And That Happened: 2009 Finale edition

Tigers 5, White Sox 3; Twins 13, Royals 4: 162 games and nothing is decided. Before Saturday night the Twins hadn’t smelled first place since May. They were seven games out in early September. Now it all comes down to Tuesday. I love me these 163-game seasons we’ve been having the past couple of years, but then again, it hasn’t been my team in the nerve racking playoff game. Moment of shallowness: does the fact that Jason Kubel and Delmon Young came up bigger than Mauer did over the weekend somehow cost Joe MVP votes? Obviously that shouldn’t be the case — and really, the stathead paranoia that Mauer won’t win the MVP is getting pretty tired by now — but if I let my imagination run wild, I can feature someone thinking “you know, in the end, Mauer needed help!”

Yankees 10, Rays 2: The fact that Alex Rodriguez’s 2 HR, 7 RBI inning put him exactly on 30 homers and exactly on 100 RBI will cause someone somewhere to count it against him as some personal stats-inspired performance. Really, unless he bats .500/.750/1.750 in the playoffs, there will be a hatchet job article about me-first A-Rod referencing this game before spring training starts.

Dodgers 5, Rockies 3: Vicente Padilla shuts down a skeleton-crew Rockies lineup in a meaningless game. And as per his tradition in meaningless season finales, Joe Torre let the players take over. He chose Brad Ausmus as manager, named Mark Loretta bench coach, Jim Thome was the hitting coach and Jeff Weaver was the bullpen coach. I suppose he could have given those responsibilities to more boring guys if he tried, but the Dodgers probably would have had to make some roster moves first. I know P.R. considerations wouldn’t let him name Manny manager for a day, but a boy can dream, can’t he? Ausmus on his future as a manager: “There are times when I think I’d like to do it, and there’s times when I think I’d like to walk away from a baseball stadium and never come back. But those are usually the days when I’m 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.” So what he’s saying is that the days he wants to walk away and never come back far outnumber the “I want to be a manager” days.

Mariners 4, Rangers 3: Griffey singled in his last at bat, cried a bit, tipped his cap and was carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders to wild ovations from the Seattle crowd. I don’t believe in fate or magic or most other metaphysical baloney, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the universe was telling you something, Junior. There’s no way you’ll ever have a better way to go out and you have absolutely zero to prove. So, unless the idea of retirement is positively poison to you, call a press conference, fly back to Seattle next opening day for the number retirement, and take your well-earned place in Valhalla.

And yes, that advice for Griffey is 100% calculated to make life easier for me to deal with the end of his career. He probably does not — and probably should not — give a crap.

Giants 4, Padres 3: Not that anyone listens to me when it comes to end-of-career advice anyway. The other day I thought that the Unit should take the weekend off, having his career end at his home park with a high five, a victory, and the cheer of hometown fans. Instead he pitches an inning on the road, blows a lead and has his bacon saved by Jeremy Affeldt, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval. Oh well, everything ends badly, or else it would never end.

Angels 5, Athletics 3: Has a team ever bounced back from as horrible an April as the Angels? We can’t know because the reasons for the horribleness are partially unquantifiable, but hats off to Anaheim for a great season regardless. I have no rooting interests in this year’s playoffs, and when that happens I tend to adopt a team. The Yankees and Red Sox are never going to be that team because they don’t need me and I don’t much like them. I have some historical issues with the Twins, and even if I didn’t, if they pull it out on Tuesday, their bandwagon is going to be pretty full. The Tigers are an old flame, but I can’t see myself getting involved with someone who doesn’t have their stuff together. The Phillies are my team’s division rival, and I can’t bring myself to root for them at any time before the World Series, and maybe not at all. The Cardinals and Dodgers made that list of teams to whom I could conceivably sell my allegiance and I am an NL guy at heart, but the Angels are at least shaping up to be the team I’d like to see come out of the AL.

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2: The regular season ends for Chicago. And the what-in-tarnation-are-we-going-to-do-about-Milton Bradley season begins.

Brewers 9, Cardinals 7: The stumble-to-the-finish-line Cardinals are set to face the stumble-to-the-finish-line Dodgers. It’s been nearly 20 years since I took a physics class, so someone is going to have to tell me what it is that happens when an eminently resistible force meets a totally movable object.

