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Clemens, the AL’s big weekend, Perfect games, no hitters, and one hitters galore, and much more from a big week in baseball.

Not Guilty?

On Monday afternoon the sad and embarrassing saga of Roger Clemens‘ perjury trial was put to an end.  The “not guilty” verdict that was handed on down on all six counts brought against Clemens by the Federal Government.  This verdict effectively ends Clemens’ legal battles regarding whether he did or did not use PED’s but the in the court of public opinion he will be tried for decades. To judge whether or not the Federal Government “wasted” millions in taxpayer money isn’t really appropriate. Federal Prosecutors have a job to do, and in an ideal world must bring charges against those who they feel have violated Federal Statutes. In what is now and forever will be known as the “steroid era”, it has become obvious to just about everyone that the use of PED’s was rampant and that some of the baseball’s all-time greats used these PED’s.  Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Andy Pettite have all been linked to PED use.  Whether or not these players are voted into the Hall Of Fame is a question that only time can answer.  My feeling about whether or not these players will be voted into the Hall Of Fame is that eventually they all who deserve to be in the Hall Of Fame based on their numbers will be voted in.  They’ll all  be “punished” by the writers by not being voted into the Hall Of Fame in their first year of eligibility and possibly for as long as a decade.  At some point though, I believe that the perspective that time will provide will soften the view on these players and their actions enough to allow their entry into Cooperstown.  They’ll get their yearly visits to the gathering on the famed veranda at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, where Chef Gregory will prepare them an incredible meal while they sip beverages looking out over Otsego Lake.

Nothing about this era, its criminal trials, apologies, or aftermath has been positive for the sport. Its causes can’t be traced to one specific event or person. Every player who used PED’s had his own reasons and rationalizations for doing so and to those who think that all or most of the violators have been named? I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you very cheap. It is normal and expected for people to want to blame someone or something for this era. Selig and the owners? Yes, it is very safe to assume that some of them had an idea about what was going on. The players themselves? Of course,  They knew what they were doing to their bodies.

While many have stated that players were forced to do this to compete and keep up with those looking to take their jobs, it isn’t a good enough reason.  Lets just make sure that we all take a look at ourselves before we assign that blame. While there were a scant few who hinted that perhaps all was not kosher with the increase in home runs, batting averages, and speed of fastballs in MLB during this era, most of us wanted to believe that this was legitimate.  Most fans and writers looked the other way and suppressed that little voice in their head that was saying “this isn’t possible”. Did I know that it wasn’t logical that all of a sudden guys named McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were suddenly supposed to possess so much power? Yes, I did. Did I know that most pitchers weren’t all of a sudden supposed to be humming fastballs in the mid to high 90′s? Yes, I did.  Did I push these thoughts back deep into my mind? Yes, I did, and I don’t think I’m different from anyone else. Most of us loved the exciting power, action, and performances that this era provided us as fans and we didn’t protest or call these performances into question. It is my fervent belief that most people who express anger and outrage over what these players did are really just as angry at themselves for being taken in by this era.

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A.J. Burnett’s Effect on the Yankees


A.J. Burnett has been one huge rollercoaster ride for the Yankees over the last three years. Most of it has been disappointment, which makes people forget that he has had good moments. This is a very appropriate time to write this article, considering there is a chance Burnett may not be in the Yankees rotation this year.  While Burnett’s contract is now seen as an albatross, he did help deliver the Yankees to a World Series championship. That contract is holding the Yankees back now for sure, but it has not been restricting the Yankees as much as people would think over the last three years.

How much would the Yankees be different had they not signed A.J. Burnett? Who would they have spent that money on? In 2009, it came down to A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe as pitchers the Yankees wanted to sign to go along with CC Sabathia.  Lowe pitched egregious in Atlanta for three years, and would not have been a better signing than Burnett. In three years for the Braves Lowe went 40-39, with a 4.57 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP. Burnett’s numbers were not much better if any, but his 2009 season alone makes him for successful than Lowe ever was.

