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Chaim Bloom??!!

Been about six weeks since we last wrote about the Boston Red Sox.  But why would we?  The season ended with a whimper, so there was nothing really worth talking about, to be honest.

What went wrong?  Whether it was the babying of pitchers during the spring, no closer, awful bullpen, expensive and mediocre (bad?) starters, bringing back basically the whole team from last season, therefore being complacent (though they will never admit it), questionable managing at times, a noncommital President of Baseball Operations at the trading deadline, etc…well, we’ve been through all of this before.  MANY times.

There was no joy in following this team last season.  We never felt good about the squad, right from the beginning.  So there is really no need to rehash it at this point.  In my opinion anyway.

Time to move on.

So where does the team go from here?

By the way, it feels like a good time to talk about next season, what with it being about the one year anniversary of their 2018 World Series win…and with the 2019 World Series just wrapping up the other night.  Nationals…wow!  But good for them.  Also, any year the Yankees don’t win makes it a good year for the Sox anyway.

But no need to talk about the Nats.  Or the Yanks.  As Bill would say, we are on to 2020!!  And a year after winning the World Series, now we are possibly talking about tearing the Red Sox team apart.

Seriously?

Well, that’s not my call.  Ownership has already said that they want to (read:  WILL) be under the luxury tax number of 208 million next season.

Being north of 240 mil last year will make that a pretty good challenge.  And tells me we could be looking at significant turnover.

Sure, contracts such as Rick Porcello’s 21+ mil, Steve Pearce’s 6.25, Mitch Moreland’s 6.5, Eduardo Nunez’ 5, Brock Holts’ 3.6 and Pablo Sandovals’ 18+ (??!!) are coming off the books.  Maybe even J.D. Martinez’ 23+, which by the way is not necessarily a good thing.  Wait, Panda will still be on the books for 5 million next year…SMH…

But then you factor in Xander Bogaerts going from 12 mil to 20.  Chris Sale going from 15 to 30 mil.  Certain significant arbitration raises for Mookie Betts (if he is still here), Jackie Bradley Jr. (ditto), Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi and perhaps even Brandon Workman.

Ssssssoooo…there is some work to be done.

Which brings us to…Chaim Bloom!

Bloom is the Red Sox’ new “Chief Baseball Officer”.  A nice new title…whatever that means.  The degree in classics I particularly love.  I know, Yale.  But still an interesting nugget.

Bloom comes from the Tampa Bay Rays.  So he has experience with shaving significant payroll…or not having any payroll in the first place, more accurately.  Let’s hope John Henry doesn’t plan on matching that Ray budget of like 50 million or whatever minuscule figure that may be.  Red Sox Nation would not stand for that.

But no, I don’t believe Bloom will slash that much.  But there will be significant changes.  How can there not be?

Senior advisor Bill James is gone.  Is that good?  Perhaps.  But I am sure Bloom will continue to carry his torch.  You know, the “nerd” torch.  Which is not a good thing, again, my opinion.  But this is the era we live in…

In any event, what will the team look like next year?

Not sure.  But here’s what I think they will do…with the current roster anyway.  I’ll, of course, be adding some colorful commentary on whether I think what they will do is something I would do.  In typical fashion, let’s take a look by positional group.

40 men on the 40-man roster at the end of the year (go figure!).  Plus 4 on the 60 day injured list (sigh…I will finally cave on calling it this instead of “disabled list”, as Major League Baseball did to start the 2018 season).  So we will look at 44 players.  Invariably, the Sox will have to add some players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule V draft this winter.  But we don’t know who those guys are at this point, so we will leave them out for now.  And I am not anticipating any of them, or any other minor leaguers, making an impact with the major league club next season.  And yup, that includes outfielder Rusney Castillo, who will likely be buried in AAA again next year.  There has already been some roster movement as well.

