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Grading the Performance of St. Louis Cardinals’ Top Prospects at Spring Training

Spring training offers a preview of what the 2014 season holds for the teams around Major League Baseball.  It also gives a glimpse of the future of the organizations as prospects take the field and show off their talents in front of the big league coaching staffs.

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The Cardinals have their share of prospects, and the folks over at Cardinals Farm do a great job of keeping fans up to date on the various players and their production.  Recently, they identified the top prospects in the organization.  Their top five were as follows:

  1. Oscar Taveras
  2. Carlos Martinez
  3. Kolten Wong
  4. Stephen Piscotty
  5. Marco Gonzales

With that in mind, it is time to grade each of those prospects on their production to this point in spring training.  As Opening Day draws near, the report cards are starting to be handed out.

Let’s take a look and see who’s making the grade.

Marco Gonzales Receives an Incomplete for His Brief Appearance

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The No. 5 prospect on the list, Marco Gonzales has one major thing on his side: He is young. A 2013 draft pick, Gonzales was likely in camp with the big league club simply to get some experience in the clubhouse with the veterans.

Less than a season after being drafted, it would be unfair to grade Gonzales on his production on the field. He did see action in one game, pitching in less than two innings while walking three batters, surrendering two hits, yielding two runs and ultimately being saddled with the loss. To say his outing was not the best would be an understatement.

But for a young man seeing his first action in a big league environment, Gonzales stood proud. Assigning a grade to such a short stint would be cruel, to say the least. For now, Gonzales is simply acknowledged for being here and given the grade equivalent of a participation trophy.

Gonzales' current grade: Incomplete

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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Cardinals Winter Warm Up Autographs and Appearances

A week from today, the Cardinal Winter Warm Up will be underway in downtown St. Louis at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. The three day event is the premier Cardinal fan event of the year, with appearances from the current team, Hall of Famers and former players alike.

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The player appearances take place on the second floor of the event, in the large conference room and surround an ongoing day of presentations and discussions with past Cardinal figures and current leadership such as John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt, III.

However, the main draw is the chance for a signature, picture and convo with the Cardinals themselves. And while line tickets for many are sold out, there still are some great value buys to meet current players and Hall of Famers alike.

And there are some great opportunities that still remain, such as availabilities to both Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa’s hour-long sessions, a chance to get Jason Motte and Mike Matheny for under $50 and an ongoing amount of signed baseballs by Ozzie Smith from the Cardinal Team Store site at the Warm Up. Add in a returning Brian Jordan opportunity for only $10, and there is plenty of good late value remaining.

Below is the schedule of player appearances for next weekend’s event, as well as prices for those with remaining autograph line tickets. Player appearances are scheduled to change. New Cardinals scheduled to appear include Jhonny Peralta, Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis, while notable Cardinals not currently on the docket include Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez and Randy Choate.

I70 will be on site at the Winter Warm Up all weekend, and providing interviews and information from many of the Cardinal participants, so be sure to check back here throughout the weekend for up to the moment content as it develops.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18TH

Current Cardinals

Daniel Descalso (10:00-Noon, $15)

Pete Kozma (10:00-Noon, Sold Out)

Yadier Molina (10:00-Noon, Sold Out)

Kevin Butler (Noon-2:00, Free)

Greg Garcia (Noon-2:00, Free)

Trevor Rosenthal (Noon-2:00, Sold Out)

Adam Wainwright (Noon-2:00, Sold Out)

Randal Grichuk (1:00-3:00, Free)

Seth Maness (2:00-4:00, $10)

Oscar Taveras (2:00-4:00, Sold Out)

Jhonny Peralta (3:00-5:00, Sold Out)

Kevin Siegrist (3:00-5:00, Sold Out)

Former Cardinals

Chris Carpenter (9:00-11:00, Sold Out)

Ken Dayley (10:00-Noon, Free)

Jack Clark (11:00-1:00, $5)

Glenn Brummer (Noon-1:00, Free)

Jason Simontacchi (9:00-11:00, Free)

Scott Terry (9:00-10:00, Free)

Kerry Robinson (1:00-3:00, Free)

Donovan Osborne (2:00-3:00, $5)

Al Hrabosky (2:00-3:00, Free)

Ricky Horton (3:00-4:00, Free)

Ryan Franklin (3:00-5:00, Free)

Ted Savage (4:00-5:00, Free)

Sunday, January  19th

Current Cardinals

Mark Ellis (9:00-11:00, Sold Out)

Stephen Piscotty (9:00-11:00, Free)

Matt Adams (10:00-Noon, Sold Out)

Tony Cruz (10:00-Noon, $5)

Eric Fornataro (11:00-1:00, Free)

Joe Kelly (11:00-1:00, $25)

Shane Robinson (11:00-1:00, Sold Out)

Tyler Lyons (Noon-2:00, $5)

Lance Lynn (1:00-3:00, $20)

Shelby Miller (1:00-3:00, Sold Out)

Jason Motte (2:00-4:00, $30)