Now in 2010, the Yankees offered Cliff Lee more money than humanly possible with Burnett on the roster. They could not have offered him any more money, so Burnett had no effect on Cliff Lee not being a Yankee.  There was no other free agent pitcher in 2010 that would have made a huge difference. The Yankees may have made a run at Carl Crawford if they did not have Burnett, which would have been a mistake considering what he did for Boston last season. However, maybe without Burnett’s presence Cashman would have been more aggressive then he was in trading for a starting pitcher, before he acquired Michael Pineda. Cashman might have been able to acquire Cliff Lee or Dan Haren in a trade if he was more aggressive.

This year maybe the Yankees sign C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish to an A.J. Burnett like contract if Burnett was not here. I would not have been crazy about that either. Even though the Burnett contract was a mistake, there does not seem like there were a whole lot of great free agent starting pitcher options over the last three offseasons. However, if the Burnett contract does not allow them to sign Matt Cain or Cole Hamels next offseason it would be a big issue.

While Burnett has been a huge disappointment, the Yankees do not win the World Series without him in 2009. That is a fact. He saved the Yankees with a huge clutch performance in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series.  Burnett went 7 innings, allowed only 1 run, 4 hits, and had 9 strikeouts. If Burnett does not come through, the Yankees would have lost the first two games at home, and lost the World Series.  Burnett also won game two’s in the ALDS and ALCS, while throwing stinkers in both game five’s as well. In the last two years Burnett has represented himself pretty well in the postseason as well. He was pitching well against Texas in 2010, but Joe Girardi left him in to long and gave up the lead to Bengie Molina on a homerun. Burnett saved the Yankees season for one day last year by pitching winning well against the Tigers. Say what you want about Burnett, but he has come through in the clutch for the Yankees at times. This does not make him a complete bust, like say Carl Pavano.  Burnett has at least given the Yankees an average of 194 innings for 3 years, which is more than Pavano can say. Those innings are a lot tougher to replace than many people realize.

Obviously Burnett has done things over these past three years that drive you crazy. He has had unbearable stretches that make you really scratch your head. He has also had a sorry attitude at times, and has cursed the manager out when walking off the mound.  He has had times where he could not find the plate no matter what. Unfortunately at this stage in his career he is what he is, and is unlikely to change.  All of this had made Yankees fans despise him, and rightfully so.  However, Yankee fans should also not forget that he did help deliver a championship that the Yankees had been seeking desperately for.

Morning Bits: Free agents 2013, Curious off-season, Oswalt, A-Rod,

Good Morning all it’s already Mid-Week so that’s exciting.  We are getting closer to Friday and to find out what the Yankees will be doing with Nakajima.  From all the reports though it seems that he will be going back to Japan.

Let’s get right to the links.

* The Yankees are saving now for a potential splash next winter.  Some great options in the 2013 class of free-agents.

* They Bombers curious off-season leads to many questions, few answers. IMO it also lead to a lot of head scratching.

* Yankee and Cardinals have interest in Roy Oswalt.  Please please be true.  Let’s lock him up Cashman.

* Batting coach Kevin Long says A-Rod is determined and focused.  Well that’s good to hear.  The Yankees also believe that A-Rod is at full strength.

Angels a better fit than Yanks for Wilson


C.J. Wilson had an interest in the New York Yankees, if not for nothing more than to drive up his price. Wilson tried to set up a meeting with the Yankees, but the Yankees denied him.  As a result, the market for Wilson was not as good as he probably anticipated.Wilson ended up signing a 5 yr, 77 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Yankees were wise to lay off him, but I do feel as though he is a pretty good fit for the Angels.

I felt as though C.J. Wilson would be vastly overpaid by somebody due to the fact that he was the best pitcher in an extremely weak starting pitching market.  However, his awful postseason hurt him in a major way.Wilson was 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA despite the Rangers making the World Series. I see him more as a number 3 pitcher which is exactly why he was a good fit for the Angels and not the Yankees. With the Angels, Wilson can slide nicely behind Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.  That should limit the pressure on him along with Albert Pujols taking a lot of it.  With the Yankees Wilson would be forced into a pressurized situation as the number 2 starter. He showed last year in the postseason that he may not be able to live up to that. He is not the guy the Yankees are looking for in my opinion, so they made the right decision in not paying a guy they are not sure about into his mid 30s.

