Tag: Baltimore

Al Bumbry Got a Bum Deal in the 1973 MVP Vote

First in an 11-part series about the vagaries of awards voting.

Al Bumbry rightfully earned American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1973. However, as arguably a division champion’s best hitter, he received not a single vote for Most Valuable Player.

Naysayers might counter that Bumbry played only 110 games; however, dozens of position players who have played as few games have received MVP consideration over the years.

In fact, in that same season, Bud Harrelson, who collected votes in the NL MVP race, played in only 106 games, and Dick Allen received a vote after suiting up for a mere 72 games before suffering a leg fracture.

(In a strange coincidence—and a display of Baltimore’s bottomless depth in those days—Rich Coggins, often platooning alongside Bumbry, also played in 110 contests and, enjoying a season statistically similar to Bumbry, earned a first-place vote for Rookie of the Year.) 

Loaded, as usual, with pitching and defense, the Baltimore Orioles easily outpaced a hard-hitting Boston Red Sox club and won the AL East by nine games.

Lacking a booming bat, Baltimore placed eighth in the AL in home runs thanks in large part to Boog Powell’s injury-plagued season. However, the Birds still barely missed outscoring the rest of the Junior Circuit by playing smart, Earl Weaver baseball: taking pitches and swiping bases.

Baltimore led the AL in walks, on-base percentage and stolen bases. And although Orioles batters were not a constant threat to hit the long ball in 1973, they hit the ball often and all over the field enough (Baltimore also led the AL in triples) to log the third-highest OPS in the league.

Jim Palmer’s first Cy Young Award–winning season and a pitching staff that boasted the lowest ERA (including the fewest hits allowed and the second-fewest walks issued) combined with the stifling Orioles defense (four Gold Gloves, with a nearly impregnable infield of Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger and Bobby Grich and a speedy outfield captained by Paul Blair) to strangled opponents.

Baltimore surrendered, by far, the fewest runs in the AL.

So exceptional were the Orioles in every facet of the game that it’s a wonder they didn’t tally more than 97 victories.

Used sparingly as a pinch runner throughout the beginning of the 1973 season, 26-year-old Al Bumbry soon found a spot as a corner outfielder—primarily in left field. (His trek to the Majors had been delayed by a year in Vietnam, during which time he received a Bronze Star while serving as a platoon leader.)

Like Bumbry, the Orioles started slowly out of the gate. A .500 club as late as June 13, Baltimore battled a four-team logjam led by the surprising New York Yankeesalthough Al warmed with the change of season, going 11-for-26 to close out June.

Playing decently but yet to fire on all cylinders, Baltimore remained in a four-team race throughout the summer, finally pushing past the sputtering Yankees on August 3. But the Detroit Tigers wrested first place from Baltimore just three days later.

Until the Birds finally turned on the jets.

Earl Weaver’s crew ran off 14 consecutive wins beginning in mid-August, quickly reclaimed top spot in the AL East and never looked back.

(The Red Sox, trailing all three of these squads, rushed past Detroit in late August and chased Baltimore into autumnbut despite playing .607 ball over the last month, Boston could never get closer than four games out.)

Bumbry heated up long before Baltimore—amassing an eye-popping OPS of 1.015 in June—and stayed hot for the rest of the season. And as the pesky Sox remained within striking distance in early September, Al shifted into overdrive, hitting .409 and slugging .570 over the season’s final month. 

Bumbry was Baltimore’s catalyst in 1973. When leading off an inning, he registered an on-base percentage of .437 (not to mention hitting five of his seven home runs).

When Baltimore trailed, Bumbry slugged a near-Ruthian .654 (in 107 at-bats—not merely a handful). And in the eighth and ninth innings, Al hit .509 and slugged .649.

Perhaps even more tellingly, against Detroit and Boston—Baltimore’s summer-long rivals for the division crown—Bumbry hit a combined .410 and slugged a hefty .639.