Phillies 7, Marlins 6: I’m not going to say that Philadelphia was thinking more about Colorado than Florida in this game, but they used eight pitchers and thirteen position players, none of whom were named Howard, Rollins or Utley. For what it’s worth, Hanley Ramirez wins the batting title, though that was decided a while ago.

Red Sox 12, Indians 7: Clay Buchholz gives up 13 runs in eight innings over his last two starts. In light of that, if you’re the Angels, you gotta be thinking “split at home, and we’re sitting pretty.” Game story: “Jason Bay did not make an error this season, becoming the fourth qualifying Red Sox outfielder with a 1.000 fielding percentage.” If Jason Bay finishing with a 1.000 fielding percentage does not make every last person finally reject fielding percentage as a legitimate measure of defensive prowess, nothing will.

Nationals 2, Braves 1: What an up and down year for the Braves. At least they enter an offseason with the good kinds of question marks (which of the six good starters we have will we keep? When will we call up our stud corner outfielder?) instead of the bad ones (is this the year Francoeur figures it out? Can anyone besides Chipper hit the ball?).

Reds 6, Pirates 4: The Pirates got shut out 17 times this sason. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that it wasn’t their year.

Mets 4, Astros 0: Mercifully, 2009 ends for the Mets. Even more mercifully, no one threw their back out or pulled their hamstring while cleaning out their locker.

Orioles 5, Blue Jays 4: For finishing the season with four straight wins and for avoiding 100 losses, the Orioles don’t get a “Homicide” quote: “You better calm yourself down before I haul off and smack you upside your wide, wide head. We killed your husband. And I ain’t your maid anymore b*tch. I’m your sister in crime!” I apologize if you haven’t seen that movie. I apologize even more if you have.

An so our revels now are ended. Oh, I’ll recap game 163 between the Twins and Tigers, and I’ll recap the playoff games too, but it’s just not the same. The playoffs bring a bothersome importance to everything. The kid of importance that saps this unimportant little feature of all of its fun.

Beginnings are nice. We get them every April. Endings are glorious. We’ll have one in a few weeks. Personally, however, I prefer the middles. A full slate of near-meaningless late-July Wednesday night games. The day-in-day out of it all. Broadcasts without extreme closeups and storylines. People doing things both heroic and ignominious every night that are basically forgotten by noon the next day because, hell, there’s another ballgame in a few hours. The playoffs are great in their own way, but nothing beats everyday baseball, and I am once again sad to see it go.

Thanks for checking in every morning, folks. We’ll have plenty to talk about all fall and winter, but really, it’s all about counting down until we get that slate of near-meaningless 15 games again next April 5th for which we can once again say: And That Happened.

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Comments

  1. MooseinOhio said...

    Craig – I greatly appreciate your sacrifice of sleep so I can enjoy my first cup of coffee in the office with ATH.

    Out of curiosity – during the ATH off-season do you talk to colleagues with references to movies quotes or do you hold them all in and hope to hell you can make it to April before exploding?  I am assuming that Mrs. Shyster has already developed her immunity to them and just gives you that ‘I love you honey but you’re a bit of a dork’ look.  I know the look because I get the ‘stop being corny’ look and the ‘please – I know what you want to say but I am begging you not to’ look.

  2. John Willumsen said...

    At times the baseball season can be like a good novel with a gripping plot—if you’re not careful, it’s easy to rush on, desperate to find out how the story ends. And in this mad dash toward the finish it is all too easy to miss out on the nuance and subtlety: the way the season meanders from chilly, sleety April night games, to sultry, lazy July afternoons, and on into crisp, clear September excitement; all too easy to forget the lessons that baseball teaches us, chief among which is the reminder that though each day brings its highs and lows, its terrors and joys, these are but fleeting feelings, soon to be replaced by the next day’s sorrows and saving graces. If we pay close attention, baseball can show us that beauty is in the details, but you can’t sweat the small stuff, that the overarching narrative is important, but let’s not get lost in it.

    ATH helps reinforce these points, helps to pull back and appreciate the unique quirks that make the game so great. I won’t say thanks for writing it (one doesn’t, after all, write for the enjoyment of the reader, but rather because there is something worth saying, some thought worth sharing) but I will say I’m grateful for it.