So let’s get to it:

Catcher:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Juan Centeno

Free Agents:  None

Already Gone:  None

Comments:  Vazquez is the unquestioned starter.  Had a great offensive year (for a catcher anyway), including a career high (by far) 23 homers.  His salary bumps up about 3 mil.  Speaking of 3 mil, Leon could get that in arbitration, amazingly enough.  Centeno had 15 at bats as the third guy in September.  He really doesn’t count.

The pitchers love throwing to Leon.  But when the team panicked early and got rid of Blake Swihart in order to bring Leon back up from the minors, Sandy sure as heck didn’t help the staff ERA.  And he can’t hit.  You can pay a guy like that the league minimum.  And I suspect that they will.

By the way, Arizona dumped Swihart too, after playing him like once every ten days…and maybe that once was a pinch hit at bat.  So maybe I was wrong about him too.  But it’s not like anyone has exactly given him a chance though.  And that ship may have sailed.  That is too bad.  I always thought he could at least hit.  But who knows?

It would not shock me at all if the Sox tried to capitalize on Vasky’s career year and tried to move him.  This position could be completely different next season.  And…would it matter?  But I am going to assume that Vazquez will be back with another random backup.

Infield:  Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Michael Chavis (INF), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Marco Hernandez (INF), Sam Travis (1B/LF), Tzu-Wei Lin (INF).

Free Agents:  Holt (INF/OF), Pearce (1B/OF), Moreland (1B)

Already Gone:  Chris Owings (INF)

Comments:  This one may be easier than we think.  Bogey and Raffy will man the left side of the infield.  Chavis will probably play first, with Pearce and Moreland likely gone…unless Mitch comes back on some sort of really discounted deal.  Then Chavis would presumably play 2nd.  But…

…are we ready for another spring of Pedroia nonsense?  Sigh…

I really think that Pedey had that late season surgery to be able to play next season.  As silly as that sounds.  So I am expecting him to report to Spring Training to try to play.  Ugh.

Hernandez would be the utility guy in this scenario.  If Pedey truly is done, Marco will be given a chance to win the 2B job.  At a salary of less than 1 mil, it would fit with the plan.

Believe it or not, I honestly expect someone to give Holt decent dough.  And therefore not be back.  Travis and Lin aren’t really worth spending any time here…or real life playing time on.  Same is true for Owings, who was a waste of time last year already.

Outfield:  Mookie Betts (RF), Andrew Benintendi (LF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)

Free Agents:  None

Already Gone:  Gorkys Hernandez

Comments:  Quite the opposite of the infield.  We could be looking at three of these four being gone.  Well, not counting Gorkys here.  Along with Owings, he was a complete waste of time in September.

Mookie.  What’s going to happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Well actually, I think he is gone this offseason.  He wants to test free agency after next season.  Has no interest in re-signing here beforehand.  We have no idea if he even would WANT to re-sign here when he goes through the free agency process.  Even if the Sox back up the Isaiah Thomas Brinks truck.

If that is the case, don’t you HAVE to deal him this offseason?  And get some sort of decent return?  I think it’s a no-brainer.

Some may argue that the team should keep Betts and trade him at the trading deadline next season.  But what if the Sox are in the race?  They are going to give up their best player at that point in the year?  Doubtful.

Dealing him with one year of arbitration left you would think would get the best package from another team.  Without dealing with a sticky situation at the trading deadline.  And also without losing him for nothing at the end of the season.

Again, hate to say it, but I think Betts is gone.  And I think that was one of the reasons the Sox moved on from Dave Dombrowski.  Get someone in here that SHOULD be a better fit for planning for the future that includes rebuilding the farm system.  DD did what he had to do here.  But he was probably not the right guy to move the team to the next stage.

As for J.D., I feel like the team wants him to opt out and move on.  Reports indicate that the Sox have not approached him about anything.  J.D. didn’t have as good a year in 2019 as he did in 2018, but he still had a damn good year.

But as pretty much a DH only and having assorted minor injuries throughout the year and at 32 years of age…you wonder if they hope he leaves.