At season’s end, the rookie had hit .337 and with only seven home runs had managed to slug .500—largely on the strength of a league-best 11 triples (remember, in only 110 games). In fact, excluding Dick Allen and his less than half a season, Bumbry’s OPS of .898 stood second only to Reggie Jackson, who won the MVP vote unanimously.

Al also stole 23 bases, and his 73 runs tied for second on Baltimore with Paul Blair, who played 36 more games.   

Voters rewarded Bumbry with a richly deserved Rookie of the Year Award but utterly ignored him in the MVP vote. One might be inclined to think that voters considered the MVP off-limits to a first-year player amply honored with the Rookie of the Year, but Fred Lynn took home both awards only two seasons later.

As division winners, Baltimore saw five of its players make the ballot. Jim Palmer and his AL-topping 2.40 ERA rightly earned the lion’s share of MVP votes going to Orioles. However, Tommy Davis, who enjoyed a fine comeback after playing only 41 games in 1972 due to injuries, received enough votes to tie with Catfish Hunter for 10th place—despite delivering little punch as a designated hitter.

Davis did hit .306 and drove in 89 runs, yet he slugged only .391 and scored fewer runs than Mark Belanger—whom he outhit by 80 points. Certainly a good season for the 34-year-old Davis, but nowhere near as productive as Bumbry.

And both Bobby Grich and Paul Blair, though providing Gold Glove defense, put up numbers in 162 and 146 games, respectively, that weren’t any more valuable than Bumbry’s 110-game totals. (Grich drew 107 walks yet outscored Bumbry by only nine runs.)

It is inconceivable that Deron Johnson, the Oakland A’s designated hitter, was more valuable to his team than the mercurial Bumbry. Johnson managed to collect eight vote points despite hitting an anemic .218 and a mere seven home runs after the All-Star break.

Among American Leaguers who suited up for at least 100 games in 1973, Al tied for second in runs created per game—even topping unanimous MVP Reggie Jackson.

That Al Bumbry could be a division winner’s offensive spark plug yet not make it onto any of 1973’s 24 MVP ballots represents a sizable oversight by the voters.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

George Brett Would Be Proud of Orioles Hit Brigade

In the wake of Memorial Day, new Kansas City Royals hitting coach George Brett sat before an outfit of reporters at Busch Stadium, controlled rage streaming from his glare.

In what might be one of the most memorable press conferences in recent times, Brett said something any service member would love. 

“Don’t try to be a hero,” the sparkplug Hall of Famer barked at his odorous Royals offense, according to Stan McNeal of USA Today. “Just be a soldier.”

Meantime, 800 miles east in Baltimore City, the once feast-to-famine Orioles now fields a hit brigade of “soldiers” that would make Brett proud.

Fresh off Friday’s thrilling 7-5 walk-off win versus the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore’s lineup sits in the top two in nearly every major league offensive category.

Through 55 games, the Orioles are first in home runs (78), runs (280), RBI (271) and total bases (895). Baltimore is also first in the league in slugging percentage (.464), and OPS (.794).

The Orioles are second to the Detroit Tigers for the league lead in hits (531) and team batting average (.275). Only the Boston Red Sox have more doubles than the 122 the Orioles have mustered.   

More impressively, Baltimore has been able to achieve all this while cutting down on strikeouts (352). Only the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants have fewer dispatches than Baltimore. The league average for strikeouts at this point in the season is 409, per ESPN.

But wait! It gets better.

The Orioles also have 41 stolen bases this season. The Colorado Rockies lead the league with 44 swipes.

Things get even sweeter for Orioles fans when looking at individual statistics. 

Not only is Chris Davis battling Miguel Cabrera for the Triple Crown, but per ESPN, four of the top 10 MLB leaders in hits are Orioles.

With 79 hits, Manny Machado trails only Cabrera for the league lead. Machado is also fourth in the American League in batting average (.331). Adam Jones is right behind Machado with 74 hits. Tied for seventh place is Nick Markakis. He has 70 hits. Last but not least, Davis is ninth with 68 hits.

Applied to American league hitters alone, four of the top seven hitters are Orioles.