  3. Jack Marshall said...

    Craig: I’ll miss your sprightly AM summary, but will be too tired after staying up til 2 watching the Red Sox smoke the Angels to notice.

    By the way, I gave up on fielding percentage in 1968 when Ken Harrelson became the first Sox outfielder to have an errorless season. Bay is easily twice the fielder the Hawk was. (I must say, Bay’s fielding stats are a mystery to me. I know they show him as awful, but unlike Manny, Greenwell, and even Rice, Bay does not seem to fail to get to many catchable balls at all. He looks comfortable out there, plays the Wall well, has an accurate arm. I’m not disputing the stats, only saying that they surprise me.)

  4. Kelly said...

    It’s sad that I don’t know the season is really over until I read the last ATH.  Truly, your blog is fabulous.

    And there’s always room on the Twins bandwagon.  grin

  5. Jason B said...

    Thanks for your tireless work on ATH and everything else you do ‘round these parts.  And I know we dumped youse guys back in ‘92, but there’s plenty of room on the Jays bandwagon…*PLENTY*.

    Oh wait…you wanted a team that plays into October?  Move along, nothing to see here, move along…

  6. tbliggins said...

    Great work, Craig, even if it is done from Ohio.

    Don’t forget that the Arod bashing would still happen if he hits .500/.750/1.750 in the playoffs if the Yanks don’t win it all.

  7. Chuck said...

    Craig, +1 to the Thanks ledger. It’s always nice to have one more reason to interfere with the start of the workday.

  8. YankeesfanLen said...

    Through your judicious help, we’ve all had a great season.  Thanks Craig (and fellow handshakers)
    Glad to see you at the Blue Network this AM, means we’ll have a MMIE this PM>
    And thanks to (mostly) all for leaving ARod alone (mostly)

  9. hermitfool said...

    Excellent pieces on the end of the regular season, Craig and John. Thank you.

    Playoff time means baseball season is nearly done. But for me playoff season means loud-mouthed dolts like Tim McCarver in the broadcast booth, long “human interest” fluff interviews in the crowd while a baseball game is being played on the field, empty, smarmy suits, like Chip Caray and Joe Buck doing the play-by-play. Once the play-offs begin TV networks send in the big producer boys, who have no clue about baseball and assume the audience is as ignorant and as attention deficit as they are.

    If we could look forward to Vin Scully, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton or any of the less well-known broadcasters for local TV stations, who do an excellent job every day of addition by subtraction, the playoff season might be something to celebrate, instead of the death march of braying platitudes they have become.

  10. Jack Marshall said...

    The problem, Hermit, is that the networks have to “dumb down” the post-season coverage and try to educate an audience largely ignorant of the game, the teams, and the season. This makes even good broadcasters insipid: when Jon Miller did play-by-play for the O’s and Red Sox, later the Giants, he could be terrific. Even McCarver can be perceptive. On a network, Scully’s just left with his catch phrases. Why can’t ESPN or someone have a separate feed for people who follow the game, and don’t have to have the basics spoon-fed to them? Who don’t need “the story-line” spelled out? I don’t need to hear about Jon Lester’s cancer,CC and A-Rod’s past play-off woes, how great Mariano is, about Papelbon doing the damn jig, the travails of the Angels against the Sox in October and the story about the demise of the team’s fallen young pitcher, about Manny’s suspension and Brad Lidge’s collapse. I know all that, so do you. Surely there would be a substantial audience for a broadcast that omitted all the old crap. No?

  11. Will said...

    Thanks from me as well, Craig.

    As for the AL, I’m actively hostile to both the Red Sox and Yankees, so I’m rooting for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (etc.) as well. It strikes me as interesting that they have been a very good team for the last several years, manhandling the AL West on a regular basis, but they don’t seem to get much press buzz about it. There are times when you’d be forgiven for thinking that the AL only consisted of the East—and that only two of those teams mattered.