They would miss his bat, but you’d have to imagine that there will be some other options available for cheaper dough on the free agent market?  I have not studied any prospective free agent lists.  But that line of thinking would not surprise me.  Oh wait, Edwin Encarnacion’s 2020 option was just declined by the Yanks.  So he may fit in nicely on a shorter deal…at smaller dollars.

Bradley?  You all know how I feel about him.  I HOPE he is gone.  His salary will reach 8 figures next season.  No thanks.  But what is the market for him?

I think they will try to move him.  But unfortunately for me, I am thinking he will be back after all the other salary is cleared and then his new salary all of a sudden looks “reasonable” and fits in the budget.

Benny ain’t going nowhere.  He will get a nice raise in his first year of arbitration, despite his very average year.  They’d be presumably selling low on him.  Hopefully, he can bounce back at least a little next year.

Starting pitchers:  Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez

Free Agents:  Rick Porcello

Already Gone:  None

Comments:  Welp, everyone wanted to blame the bullpen last year.  No doubt about it, they played a huge role in the teams’ struggles.  But we may want to point the fingers squarely at the starters instead.  Sale, Price and Eovaldi gave them 59 starts.  And a mere 322 1/3 innings.  Oh…and a 15-17 record.  Awesome return for 63 million…roughly a quarter of the payroll.  Porcello did give them his usual 32 starts.  And actually was 14-12…I didn’t remember that.  What I did remember was a bunch of those starts being horrendous, leading to his 5.52 ERA.  E-Rod was the saving grace here.  200 plus innings and 200 plus strikeouts to go with his 19-6 record…which would have been 20-6 if Matt Barnes didn’t blow the lead in the 162nd game of the season.  But we will get to him.

So between giving the likes of Hector Velasquez, Brian Johnson, Ryan Weber, etc 37 starts and having the bullpen have to regularly pitch 4-6 innings a night…it’s no surprise the bullpen struggled.

So what do we do here?  Sale’s ridiculous 5 year, 145 million dollar extension kicks in next year, with what appears to be a no-trade clause.  Combine that with the uncertainty of his elbow, he ain’t going anywhere.  (Editor’s note: please remember, we had no problem with AN extension for Sale, despite his fragility.  BUT the one he GOT was silly.  3/80-90 would have worked for us.  But 5 years?).

Would not be shocked if the team tried to deal Price or Eovaldi.  Perhaps both.  They will have to eat some salary.  But it still wouldn’t surprise me.  3/96 left for Price, 3/51 for Nate.  If they could unload that colossal baby Price, I think Sox fans would rejoice.  All the goodwill earned by Price after the 2018 World Series, where he should have been MVP, was lost during the 2019 season.  He reverted to his previous Red Sox form in so many ways.  It’s exhausting to even think about it.  Too bad he opted in, but you knew he would.  You would have to for that dough.  I hope he’s gone, but I honestly don’t expect it.

Porcello will undoubtedly be gone.  He actually wants to stay.  And I’ll be honest.  If they can get rid of Price, I would take Rick back.  Something like 1 year, 10 mil or less would be a no-brainer in my opinion.  But no more than that.  I don’t know what other options will be out there.  And there will no question be better ones.  But at least we know Porcello can handle the environment.  And usually can give you 200 innings.  Worth considering anyway.

In any event, there will have to be some additions here.  Innings guys for sure.  I know Bloom comes from Tampa.  Birthplace of the “bullpen game”.  But for these to take a regular turn in the rotation in this market?  I can’t see how that would go over well.

Bullpen:  Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Ryan Brasier, Colton Brewer, Travis Lakins, Darwinzon Hernandez, Bobby Poyner, Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez, Ryan Weber, Jhoulys Chacin, Trevor Kelley, Mike Shawaryn, Denyi Reyes

Free Agents: Andrew Cashner (Not a free agent yet, but he has a 10 mil club option, so he will be one soon)

Already Gone:  Steven Wright, Josh A. Smith

Comments:  Just a colossal bag of garbage.  There needs to be some huge turnover here in the offseason.