With Nate McClouth nearing .300 again, and Matt Wieters and JJ Hardy starting to heat up, it is hard to imagine the Orioles offense slowing down for long periods of time.

For a team still fighting to get its pitching staff in order, this is great news.

It will be fun to see if the Orioles can continue their prolific stick-handling against the visiting Detroit Tigers.

For a solid showing against the second-best pitching staff in the AL may embolden the Orioles to believe they can hit anyone, anywhere, at any time.

James Morisette is the founder and chief editor at the Basebook Baseball Social Network. You can check out Basebook by clicking here.

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Update on the Baltimore Orioles’ Top 10 Prospects

As we near the quarter-mark of the season, the minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles have been good as a whole.

The two most successful affiliates have been the Norfolk Tides of Triple-A, who currently lead their division with a record of 23-12, and the Frederick Keys of Single-A, who also lead theirs with a 18-14 record.

While much of Norfolk’s success has been helped by their influx of former major leaguers, the other affiliates’ successes are based completely on prospects.

The following list is an update on each of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects and how they’ve performed so far in the 2013 season. The ranking is based off the ranking of Orioles’ prospects over at MLB.com.

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Earl Weaver: Brilliant Manager Exemplified ‘the Oriole Way,’ WWII Era Values

Baltimore Orioles nation is grieving, after learning of the sad passing of legendary manager Earl Weaver.

Saturday ESPN reported the 82-year-old collapsed while aboard the Orioles Fantasy Cruise. The Orioles’ official website claimed the cause of death was an apparent heart attack.

For older Orioles fans, losing Weaver has to be especially difficult. For this St. Louis native exemplified “the Oriole Way” that nearly died before Buck Showalter breathed life back into it.

Weaver’s death comes on the near eight-year anniversary of the untimely passing of another Orioles legend: Elrod Hendricks. Hendricks died of a heart attack on Dec. 21, 2005, just before the same annual cruise was to leave port.

Just a few hours prior to Weaver’s death, Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst celebrated his 90th Birthday with 300 close friends in St. Louis (per Dave Jobe of Fox 2 St. Louis).

Now, according to Marty Noble of MLB.com, Cardinals Hall of Fame Slugger Stan Musial has passed away at 92.  

The reason for revealing these ironies is not to scare fans into speculating about what iconic manager will walk through the valley of the shadow of death next.

In the sincerest sense, this has to do with the fact that Weaver’s death symbolizes the MLB is slowly losing an era of brilliant field generals, all of whom were born in a time when America faced incredible hardships as a growing nation.

Born in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II, Weaver is the member of an exclusive club of skippers that include Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, Sparky Anderson and Red Schoendienst.

This fine club is defined by the same hard-nosed passion, tough-as-nails mentality and never take anything in baseball (and in life) for granted approach, typical of many born during this time in history.

While major league history is rife with colorful stories about the aforesaid managers—some good, some bad and some worthy of Broadway production—behind the theater were men who truly cared about the health and welfare of their players.

And while cynics deployed Weaver and Company to the same mental camp as General George S. Patton, the men who played for these managers loved taking to the baseball battlefield for these fearless leaders every summer.

This shows in the major league record books: Weaver, Anderson, Martin, Mauch and Schoendienst combined for a 7,870 managerial wins.  

As a baseball fan, I deeply respect and admire these men because they fought tooth-and-nail for what they believed in. They also fought for what was fair (which is maybe why umpires feared Weaver most of the time).

I also admire these men because I see this same tough World War II era mentality in my grandmother, a metro Detroiter who is also in her 80s.

My grandmother was the Earl Weaver of our family. She was the wife of a major league prospect turned Army Air Corps engineer aboard B-17’s during WWII. Like Weaver, my grandmother was a tough cookie but caring person … and she never let our spirits and stomachs run empty.

For this, I am grateful.

Equally grateful is Orioles’ nation. For as Baltimore begins to grieve the loss of Weaver—on this the day the great Edgar Allen Poe was born—fans should take time to reflect on the seemingly endless cabinet of great moments this legendary manager inspired. 