  12. Jack Marshall said...

    I have to say, the hostility toward the Red Sox amazes me. They are notably absent actively repugnant players, now that Manny and, for some, Schilling are gone. (Papelbon may be the exception.)  Many are outright admirable. The manager is engaging. The team has given Bill James some of the respect and credibility he deserves. The fans at Fenway are respectful of the game and knowledgeable. They aren’t front-runners, having followed the team loyally and in force since 1967. There are individual jerks, but they are not the rule. The team’s payroll is not at a different order of magnitude from most of the successful teams. Their announcers aren’t outrageous homers, like, say, the O’s and Yankee broadcasters. I don’t get it.

  13. Greg Simons said...

    Thank you, Craig, for making it fun every morning during baseball season to review the previous day’s happenings on the field.  I’m sure I would have missed out on a ton of stuff without ATH.

    And Cards-Dodgers should be something like pudding vs. Jell-o.  Nah, Jell-o’s too firm.  Maybe cottage cheese.

  14. YX said...

    Well, they win, that’s the problem.

    When they win, by definition other teams lose. And those who not follow the Red Sox don’t like their teams losing.

  15. Bob Timmermann said...

    Brad Ausmus was 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts just 11 times in his career. He hadn’t had that line since 2003.

  16. puck said...

    “The day-in-day out of it all…The playoffs are great in their own way, but nothing beats everyday baseball, and I am once again sad to see it go.”

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. 

    I join the chorus of thanks, Craig.

  17. Kevin S. said...

    Jack, perhaps I’m biased as a Yankee fan, but Youkilis pisses the #### out of me, and not just a player on the field.  JD Drew, for one reason or another, has alienated a couple fan bases, and he’s generally seen as a poster child for what’s wrong with a sabermetric viewpoint, but I have no qualms with him personally (as an aside, any Sox fan who has read Joe Pos’ recent blog posts on Drew and Theo needs to do so.  Like, now.  The rest of my boring post will still be here when you’re done).  Pedroia suffers a Jeter-esque syndrome, where the way he’s covered in the media grates on people more than anything he actually does.  Papelbon you mentioned, and as someone else mentioned, winning breeds contempt.  As a Yankee fan, I could look at their roster and wonder the same thing.  Who’s there to hate?  A-Rod for his past antics (though he’s been milquetoast this year, and I couldn’t be happier), Joba because Goose Gossage doesn’t like that he shows emotion, Jeter again for the media hype… I mean, who else on the team is really hateable for reasons other than being better than *insert favorite team*‘s option at the position?

    On a completely different note, if you haven’t read K-Law’s Yankee scouting report, please do so.  The MAORP paragraph is quite possibly the funniest thing in a not-sad way I’ve read on the four-letter this season.

  18. Jack Marshall said...

    Kevin: I agree completely about the Yankees: with the exception of A-Rod, who gets more crap than he deserves, and Joba, who does appear to be a jerkola, the rest of the team is class personified. I think disliking Pedroia is like disliking Jeter or Rose (as a player.) He plays the game right, pugnaciously, hard, smart, intense. Ditto Youkilis.

  19. Dan Greer said...

    I thought we had the fielding percentage argument settled back in 2004, when Carlos Lee played an errorless LF for 148 games. Go figure.

    Clearly, like Lee, this gives Bay the well-earned right to butcher up LF for the next 5+ seasons.

  20. fordprefect said...

    My interest in baseball wanes with the onset of the playoffs as well. Pleasantly surprised to know others feel that way. Thanks for writing, it’s very much appreciated.

  21. Gerry said...

    As to whether a team has ever bounced back from as horrible an April as this year’s Angels, the 1981 Royals were 3-10 in April and got into the postseason. Maybe that doesn’t count; that was a strike year, and they got in by winning the division in the 2nd half.

    The 1914 Braves were 2-7 in April (and 3-16 at the end of play on 16 May) and famously won the pennant and the World Series.

    By way of comparison, this year’s Angels were 9-12 in April. Their low point would have been 25 April, when they were 6-11.

  22. will said...

    Jack, I’ll tell you why I’m hostile to the Red Sox. It doesn’t have much to do with the players, its more to do with the fans. Once they got over the “Curse of the Bambino,” all kinds of bandwagon fans came out of the woodwork. In my experience, these fans tend to be incredibly obnoxious, at least as bad as the worst of the Yankees fanbase, I point you to the goons that infest Craig’s NBC comment threads as evidence.
    It may be I’m just prejudiced, but I devoutly wish for a baseball season when the AL East is dominated by the O’s, the Rays, and the Blue Jays. (Preferably in that order.)