Workman had an excellent year, ending it as the closer.  But I’m not sure anyone wants to see him close games next year.  Barnes and Hembree are major league pitchers, but likely more suited for the 6th & 7th innings.  Barnes maybe the 8th, but I’ve honestly seen enough of him there.  Walden had a pretty good year, but like Brasier in 2018, can we depend on him in 2020?  There’s a reason guys are in the minors for over 10 years.  You can’t count on relievers from year to year in a general sense.  Less so for guys of Walden’s and Brasier’s ilk.

Darwinzon flashed some stuff at the end of the year.  But walked way too many dudes.  He’s 22 years old though, so let’s get him back in the rotation next year in the minors and continue to develop him.  Reyes will be 23 tomorrow and he hasn’t been up yet, but let’s see about him in the minors too.

Taylor is lefty and throws high 90’s.  So he’s worth keeping around.  I don’t know if Lakins will be any good.  But he got some hype at the end of 2018.  I’d like to see more.  Kelley was unhittable in the minors.  But sidewinders that make it are few and far between.  Poyner?  Whatever.

Pretty much no use for the rest of the lot.  But the reality is, some of those dudes will be back.  Some will take the shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston regularly.  There will be a handful of more arms with similar talent that will be added.

But I think we all hope they add a couple of quality arms over the winter.  Quality bullpen arms will cost money…but when they shave all that money we talked about above, there should be some room.

Whew…that was quite a bit of words there.  Sorry about that.  But I think we covered everything?

It’ll be an interesting offseason, any way you slice it.  Can’t wait!!

2018 MLB National League All-Stars

As promised, the NL squad is below.  32 players are selected.  20 are supposed to be position players and 12 are supposed to be pitchers.  I’ll stray from that a bit, as we always do here.  Similar to the AL, 19 position players and 13 pitchers for the NL this year, but the reasoning is different.  The Blowhard, in all seriousness, had problems coming up with the 32 players needed for the NL team.  Each team is represented, as we know.  Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule, but for all those spots, I suppose every team should have SOMEONE there.  But there was one NL team that truly had ZERO real candidates.  You’ll find that out soon enough.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  J.T. Realmuto, Mia (S), Francisco Cervelli, Pit

There were surprisingly several candidates at this position in the National League.  But I’m sticking with my 2 catcher maximum.  After Realmuto was a victim of taking only two catchers in the two previous years, he is the clear-cut starter this season.  After that?  HAD to go with Cervelli to back up.  The Pittsburgh Pirates really do not have any candidates at all.  Cervelli has missed some time with a concussion but has a .876 OPS when he has played.  The only other Pirate player worth considering was their closer, Felipe Vazquez.  17 saves are great.  But a 3.47 ERA and a WHIP of almost 1.35 is not.  As for other dudes…Yadier Molina could have a case.  Buster Posey always has a case.  But Posey’s numbers are down from previous years.

1B:  Freddie Freeman, Atl (S), Jesus Aguilar, Mil, Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Joey Votto, Cin

Aguilar is a nice story, but I’m going Freeman to start.  Goldy started slow but is on fire recently.  Votto’s power is down, but he’s still having a nice year.  If you wanted Brandon Belt instead, fine.  Jose Martinez?  Sure.  I won’t argue about the last slot.  Take whoever you want.  Except for Eric Hosmer.  Wow, that was a dumb contract the Padres gave him.  And he ain’t doing much to earn it.

2B:  Javier Baez, ChC (S), Scooter Gennett, Cin, Ozzie Albies, Atl, Asdrubal Cabrera, NYM

Baez by a slim margin over Gennett to start.  Guess Gennett’s 2017 season was not a fluke, huh?  Albies had a strong first half.  Asdrubal?  Yup.  Deserved.  If you wanted to take a fifth first baseman over him, I wouldn’t complain.  But I’m keeping him on my squad.  And no, he isn’t the only Met, if you can believe that.

3B: Eugenio Suarez, Cin (S), Nolan Arenado, Col

This is it for third base in the NL.  And this year Arenado is NOT being penalized for playing in Colorado.  Suarez’ overall numbers are simply better.  And Max Muncy’s 20 dingers in 196 at-bats are nice.  But not sure that gets him on.