Fans should also wonder if Weaver will track down Sparky, Gene or Billy for a cold one, once he gets settled in the kingdom.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Free Agency: Why Orioles Fans Are Divided over Possible Joe Saunders Deal

Veteran left-hander Joe Saunders is increasingly becoming the source of opposing viewpoints among Baltimore Orioles fans. 

Saunders, 31, was traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks in August 2012 in exchange for reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Since joining the Orioles, Saunders has compiled a 3-3 record with a 3.63 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in seven regular-season starts.

The Virginia native also went 1-0 with an impressive 1.59 ERA in two postseason starts for the Orioles. One of these starts included a stout 5.2 inning outing in Baltimore’s 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the 2012 AL Wild Card Game.

In his seven year career, Saunders is 78-65 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.

Yet with just over one month left before spring training, the Orioles have yet to sign Saunders, even though Saunders has expressed interest in returning to Charm City, ­per Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.

According to Orioles beat writer Eduardo A. Encina (also of the Baltimore Sun), a major sticking point in negotiations involves the length of contract Saunders and his agent are requesting—three years.

This issue has fostered an increasingly sharp debate between Orioles fans regarding why Birds brass is reluctant to pull the trigger on a midterm contract for Saunders.

Fans that support the Orioles signing Saunders to this length cite three reasons.

First, Saunders is a cool-headed all-star that will solidify a rotation that is unsettled beyond Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen.  Second, Saunders boasts healthy playoff experience the Orioles could benefit from. Third, Saunders has a solid ability to mentor younger pitchers on the Orioles, especially the lefties.

But a second camp of fans argue signing Saunders to a three-year deal is way too long, if not risky.

Fans in this camp think the Orioles potentially have several hidden gems that will be fighting for spots in the Orioles rotation this spring.

And despite Saunders’ upside, giving this southern gent such a contract may prove too expensive in the long run, especially if Saunders does not perform to the level of the big sum of money his contract may entail.

For these fans, a one-year deal for Saunders may suffice. Should Saunders pitch well, then the Orioles may consider long-term options.

So if you were a leader in the Orioles front office, what would you do?  Would you take a gamble on Saunders, even if this gamble may not work out?  Would you sign Saunders to a one- or two-year deal, perhaps as a stepping stone to something bigger downstream?

Or would you do what a third camp proposes: let Saunders walk altogether?

These are tough questions to answer, especially when one considers the highly competitive nature of the AL East in 2013.

But if the Orioles play their cards right, and a little luck falls this team’s way, landing Saunders at the right time and price may benefit this franchise for years to come.


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Why Baltimore Orioles Rotation Must Shine in 2013

The starting rotation war between pitchers for the Baltimore Orioles will be one of the most intriguing storylines to watch come spring training.  

In this dynamic arms race, no lead will be safe.

It will feature possibly 13 pitchers who will fight for the right to take to the hill for the Birds every five days this summer.

Yes. I said it. 13.

There is Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman. These gents combined for a 29-20 record with a 3.61 ERA in 2012.  

But do not tell that to Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Steve Johnson. These hurlers have the ability to pitch well at the major league level, though Gonzalez and Johnson have shown the most consistency in this bunch.   

Tommy Hunter is also in the mix. As is rookie phenom Dylan Bundy, who has the talent to throw a huge wrench into the plans of the aforesaid. 

Then there is Rule five pick T.J. McFarland, and the all-but-forgotten Tsuyoshi Wada.

According to Sporting News, this left-handed Japanese import may be ready to compete for a spot in Baltimore’s starting rotation this spring.

Do not let off the accelerator. Per MASN’s Roch Kubatko, the Orioles are also still interested in re-signing lefty Joe Saunders…for the right price.

If this is not head-spinning enough, Baltimore and Detroit have been in contact about a potential trade for Tigers’ starter Rick Porcello (according to Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun).

There will be little room to breathe. 