Kolten Wong (2:00-4:00, Sold Out)

Matt Carpenter (3:00-5:00, Sold Out)

Allen Craig (3:00-5:00, Sold Out)

Jermaine Curtis (3:00-5:00, Free)

Jon Jay (3:00-5:00, $20)

Former Cardinals

John Costello (9:00-10:00, Free)

Tom Lawless (9:00-10:00, Free)

Mike Shannon (Noon-1:00, Sold Out)

Danny Cox (1:00-2:00, Free)

Ernie Broglio (1:00-3:00, Free)

Cal Eldred (1:00-3:00, Free)

Ted Savage (4:00-5:00, Free)

MONDAY, JANUARY 20TH

Current Cardinals

Peter Bourjos (9:00-11:00, Sold Out)

Mike Matheny (9:00-11:00, $40)

Zack Petrick (9:00-11:00, Free)

Matt Holliday (10:00-Noon, Sold Out)

Sam Freeman (Noon-2:00, $5)

John Mabry (Noon-2:00, $5)

Michael Wacha (Noon-2:00, Sold Out)

Former Cardinals

Cliff Politte (9:00-10:00, Free)

Stan Royer (9:00-10:00, Free)

Kyle McClellan (9:00-11:00, Free)

Mike Jorgensen (10:00-Noon, Free)

Brian Jordan (11:00-1:00, $10)

Alan Benes (12:00-2:00, Free)

Cardinal Hall of Famers

Ozzie Smith (Everyday, Not In Person—$75)

Tony LaRussa (10:00-Noon, $75)

Red Schoedienst (Sunday—10:00-11:00, $75)

Whitey Herzog (Monday—11:00-Noon, $75)

Posted in Cardinals, I-70 Special Reports, MLBComments (0)

Do the Royals Have a Hall of Famer on their Team?

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Miguel Tejada is towards the end of his career and is still producing at least at a marginal rate. Royals fans collectively groaned at the beginning of the year at the signing of the aging star, but so far this year he has hasn’t been a complete disaster. His slash is .278/.307/.371. His power is almost completely gone. He only has 2 homeruns this year. In both 2002 and 2004, he hit 34 homeruns. His ISO power is at .093. His power has basically be gone for a few years now.

But regardless, for a back-up and utility guy who occasionally starts, he has filled the role, even if it means playing slightly higher than replacement level. But more than what he is doing this year, I want to evaluate his career, and explore the idea that Royals fans are watching a possible Hall-of-Famer on the field.

I highly recommend the book Away Games: The Life and Time of a Latin Ballplayer by Marcos Breton and Jose Luis Villegas. It chronicles the rise of Latin ballplayers, but really puts an emphasis on Tejada. Just showing the struggles these players have with coming to a new country and trying to make it in the society much less in the big leagues will give you all the respect you could ever want for Tejada. Baseball is their ticket out of poverty and many Latin players spend almost every waking moment improving their skills on the field and have little time to learn English. So to come to the US and literally know no one and not speak the language is understandably difficult, but really brought to light in the book.

After a weak rookie year, Tejada then exploded on the scene. In 1999 he had an OPS of .751 (up from .681 the year before). In 2000, it climbed to .828. From there on, he never had a year where his OPS dipped below .800 until 2007 when it barely dipped below at .799. He hit 30+ homeruns 4 different times in his career and currently has 306. His lifetime slash is .285/.336/.456. His career WAR is 51.1.

Now to compare Tejada to other shortstops, he would be considered one of the weaker entries in the Hall. But an argument COULD be made he gets in the Hall of Fame. The best shortstop in the HOF is Honus Wagner: .327/.391/.466. WAR: 134.5. Followed by Ripken: .276/.340/.447 WAR: 89.9.

Tejada has better or comparable numbers to a few other shortstops though. Hughie Jennings: .311/.390/.406 WAR: 46.4. Lou Boudreau: .295/.380/.415. And Bobby Wallace: .268/.332/.358 WAR: 60.5

But there is one shortstop that Tejada has better much numbers than. That’s right, the one and only, John Montgomery Ward. I… literally have no idea who that is. Whoever he is, he has a slash of .275/.314/.341 and a career WAR of 39.5.

Reading his page on Wikipedia, I found out this John Montgomery Ward guy is fascinating. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1860. Before becoming a shortstop he was a pitcher and helped develop the curveball. While playing for the New York Gothams (later renamed the Giants, unfortunately, because the Gothams is the greatest name ever) he hurt his arm and then moved to shortstop. Along with playing baseball, he graduated from Columbia and helped develop the players’ union. After playing shortstop until he was 34, he retired from baseball and became a lawyer and supported the players’ union against the National League. He later became part owner of the Boston Braves. In 1964, he was voted into the HOF by the veterans committee. I should have written the article about this guy. He is incredible.