I do believe Wilson will have success for the Angels because the fit is a lot better for him.  Some players are not right for the Yankees, but are right for a lot of other places. Brian Cashman has chosen to not to throw out money this offseason and so far he has done a nice job of being patient. Cole Hamels and Matt Cain are much better free agent options next offseason. Cashman does still need to improve the rotation and it will be interesting to see what he does.

Several Interesting Rumors: Cain, Garcia, Wilson, Haren

Yesterday, Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest dished out some pretty interesting rumors regarding the Yankees. I’ll recap them in this post. Now, I’m really not sure about the overall reliability of these rumors. However if they are true, then they are very interesting. I did look through the comments at River Ave. Blues, and Steve S. of The Yankee Analysts was adamant that the author, Frank Russo, has always had a rock solid source, “very tied in to baseball matters with the Yanks.” Keeping that in mind, here we go…

— Russo wrote that the Yankees made an offer of four players for Matt Cain of the Giants, that included at least 1 position player and several minor-league pitchers. The deal was quickly turned down. Some of the names that were reportedly tossed around were: Jesus Montero, Nick Swisher, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Hector Noesi.

— He says that in Tampa, the word on the street is that Freddy Garcia will not be the only starting pitching acquisition, and that it wasn’t really a “value signing”. Russo says that Garcia could be utilized both as a starter or a long reliever. “They also love his clubhouse presence as he was a mentor to Ivan Nova.”

— Russo states that although there have been no numbers tossed around, the Yankees “could” offer CJ Wilson one of two types: (1) a 5 year contract with an opt-out option, (2) a 4 year contract with several vesting option years. They reportedly feel their main competition for Wilson is the Angels’ aggressive GM, Jerry DiPoto.

— He mentions that rumors are starting up that the Angels may make Dan Haren available. Russo says the Yankees would really like to acquire him, but “the belief down in Tampa is that DiPoto will only trade Haren to the Yankees for several ‘top tier’ prospects, (think Montero/Romine and Betances/Warren).”

State of the Yankees Rotation

The much maligned 2011 New York Yankees starting rotation exceeded all expectations. It was the reason most prognosticators picked the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East. However, nobody expected a rookie of the year campaign for Ivan Nova, or renaissance years from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees finished a very respectable 4th in the AL in team ERA, with a 3.73 team ERA.   The starting rotation also pitched well in October, with the notable exception of CC Sabathia, and once again was not the reason the Yankees went home early. Yet, Brian Cashman has gone into this offseason, like last offseason, looking to improve the starting rotation.

In my opinion, I think we can expect a pretty similar rotation to last year’s.  This year’s crop of free agents is extremely weak.  The Yankees already got their main job done by extending CC Sabathia’s contract. Sabathia did the Yankees a favor by not going to free agency, and potentially getting a 7 year offer that Cashman would have been hesitant to match.  Sabathia vowed to come to spring training in better shape, so he does not falter down the stretch again. Ivan Nova stepped up and proved to be a capable number two starter.  Nova had a sparkling rookie year going 16-4, with a 3.70 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP.  The development of Nova’s slider as a put away pitch catapulted him down the stretch. However, in a perfect world, the Yankees would find a starter to slide in between Sabathia and Nova. That pitcher is not a free agent right now, unless the Yankees see Japanese star Yu Darvish as that guy. However, that guy may be available at the trade deadline, or in next year’s free agency class. Cole Hamels and Matt Cain are ideal candidates.  Dan Haren and James Shields would also make great candidates if their team options are not picked up.