  23. Kevin S. said...

    Some of the latter Torre teams in New York got off to abysmal starts, though I don’t know if they were ever five under through 17 or three under through 21.

  24. Kevin S. said...

    Yeah, the ‘05 Yanks were 11-19 on May 6, nine games back.  They won 95 games and the division.  The ‘07 version was 21-29 on May 29, fourteen and a half back.  They won 94 games, the Wild Card, and finished two back in the division.

  25. Jack Marshall said...

    Agree: All bandwagon fans are objectionable, regardless of loyalty. And cheering for the visitors has to be done with delicacy and relative restraint.

  26. Kevin S. said...

    “And cheering for the visitors has to be done with delicacy and relative restraint.”

    You mean I was being a douche when I went into Fenway in ‘03 and chanted “1918!”

    Hey, in my defense, I was still in high school.  I didn’t know any better.

  27. Kevin S. said...

    I take that back, it was either ‘01 or ‘02.  And they were losing to the Tigers.  The then-putrid Tigers.  And they had a “Yankees Suck!” chant going.  I had to do something about it.

  28. Jack Marshall said...

    Yes, Kevin, I’m afraid it’s true: you were a douche. And as we’ve established here, I should know.

  29. Daniel said...

    Thanks for ATH, Craig, and I’m glad to welcome you aboard the good ship Angels for the playoffs, even if it was by default.  We can always use one more person incredulously gasping in horror as Scioscia’s seemingly defensible playoff gets blown to smithereens by the Red Sox.

    Yes, I’m preparing myself for the worst.  But I’m still confident that this is the year.

    Maybe.

  30. APBA Guy said...

    Craig-

    Thanks from the Left Coast for including us in your daily snark-fest. Out here in “Detroit with Sunshine”, as we gravitate towards a work-free lifestyle, we sometimes don’t get to your blog until the East Coast guys have all gone home.

    But it’s always the first thing I look at, and the chance to add a snippet or two about the beloved A’s (14th in team OPS, 11th in team ERA, the very definition of mediocrity) makes ATH most enjoyable.

    We’ll be watching for your other posts until next April.

  31. The Rabbit said...

    Although I may have some competition, I am your biggest fan. As I’ve said before, if I ever hit the lottery, I will become your patron and you can write full time.
    The end of the regular season is definitely a letdown. I, too, adopted the Angels as my playoff team to watch (with the sound turned off).
    And to Jack: Why do people “hate” the Red Sox and Yankees? Let me begin by saying that I’m a former Bostonian so I don’t hate the Red Sox or even the Yankees for that matter. I love baseball…period.
    I’m a native Philadelphian and there is no one more obnoxious than a Philadelphia sports fan in his/her venue; therefore, I won’t attribute it to the fan base.
    I’d say that it is simply a matter of the haves and have nots.  Both teams have the capital to buy anything and anyone it wants. As Bronson Arroyo stated in his interview, he believed that George would be happy to lose $10 million if the Yankees won the Series and that Steinbrenner was the only owner with that commitment.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth. It’s a common perception and perception is truth to many people.
    Fans of other teams whose owners have Walmart mentality, are in the middle of costly divorces, lose money to Madoff, owned by media conglomerates who may be more concerned with shareholder dividends than the the team, etc. are envious of the Yankee/Red Sox ownership.
    The question is: Would someone with that kind of money buy a team in a smaller market just for the love of baseball and not for asset appreciation? If I had that kind of money, I would. You can’t take it with you..but then people think I’m nuts anyway.

  32. Jack Marshall said...

    Rabbit: I wonder why people say that about Boston resources. If the Red Sox really were inclined to pay anything and price was no object, they would have broken the bank to keep Teixeira from the Yankees, because the Yankees really needed him.  The Sox are 4th in total salary, 21 million, or less than one Manny Ramirez, ahead of the Dodgers at #9. The Yankees are 80 million ahead of Boston in total salary. The two teams’ salaries were closer in the Seventies. Boston’s smaller than many of the markets below them. The key difference is that baseball is central to Boston and New England culture.