The five Baltimore starters that emerge from this fog of war will be instantly deployed into a combat zone that is the AL East…a zone that includes serious talent, muscle and hustle (and in the New York Yankees case, age and experience).  

In this environment, Hammel and Co. will have to carry this team with enough skill to support an Orioles offense that, while flexible, is unpredictable (and sometimes anemic).

Fresh off a (.247) team batting average in 2012, the Birds have yet to acquire a game changing bat that can hit for average.

This is not to say a lineup that includes Nate McLouth, Nick Markakis, (a healthy) Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Chris Davis,  Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, and (add DH here) cannot scrap enough runs together help this team win.  

But while the Birds have potential to pound the ball hard in any given game, it is difficult to envision (at this point), this team doing this nearly every night.

This is why it is critical the Orioles get its rotation in order early and often in 2013. Unlike the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore does not have the luxury of squandering runs and still finding consistent victory.

In a super competitive AL East, there is very little wiggle room for long losing streaks this season. 

Baltimore can do it. They have the depth. But every starter must be spot on nearly every night.

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Baltimore Orioles: 5 Players Who Should Have Tempered Expectations in 2013

The 2012 Baltimore Orioles had a season for the ages, shocking experts and fans alike by going 93-69 and taking the New York Yankees the full five games in the ALDS.

There is little doubt that the Orioles were uncannily lucky during last season’s run. Their 29-9 record in one-run games during the regular season ranks as the third highest mark of all time. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the only two teams with better records in one-run games both achieved their milestones in the 19th century.

Perhaps the oddest part of the Orioles success was that it was produced by the cast of misfits and spare parts they called a roster. Relying on a number of rookies and journeymen, the Orioles were able to go wire to wire.

It will be hard but there is no reason the Orioles can’t be successful in 2013. However, there are five players who shouldn’t be counted on as major contributors next season.

Click through to find out who.


Statistics via BaseballReference

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Why Oakland A’s Are Like Baltimore Orioles

Monday, Fox Sports MLB writer Ken Rosenthal wrote a piece that described the Oakland Athletics as a “revolving door of misfits.” He also used a couple other not so inviting words to describe A’s general manager Billy Beane’s highly-performing team. 

From Rosenthal:

If the “Moneyball” A’s were, in the words of author Michael Lewis, baseball’s answer to the island of misfit toys, what the heck is this bunch? An archipelago of All-American rejects, plus one Cuban defector?

Misfit toys?


Cuban Defector?

Come on!

Way to take an inspiring team that has defied expectations and rip it to shreds.

This was my initial reaction of course. But with a few deep breaths and a second read of Rosenthal’s article revealed subtle expression of how Oakland is beautiful for the game of baseball.

Spot on, led by Beane and manager Bob Melvin, this resolute cast of rookies and journeymen has truly been a blast to watch this season.

The Athletics are the West Coast version of the Baltimore Orioles. They are young. They are energetic. And they are a challenge to match up against every day because opposing managers rarely know who will take the hill or what the starting lineup will entail.

Like the Orioles, the Athletics do tons of things that will not show up in the box score.

What this team lacks in headline-grabbing names, it makes up for with outstanding leadership, excellent followership (i.e. leave those egos at the door) and more importantly—a young, vibrant renegade-like psyche that oozes quiet confidence. 

Like the Orioles, the Athletics have mastered the art of resource management. Put the right players with the right skills in the right spots. Manage them effectively, mentor them with sincerity and watch them grow—both as men and as ballplayers.  

This is called professional development. It is rare to see in sports driven by individualism, constant pampering and social networking. But Oakland and Baltimore have instituted this as a way of business.

Like the Orioles, the Athletics have also shown great ingenuity in the face of a troubled economy. Contrary to the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, Oakland and Baltimore have traded loading up rosters to win now for creative, outside the box thinking.  

Last, like the Orioles, they make no excuses for injuries. When one man goes down, another picks up the flag, puts his chest out and marches toward victory.

All of this combined, it is no surprise the Athletics and Orioles are proving themselves as true contenders for the postseason.