Now that we have dealt with the top of the rotation we will move onto the bottom. This is where you will probably see the Yankees add a starting pitcher. The Yankees have been linked to Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, and Hiroki Kuroda already, but it is was too early to get a sense of what Cashman will do. The Yankees and Freddy Garcia also seem to have a mutual interest in putting a deal together to resign Garcia for next year.  I would have no issue with Garcia returning as a back of the rotation pitcher. Garcia can get by on his smarts and guile alone, especially against young and free swinging teams.  It is when he faces the patient teams that will make him throw strikes, is when you are worried.  If Garcia could repeat his year of 12-8, with a 3.62 ERA, and a 1.34 WHIP the Yankees would love it. Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are two Yankees who can help the rotation if they can pitch to their capabilities.  Hughes will have to earn his spot in spring training, especially since the Yankees will probably bring in at least one pitcher via free agency or trade, other than Freddy Garcia.  Hughes struggled with injuries, fastball velocity, and putting hitters away in 2011. However, he did have his best stuff in the playoffs. so perhaps that can carry over. Like it or not, A.J. Burnett will more than likely have a spot in next year’s rotation based on his contract.  Burnett’s last two years have been brutal, posting ERA’s over 5.00 in each of them, and walking what seems like a village per start. Burnett does have two shining moments in his Yankees career. He did pitch the biggest game in the 2009 World Series by getting the Yankees a split at home. If he stinks up the joint there, the Yankees are probably still searching for their first title since 2000. Also, Burnett came through big time by extending the Yankees’ season in game 4 of the ALDS last year. One can only hope that will give him some confidence going into next year, but unfortunately that is probably wishful thinking.

Again, I do not see any huge changes with the Yankees starting staff heading into the year. I see Sabathia and Nova as obvious locks and Burnett is pretty close to one. Another spot I see going to a new pitcher, and the last one going to Hughes, or a resigned Freddy Garcia. I would also expect the Yankees to add that number two starter to place in between Sabathia and Nova at the trade deadline, or next year in free agency. If the starting rotation can repeat what they did last year the Yankees would almost surely sign for it.  They boast the one of the league’s top offenses and one of the top bullpens to help take the burden off the rotation.  The Yankees will rely on the continued growth of their rotation to have success in the 2012 season.

Giants’ lefty Jonathan Sanchez, traded to Royals

Giants’ lefty Jonathan Sanchez, traded to Royals

by Mike D.

The Royals acquired San Francisco left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, and a minor-league starter, for former-Yank Melky Cabrera. It had been rumored that Sanchez would either be traded or non-tendered by the Giants. If it wasn’t for his control issues, he would be a very good fit for the Yankees, as evidenced by his strikeout rates (9.4 K/9) and platoon numbers against lefties (.210 AVG / .300 OBP / .342 SLG). This basically diminishes the chance that the Yankees could acquire Matt Cain in a trade, as the Giants now have one less starter. I laid out the case for targeting Cain last week. A trade for the San Francisco right-hander would probably have been unlikely, anyway.

Hot Stove Targetting: Matt Cain

The San Francisco Giants were able to win the 2010 World Series largely because of their tremendous starting pitching. They had a young group of electric starters, including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner. With their 2010 victory, the Giants looked well poised to make another run at it this year. However, the team declined greatly in the second half of 2011, and San Francisco didn’t even make the playoffs. One of their problems, is that they are offensively deprived. Because of this, GM Brian Sabean may be open to trading some of their plentiful starting pitching for offensive production. The name that pops out, besides Lincecum (who is untouchable), is Matt Cain.

Positives

Since 2007, Matt Cain has been one of the top pitchers in the National League. Cain has averaged roughly 211 innings pitched, each year, since his first full year of 2006. When looking at his stats, one thing that immediately jumps out is consistency. Since 2007, Cain has either maintained or improved his BB/9, K/9, HR/9, and H/9 every single year, with only a few minor exceptions.

BB/9 K/9 HR/9 H/9
2007 3.56 7.34 0.63 7.8
2008 3.76 7.69 0.79 8.5
2009 3.02 7.07 0.91 7.6
2010 2.46 7.13 0.89 7.3
2011 2.56 7.27 0.37 7.2

Throughout Cain’s career he has kept his platoon splits very much the same. Right-handed batters have hit Cain for .228 AVG / .295 OBP / .365 SLG, while left-handed hitters are similarly hitting .227 AVG / .301 OBP / .359 SLG. One thing we’re looking for is the ability to get lefties out just as easily as right-handed batters. We all know what a short porch right field is at Yankee Stadium, so a right-hander who struggles against lefties is of little desire. Matt Cain is not that way, as evidenced by his platoon splits. And, although he has been pitching in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark, his numbers on the road are still pretty darn good: .236 AVG / .307 OBP / .376 SLG. Another great quality of Cain’s is his consistency throughout the season.