SS:  Brandon Crawford, SF (S), Trevor Story, Col

And…this is it for shortstop in the NL.  Story is being penalized for playing in Colorado.  Trea Turner?  Not this year.

OF:  Matt Kemp, LAD (S), Nick Markakis, Atl (S), David Peralta, AZ (S), Rhys Hoskins, Phi, Bryce Harper, Was

Matt Kemp?  Nick Markakis?  What year is this?  Actually, even though these guys have been around forever, Kemp has actually made only two All-Star teams and Markakis…ZERO.  So good for them with what they are doing this season.  Peralta?  Yikes!  But he was really the best option for the last starting spot.  I had actually originally picked Odubel Herrera instead of Hoskins…then I realized Hoskins was now pretty much an outfielder and doesn’t play much first base anymore.  So I swapped them.  Plus, I wanted to say that I picked Odubel, Aaron Altherr and Hoskins as All-Stars from the Phillie outfield in consecutive years.  That seems a little crazy, no?  Bryce…hmmm, I know.  Tough call.  .218 average would knock just about everyone else out of it.  But power is there and OPS is too.  So I said what the hell?  Plus…Brandon Nimmo?  Kyle Schwarber?  Anyone from above I left off?  I don’t think so.

P:  Max Scherzer, Was (S), Jacob deGrom, NYM, Aaron Nola, Phi, Jon Lester, ChC, Miles Mikolas, StL, Patrick Corbin, AZ, Sean Newcomb, Atl, Mike Foltynewicz, Atl, Kyle Freeland, Col, Josh Hader, Mil, Sean Doolittle, Was, Brad Hand, SD, Kenley Jansen, LAD

Ouch.  And…ouch…again.  Take a look at the names on this list again.  Max gets the start since the game is in his home park.  But you could seriously give deGrom the ball.  I don’t think a lot of people know what kind of season he is having because his team sucks so bad.  Nola has had a nice first half as well.  The rest?  Ok.  But most of the names are certainly underwhelming.  It’s almost like I had to take Freeland because he is a starting pitcher from Colorado and with his numbers (8-6, 3.18), you have to take that into consideration.  Newcomb has backslid a bit.  Mikolas is the Cards rep.  Folty has fewer innings than most starters.  Corbin and Lester have been solid.  But who’s next, Ross Stripling?  Nope.

Hader was the only middle man taken on both teams.  But he did close when the Brewers regular closer, Corey Knebel, was out.  And you can’t scoff at 83 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings and a 1.21 ERA.  In fact, there is another middle guy on his team that probably deserves consideration in Jeremy Jeffress.  Hand is the Padres rep.  People have been on the Kirby Yates bandwagon.  Not me.  Doolittle belongs.  Jansen isn’t quite as dominant as he has been in previous years, but he’s still the guy to close it out if it gets to that point.  Kyle Barraclough and Adam Ottavino probably deserve consideration as middle guys as well.  But I’m not doing that.  Maybe Raisel Iglesias as another closer.  But I’m going with these guys.

Aaaaaah…feels good to be on time…for once!

More hardware…

…now for the National League.  Full disclosure:  The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League.  This may be quick…

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  2. Daniel Murphy, Washington
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
  4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
  5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
  6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
  8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
  9. Buster Posey, San Francisco
  10. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers

10 guys is definitely steep here, as from what I can tell it’s Bryant and then 9 other guys to fill out the ballot.  Murphy 2nd?  Why not?  He led the league in OPS.  He was 13th in WAR?  Oh no!!  I can’t in good conscience put Arenado at #2.  Sure, his numbers are once again great.  But again…Colorado.  I felt like Murphs deserved to be higher than Rizzo and it feels like 2-4 is the next “tier” after Bryant.

5-7…MVP’s?  I don’t know.  These guys all had great years, but their teams were awful.  I have friends that would probably put Freeman 2nd, since he was 3rd in both OPS and WAR and well, it doesn’t matter that his team finished 26 and a half games out of first.  They also probably would put Jon Lester 3rd, since he is…Jon Lester.  You know who you are.