As a baseball writer (and fan), it will be really exciting to see how loud these little engines will roar down the stretch.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Nick Markakis: Hand Injury Will Not Derail Resolute Orioles

On Saturday, New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia struck Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis in the hand with a pinpoint inaccurate fastball.

This tragedy struck in the fifth inning.

Markakis seemed to know his fate immediately, shaking his hand while jogging over to Orioles athletic trainer Rich Bancells. With Buck Showalter and trainer looking intently, Markakis removed his batting glove. After a short boots on the ground look, Markakis and Bancells disappeared into the darkness of Baltimore’s first base dugout.

Wind fled the sails of 46,000 strong at Camden Yards, for the clap of Sabathia’s 93-mph fastball smacking bone sounded more like it hit wood.  

For Baltimore’s faithful, watching Markakis leave the game briefly conjured thoughts of more bad luck that has plagued this team for over a decade.

At the time, the game was 3-2 in the Orioles’ favor—but the crowd was hush hush. Potentially losing an ironclad player like Markakis will do that to a fan base.

Markakis has stuck with this ball club through thick and thin, never making excuses, and performing at a high level his entire career.

But for the apparent sadness in the crowd and in the O’s dugout, something happened—something that has been a trademark of this increasingly special baseball club.

Baltimore’s players did not make excuses.

Nor did they buckle in the face of tragedy.

As Baltimore has done all season, when one flag-bearer dropped the flag, another man picked the flag up and kept marching with his head held high.

Enter Orioles’ shortstop JJ Hardy, who led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo homer—just beyond the outstretched glove of Ichiro Suzuki.

After Mark Reynolds flew out to left the following at-bat, Adam Jones delivered a one out double. Lew Ford singled Jones home with an opposite field single to right field to make the score 5-2 Orioles.

Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Nate McLouth—who had entered the game when Markakis left—chased Sabathia from the game by smashing a one out double over Suzuki’s head.

The Orioles’ went on to win the game 5-4, and in the process guaranteed a two-game split with the Yankees.

Markakis did come back to the dugout in the eighth inning, wearing a brace—a sad sign of a broken thumb that was confirmed by Buck Showalter during his press conference (per the Baltimore Sun).

Markakis will be out for the next six weeks.

But while obviously disappointed, Markakis still had a subtle grin on his face. Perhaps this is because, unlike season’s past, he has grown men beside him in the dugout who smile in the face of adversity.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Manny Machado: Hot Orioles Shortstop Prospect Hits for Cycle

As if the Baltimore Orioles faithful were not stoked after Wei-Yin Chen’s brilliant performance against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night, Manny Machado just chimed in with his own from down on the farm.

The Orioles‘ 22-year-old shortstop prospect hit for the cycle Saturday to lead the Bowie Baysox past the Trenton Thunder, 8-7.  

Fresh off Friday’s 2-for-5 performance against the Thunder, Machado wasted little time getting started in this seesaw affair.

In the bottom of the second frame, Machado thwacked his fourth triple of the year off Trenton’s starting hurler, Craig Heyer.

The next inning, Machado sparked a four-run onslaught when he hit a double that scored Rhyne Hughes. Machado’s double was his 26th of the season.

After a sixth-inning single off Trenton Reliever Josh Romanski, Machado stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth frame with Bowie trailing 7-6.

With Hughes again on base, Machado clubbed his 10th home run of the year to center field to give Bowie an 8-7 lead.

Bowie closer Kyler Newby slammed the door in the ninth to preserve the victory for the Baysox.

Machado finished 4-for-4 with three RBI. To paint a full picture, though, Machado also committed two errors at shortstop (one fielding, one throwing). But these miscues dwarfed in comparison to what this Miami native did with the lumber.

With this outstanding performance, Machado is now batting .262 (102-for-389) with 10 home runs and 57 RBI in 105 games this season. He also has 26 doubles and four triples to go with 13 stolen bases.

Machado is the No. 1 shortstop prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.

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