ERA WHIP K/BB
March/April 3.38 1.23 1.83
May 3.71 1.26 2.00
June 3.44 1.23 2.39
July 3.05 1.2 2.10
August 3.01 1.16 2.92
September/October 3.53 1.12 2.5

Unlike certain pitchers the Yankees have, cough-cough-A.J.-cough, Cain seems to pitch well in every single month of the season. There are no Burnett-Augusts, etc. Consistency goes a long-way in stabilizing a rotation.

As far as Cain’s repertoire goes, he has three above-average pitches: a low-nineties fastball (90-94mph), a mid-eighties slider, and an excellent change-up of about the same speed. He also features a curveball, but it is an overall lesser pitch.

FB SL CH CV
Usage 63.9 12.7 11.9 11.3
Mph 92.4 85.8 85.5 77.9
+/- 14.6 2.5 4.2 -1.

A huge factor of the Yankees’ search for starting pitching, postseason pitching. Although the sample size isn’t too big, Matt Cain has started 3 games in the postseason, all in 2010, and pitched tremendously well. He did not pitch less than 6 innings in one start, and didn’t even allow an earned run. Cain certainly came in the clutch for San Francisco in the playoffs, and that is exactly what the Yanks are looking for.

Negatives

If you were to only read the positives from above, Cain would be the perfect pitcher for the Yankees to acquire. However, unfortunately, Matt Cain is not a perfect fit for the Yanks. Earlier, I mentioned how he has been pitching in an extremely pitcher-friendly ballpark. Cain is a pitcher that would be classified as a moderate strike-out, fly-ball pitcher. Although by a slim margin, he gave up more ground-balls than fly-balls this past season, in other years, Cain has been a decisively fly-ball pitcher.

GB/FB GB% FB%
2007 0.89 39.4 44.5
2008 0.76 33.2 44
2009 0.92 38.9 42.4
2010 0.78 36.2 46.6
2011 1.07 41.7 38.9

Because Yankee Stadium is an undoubtedly hitters-ballpark, fly-ball pitchers typically don’t fare too well. However, there is such thing as pitching-to-the-score, or in this case, pitching-to-the-field. One of the reasons Cain has such a high fly-ball rate, is that he knows he can get away with giving up fly-balls. If he were traded to the Yankees, Cain would absolutely have to make adjustments.
One last disadvantage of trading for Matt Cain, is that he will be a free agent after this coming 2012 season. That means, if a trade was made, you would be giving up prospects for 1 year of Cain. You could, however, give the “Cliff Lee Argument”, that by letting him get a year’s taste of New York, you increase your chances of re-signing him in the 2012-2013 off-season.

A Fit for the Yanks?

In my honest opinion, despite the negatives I brought up above, Matt Cain would be an excellent fit for the Yankees needs. Although he may give up more home-runs, the really good pitchers adjust their game, and I believe Cain could do that. He would bring stability and consistency to the Yankees’ #2 spot. These are qualities you simply aren’t assured by other potential free agent / trade targets out there.

From the Giants’ Perspective

Matt Cain is in line to make $15MM this next year. There have been indications that the Giants will not be in the running for big-time offensive free agents like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. However, that could change, as the Giants will need improved offense if they want a shot at winning next year. They might possible trade Cain and his $15MM contract to someone, to clear up room to spend on Pujols or Fielder, to improve over Aubrey Huff. It makes even more sense for the Giants to trade Cain, considering his contract his up after next season.

Cost for Yanks?

