzled is the Mets fan/blogger fixation on what Alderson said about changing the dimensions and height of the Cit Field outfield wall, from reading the McShane’s transcript of the conversation, that was the least interesting feature to me.

I’m not saying reducing the height of the Great Wall of Flushing or bringing in the right/center Mo Zone is not good thing, in fact I’m all for it but Alderson’s insights on player personnel and his approach to the off season was much more newsworthy.

To me more important than wall renovations is what is the GM’s plan of attack for re-signing Jose Reyes. It seems like Alderson has a preempted strike ready to fire as he has tabbed October as Jose Reyes Month. I get the vibe that he has an offer already to be presented a figure in years and money that he won’t go over. Alderson has made it known he will not get into a bidding war over Reyes. He has been nothing but complimentary of the shortstop as has Terry Collins, who is on record as saying he can’t fathom the Mets without Reyes or David Wright for that matter which I’m sure is the company line. I’m interested in this negotiation to see if Reyes takes a little less money or years to stay with the only organization he’s ever played for or does he move on and take the best deal out there. I still think that while Alderson will make a very good offer to Reyes, he won’t be heartbroken if another team comes in and blows the Mets deal out of the water. No question he wants Reyes back but he won’t break the Skill Sets fragile bank account to sign him.

One of Alderson’s concerns was rushing pitchers to the big leagues but also doing a balancing act getting some of the minor league arms a bit of a push to move them along. Under Omar MInaya’s regime the club loved drafting collage pitchers to where a team like St. Lucie is overstocked with 24 and 25 year olds which it sounds like is very frustrating to Alderson. When you’re that age and still pitching in A ball, you’re at the shit or get off the pot stage of your career.

Alderson sounds like a Mets fan when he talks about the bullpen and how blowing late game leads, a la Bobby Parnell, takes the heart out of everyone when it’s on an almost daily basis. Safe to say, Alderson has seen enough of Parnell closing to know he needs to put finding a closer on the top of his shopping list. Also clearly stated, he will go outside the organization to find one.  Looking at guys like Greg Holland of the Royals, Mike Adams of the Rangers, Rafael Betancourt of the Rockies and Sean Marshall of the Cubs there are some interesting options for Alderson out there.

Alderson is happy with the number of innings his starters have given him but now he wants them to improve the quality of those innings. I believe that Jon Niese and Dillon Gee will and of course R.A. Dickey will give a quality start just about every time out but we still have no idea what Johan Santana will give you on the mound next year and of course there is the elephant in the room known as Mike Pelfrey. From Alderson’s comment it seems that Pelf will be back next season but in what capacity?

What we have Mets fans is one busy and interesting winter coming up ahead of us and the brain trust of our team. Right now is the lull where the team plays out the string as October on will be the most interesting time for the Mets since before the All Star break.

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ERIC SIMON OF AMAZIN’ AVENUE JOINS ME TOMORROW NIGHT ON THIS CALL TO THE BULPEN PODCAST

Tomorrow night at 11PM ET Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue will join me on THIS CALL TO THE BULLPEN PODCAST on Blog Talk Radio.

Eric and I will be discussing the Mets early spring results and we will look at the 2011 Amazin ‘Avenue Annual, (ACTA publishing) which you can purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble (online and at the brick and mortar) and from ACTA Publishing directly.

The Annual has great articles ranging from Sam Page’ Conversation with R.A. Dickey to Joe Posnanski (Yes THE Joe Posnanski) writing about Carlos Beltran. There are also sections on the new look Mets front office as well as stats and player projections for players on the big league roster as well as on the farm.

The 2011 Amazin’ Avenue Annual is a must read for all Mets fans.

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NAME YOUR TOP 50 METS PLAYERS OF ALL TIME

A couple of quick hits before I settle in to watch the Jets-Colts game. I’ve got no dog in this fight but I guess I’ll root for the Jets since their name ends in “ets”

Great post by Amazin’ Avenue showing pics of celebs in Mets attire. The first pic though is of Adam Sandler who is a Highlander fan. Kevin James, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Baba Booey, Tim Robbins and Jon Stewart I know are die hard Mets fans. I met Stewart at of all places the Bronx Zoo a few years ago when the zoo had a Holiday Lights Festival. He was waiting like me to put his kids on the Merry-Go-Round. I recognized him right away and before I could say hi to him, he approached me and commented about my Mets jacket and cap. As our kids rode the Merry Go Round we talked Mets baseball. Yes that was a cool, very cool.

Jason Robotham of Metszila found a great article about Chris Young that was written in Men’s Journal. I know there has been talk that Alderson will not go past $1.5 mil for another starting pitcher so it would be nice to sign a pitcher like Young to an incentive laden deal for one year with an option kicking in as one of those incentives .

Ed Marcus (a/k/a Rusty Jr.) of The Real Dirt Mets blog wants to know who you feel are the Top 50 Mets players of all time. I’m going to file my top 50 in the comments section of Ed’s post and I have to warn you there is no big research or statistical analysis with my list.

(as I write this post, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks just jaunted 60 yds for a TD to put the Seahawks up 41-30 over the defending champs New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks are a 10 pt underdog and have an 11 pt lead with 3 mins left in the game. Lynch broke six tackles during his run. Incredible)

Somewhere on my Top 50 list of Mets players I will put the name R.A. Dickey. In just one year Dickey has won the respect and admiration of Mets fans like I’ve not seen in a long time

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Shhhhhhhhh……….. I”M SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING READY FOR CHRISTAMS

Happy Christmas Eve y’all I got so much shit to do but I hate doing it so while everyone thinks I’m busy doing stuff to get ready for tonight and tomorrow I’m sitting here typing out this post, and why not no one gets yelled at on Christmas right?

Rob Castelano of Amazin’ Avenue was on a conference call with the new and improved Mets coaching staff and posted the entire transcript of the call. Looks like TC and Co. will hit the ground running at St Lonesome in Feburay. I’d advise the Mets players to leave the golf clubs at home.

I cannot believe that  Charles Wang has not reached out to Mikhail Prokhorov about adding the Islanders as  a tenant to the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. Forget about building an arena in Queens, Brooklyn is the place for the Isles.

As with Thanksgiving, it’s not the official holiday with hearing Alice’s Restaurant on Christmas no gifts can be open until I play the only Christmas song I like.

Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Couldn’t miss this one this year!
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Couldn’t miss this one this year!

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MORE REPORTING FROM THE METS CHRISTMAS PARTY

Four of my fellow bloggers have documented the Malta Mets summit from Tuesday and all are great reads so go get a cup of coffee and a little nosh and enjoy:

Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing

Rob Castellano of Alderson (Amazin’)  Avenue

Jim Mancari of Mets Merized Online

Matt Artus Always Amazin’

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Tickets

The Mets are looking great this year and The Eddie Kranepool Society keeps you up to date on the good bad and the ugly. If you are looking for Mets Tickets, you must visit Coast To Coast Tickets for all your ticket needs. CTC carries MLB Tickets as well as some of the best priced Concert Tickets on the web and don't forget they also carry Yankees Tickets.

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