  33. YankeesfanLen said...

    @Jack and Rabbit-
        I’m inclined to agree with some of both your points, in that the Yankees appear and do more to keep and maintain their competitiveness. And so does Boston. And so does Philadelphia who do it to keep ahead of the woefully mis-managed Mets, who have almost always managed to throw hugh amounts down the outhouse.
        I would like Rabbit to win PowerBall, MegaMillions etc and start to use their windfall from revenue sharing to make a great triumberant in Pittsburgh, where it would be greatly appreciated and supported.
        It is fun to ceaselessly encourage a favorite team and to know why you’re doing it. Geography aside all fans have the same cross section as society as a whole.  This is just like the difference between ShysterBall and the gang that hangs at CTB. It’s a matter of which intellectual level you choose to participate.  And if it’s both, that’s fine too.
        Now, leave ARod alone and stopping deifying Jeter simultaneously. (Had to get that in)

  34. Chris Simonds said...

    Craig,

    Thanks for seeing us through another year. I am having withdrawal symptoms already.

    PS – I detect continuing anti-Canadian bias in in all this Jason Bay bashing. Shame on you!

  35. The Rabbit said...

    @Jack and Len
    Jack: Of course, you are absolutely correct, but nothing that people “think” should surprise you. As I said, perception is truth, not fact. (I’m avoiding political simile here at all cost, even though I know Craig would agree it.) Perception: Just because the BoSox doesn’t have the highest payroll doesn’t mean they couldn’t if they made that choice.
    In my travels around the US, I found that most people outside of New England have no clue regarding Boston’s population or surrounding areas. Geography is clearly not a strong point in this country. They assume it’s smaller than NYC but not by much. It’s amazing how many people think Boston has a larger population than Philly unless, of course, they think that Philadelphia is a State.
    It’s all perception and you can see it when you read the comments (if you have the stomach for it) at CTB.
    Len: Thank you, thank you.  I think owning the Pirates would be great fun and give me the perfect excuse to move back to the Northeast, too.  Your comments are always insightful and crack me up at the same time.  Rare quality.  BTW..I’m eternally grateful to A-Rod’s performance yesterday. He’s a wonderful person and credit to the human race. His two HR’s more than clinched my fantasy team’s 1st place finish. (Equal time here: Big Papi’s been my 1st baseman since the end of June.)

  36. Kevin S. said...

    I also think people sometimes use market size as a proxy for revenue streams.  Boston has maxed the #### out potential revenue streams.  This is something that they’ve earned, and it shouldn’t be held against them, but they have managed to generate a situation where their revenue is disproportionately large relative to their market size, so while it’s correct to say they aren’t the biggest of markets, they do have one of the largest revenue streams.  Again, they’ve earned that, and I don’t think they should be required to plow punitive amounts of it back into the slackass teams.

  37. Wade said...

    Thanks Craig.  Humorous insight again takes the day.  Every…freakin…day.  Be good.

    Happy Monday everybody!

  38. Bob Tufts said...

    Craig – can you take over volokh.com during the off-season? He’s getting a little wobbly regarding the fourth amendment lately.

    Thanks for not merely keeping your day job to entertain us. I’ll miss this while undergoing stem cell procedures in the next two weeks!

  39. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Sorry Bob, three jobs + family is enough for me. Mr. Volokh will have to do the best he can.

    Thanks for the kind words. And good luck with the stem cell stuff. I’ll be thinkin’ about you.

  40. Michael Caragliano said...

    I just love the fact that, for the next six months, A-Rod gets his name beside Mark McGwire in the record books. You couldn’t’ve planned the symmetry any better- two of the biggest names of the ‘roid era tied on the home run list. In typical A-Rod fashion, he’ll hit 26 next year to match Sosa. Oh well, now he can focus on his 2-for-15 ALDS and helping Kate Hudson pick the carpet for the apartment.

  41. Julian said...

    Thanks Craig! ATH is a nice little morning ritual. Kinda like a sarcastic narrative box score without all the pesky details.

  42. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    Craig, thanks for yet another season of ATH and all the other great stuff you do here.

    The random references, the *hint* of snark, the love of tweaking Yankee fan-boys… all help make the long season a fun one here.

    Thanks.

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