The Yankees would likely have to give up a considerable amount of talent for Cain. Think somewhere in line with Cleveland’s deal for Ubaldo Jimenez. I really do not want to trade Montero unless it is for someone who is a clear #1, like King Felix, or Cliff Lee, for that matter. One possible route would be to pick up Nick Swisher’s option and include him in a trade for Cain. Carlos Beltran is a free agent, and the Giants will have to replace him. They have a very good prospect in Brandon Belt who played a good amount of left-field for them last year, so Swisher could complete their outfield along with center-fielder Andres Torres. San Francisco did lose their top pitching prospect, Zach Wheeler, trading for Beltran, so throw in Dellin Betances and you’re certainly getting somewhere. The only players I would hesitate to put in a deal for Cain would be Montero and Banuelos.

Overall, I would love for the Yankees to trade for Matt Cain, for the right price. If San Francisco asks for Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, or a combination of both, then I’d hang up right there. Remember, you’d only be getting a guaranteed one year of Cain. Although there are distinct disadvantages to Cain (i.e. his GB/FB rate), in my opinion he is just the reliable #2 the Yankees need.

Not the offseason for change

The Yankees concluded their 2011 season in a way that is all too familiar to us. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the sting of yet another brutal first round exit from the playoffs.  This one hurts a lot because it was all lined up so perfectly. We had Mariano Rivera and David Robertson available for two innings each, and we were coming home with momentum.  All we needed was one big hit and we could not get it. That is the main difference between the Yankees dynasty of the 90s and the last decade. Those teams had players like Bernie, Brosius, Tino, O’Neill, and Jeter who raised their game from the regular season to the playoffs. The teams of the last decade have had better regular seasons than postseasons.  However, another disappointing playoff series does not mean that this team should make radical changes this off-season.

Brian Cashman has always said you cannot make decisions based solely on the postseason. He is absolutely correct. The sample size is way too small to be considered worth more than the regular season. Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez obviously were the main goats of this postseason and. The only one of those three you could do anything with is Swisher.  Let’s say hypothetically, you do not pick up Swisher’s option, and you replace him with Michael Cuddyer.  You cannot guarantee me Cuddyer, or any other replacement, would hit in the playoffs. There is no possible way of knowing. However, I do know that Swisher will produce better in the regular season based on a larger sample size. Plus his 10 million dollar option is cheap and you can go out and find somebody else next year.  As for Teixeira and Rodriguez you have to hope they dedicate themselves this off-season to get better.  Teixiera needs to improve his mechanics from the left side as his line of .218/.327/.462/.788 suggests. Rodriguez needs to develop an exercise routine that can help him stay on the field.  Signing Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder to big bucks is not the answer with all money they have tied into Teixiera and Rodriguez. Texeira and Rodriguez improving is the only option.

This is also not the off-season for radical change because of the big free agent class next year.  Matt Kemp is an elite outfielder who could potentially replace Swisher. He is a five tool player and is only 27. He makes much more sense than Pujols or Fielder would.  Stud pitchers also will be available like Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Grienke, John Danks, Shaun Marcum, and potentially Dan Haren and James Shields. Some of these guys may also be available at next year’s trade deadline. This is why the Yankees should not blow their money on C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish this off-season. Sure they will need to sign or trade for a pitcher or two, but it does not have to be for major money. It is also why the Yankees do not have to go completely all out to extend CC Sabathia. I say 6 years at 150 million is a good meeting point. If Sabathia is dead set on 7 years letting him walk is probably the better option. The long term risk of a man who is close to 300 pounds is scary. All those innings will have to take its toll at some point right? Th St.Louis Cardinals are proved you do not need outstanding starting pitch to win a championship. You can win with clutch hitting and an outstanding bullpen. The Texas Rangers also got to the World Series without great starting pitching. So I would defiantly try to extend Sabathia, but it is not a necessity.

This Yankee team needs fine tuning this off-season and not a major overhaul. Winning 97 games in the AL East this year was a major accomplishment and should not be taken lightly. That is the sample size that you should trust more. The postseason is a complete crap shoot that can never be predicted.  However, if next year we have similar results in the postseason, we can consider more major moves because there will be elite players out there.  The outlook for the Yankees next year is bright and winning the World Series should be within our reach.

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