8-10 I was just throwing darts.  Even considered Wilson Ramos.  Ryan Braun had some decent numbers, but…

Speaking of Lester, he may well have been worthy of a top 10 nod, along with Max Scherzer.  And perhaps Madison Bumgarner.  Didn’t feel it here though.  If you do, I wouldn’t argue with it.  Like I said, the whole list was basically a crapshoot anyway.

Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer, Washington
  2. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
  3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
  4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
  5. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Here’s a ballot that could use the 10 spots.  Not that all of those 10 could be considered the winner of the Cy Young.  But there were several others in the league that warranted “end of ballot” consideration.  These include, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta and the late Jose Fernandez.  Perhaps Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon too, if you like your closers.  We know I don’t though.

I see this as between just Scherzer and Lester.  And, of course, as a Boston homer, I would’ve loved to give this to Jon.  But after going deeper into the numbers there was no way I could do it.  Lester had a better ERA by about a half a run.  But that’s where it ends.  Max had a better WHIP by a smidge, pitched about 26 more innings, had one more win, almost 90 more strikeouts…and for those who like WAR, it was 6.2 to 5.3 in favor of Max.  The competition in their divisions were similar with one playoff or near playoff team, one average team and 2 putrid ones.  Plus the Cubs won their division handily and surely faced less pressure…not a major consideration, but it was all part of the equation that added up to Max.

Bumgarner and Cueto were a pretty clear next tier to me.  Hendricks got the last spot largely because he led the league in ERA by a healthy margin and was 2nd in WHIP by a slim margin.  Pushed him ahead of Noah for me.  But I didn’t lose a ton of sleep over 5th place.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers
  2. Kenta Maeda, LA Dodgers
  3. Trea Turner, Washington

Seager was the clear-cut choice here.  No other hitter played enough to qualify, while Seager played the whole year at a high level.  I don’t love putting Maeda second, not after 8 years of pitching in the Japanese leagues.  Yes, Japan is not the majors.  But it’s probably better than Triple-A teams stateside.  Either way, the rules say he is eligible for this award.  Since he was also around for a full season and put up some pretty good numbers on a playoff team, he gets the runner-up position.

Third place could have gone a few ways, but I picked Turner.  Showed great speed (33 steals) and good power (13 dingers) in about half a season.  Throw in the high average (.342) and that sealed up third for me.  Trevor Story was on his way to throwing up some monster numbers before missing the last 2 months or so with injury, but…Colorado.  Aledmys Diaz also threw up decent numbers before he missed the better part of the last two months himself.  And he was an All-Star, for whatever that’s worth.  Seung-hwan Oh had a very nice year in relief for the Cards.  After 9 years in Korea and 2 in Japan.  Plus…reliever.  Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, etc.  There were a bunch of NL rookies who offered pretty good contributions for a half or three-quarters of a year.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Dusty Baker, Washington
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco

Between Baker and Maddon and I hate Maddon, so gimme Baker.  Nah, that’s not the reason.  But it’s hard to vote for a guy that won the division by 17 and a half games and was on cruise control for pretty much the whole season.  That’s what I think anyway.  Sure, he had to keep the team full of All-Stars focused and all.  Sometimes that can be hard (see Francona, Terry and Torre, Joe, among others).  But I went with Baker for the top slot.  Dusty took over for Matt Williams and guided the Nationals to 12 more wins…despite a MAJOR drop off from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

If you wanted to put Terry Collins of the Mets 3rd, that would be ok.  He had to deal with many injuries, specifically in his rotation, where among all his young studs 43-year-old Bartolo Colon ended up making the most starts.  The team suffered injuries in his lineup as well.  And Collins still got them to the playoffs.  Bochy didn’t necessarily have to deal with a boatload of injuries.  But he did have to deal with a subpar everything, other than Posey, Bumgarner and Cueto.  Either one works for 3rd for me.

That about sums it all up…

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