The biggest roadblock for Tejada though, is not his numbers, but rather his steroid use. Tejada was called out by several players including Jason Grimsley and Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro claimed to have failed his drug test due to a tainted B-12 shot given to him by Tejada. Jose Canseco called out Tejada as a user in his book. While being investigated, Tejada swore he never used PEDs. But in 2007, The Mitchell Report came out and identified as a player who had purchased PEDs. He was indicted of perjury in 2009 and gave a tearful confession that caused the court to go easy on him.

At least for the time being, with voters punishing players who used PEDs, Tejada will not make it into the Hall of Fame. If Bonds, who had a career WAR of 164.1, and Roger Clemens, who had a career WAR of 139.5, aren’t allowed in yet, I don’t see Tejada getting in any time soon. But there will eventually be a sea change at the Hall and someday Bonds and Clemens will probably get in. Will that include Tejada? Possibly. It would matter how big the change is, as his numbers do make a good argument.

So, as The Royals battle for .500 the rest of the year, which may lead to some frustrating days, keep in mind that you may be watching a Hall of Famer on the field. And that will help deal with any frustrations you have.

And then after the games, read more about John Montgomery Ward. That guy is incredible.

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The Transformation Of Busch Stadium

The St. Louis Cardinals decided to host an exhibition soccer game between Chelsea FC and Manchester City.

How do you convert a baseball stadium into a soccer field fit for an international exhibition?  The St. Louis Cardinals were kind enough to provide us with a photo gallery of images to share with our fans.

Use the buttons below to guide your way through the gallery below to check out the conversion of Busch Stadium from baseball to soccer.

Busch Stadium Soccer Field

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Royals Ticket Policy For May 3 Postponement

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KANSAS CITY, MO (May 3, 2013) – This evening’s game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox has been rescheduled for Monday, May 6th at 1:10 p.m.  Tickets for tonight’s game will be honored for the rescheduled game.  The Royals have established the following policy for fans unable to attend Monday’s game:

Any fan holding tickets from the Thursday, May 2nd or Friday, May 3rd games who cannot attend the rescheduled games may redeem those tickets for any of the remaining 2013 regular season games excluding the following dates:  Saturday, May 11th, Monday, May 27th and Tuesday, May 28th.  Replacement tickets will be in a comparably priced seating category based on availability at time of exchange.

Unredeemed parking vouchers or parking receipts will also be good for the available games. This policy provides fans with an opportunity to select tickets from 65 remaining home games including the games this weekend vs. Chicago May 4th and 5th and the rescheduled game on Monday, May 6th at 1:10PM. All exchanges must be made at Kauffman Stadium. Fans are strongly encouraged to exchange their tickets well in advance of the game they hope to attend. All seating is based upon availability.

The Kauffman Stadium Ticket Office is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, the Royals Charities and FOX Sports Kansas City have rescheduled the annual Broadcast Auction to the Friday, June 7 game against the Houston Astros.

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Shortstop News Does Not Require Panic

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that shortstop Rafael Furcal would require Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it starts.

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During the announcement, General Manager John Mozeliak seemed to throw his support behind young Pete Kozma as the immediate solution.  Fans took to Twitter to beg the team to make a trade and acquire someone immediately to fill the void.

Calm down, Cards fans.

Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, the Cardinals were not relying on Furcal as much as many fans felt they were.  They signed Ronny Cedeno to be the back up at that position due to the fear that he would not be able to patrol the field.  As Matt Whitener pointed out on last night’s UCB Radio, Cedeno was most likely signed as a back up no matter what.  Furcal’s news does not thrust him into the starting role, it simply means that he will be the backup to someone else.

That someone else, at least for now, is Pete Kozma.  Honestly, doesn’t he deserve the chance?

We all know the Kozma story: first round pick that couldn’t figure out how to hit in the minors, given multiple chances at different levels but never seemed to “click”, then suddenly figured something out on the biggest stage down the stretch in St. Louis last season.

Small sample size aside, those 72 at bats at the major league level last year should, at the very least, earn Kozma the opportunity to prove that it was a fluke.  His defense was suspect last year, but barely below league average, and his offense was suddenly solid with a ..333/.383/.569 slash line.  His strikeouts were high while his walks were low but that is a trend we see with many young players.  Patience comes with experience and experience comes with opportunity.

So far this spring, again small sample size, Kozma has proven that he can hit well, play decent defense, and he is showing an increased level of patience at the plate.  He looks like the first round pick that the Cardinals had so much faith invested in 2007.

Ultimately, we’re talking about the number eight hitter in the Cardinals lineup.  A position that will not be relied on for strong offensive numbers and be looked at to simply handle the position on the field.  The production in this lineup will come from left field, right field, catcher, first base, and third base.

Kozma is showing patience at the plate and the Cardinals are showing that patience with his development might just pay off.  Gaining experience requires an opportunity to present itself.

The opportunity is here.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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Royals Fans Feel Duped

Kansas City Royals fans woke up to an exciting email in their inbox today, they had been given the opportunity to purchase Opening Day tickets.  Once they opened the email, frustration set in very quickly.

The subject line of the email gave fans reason to get fired up, it read “Your Royals Opening Day Ticket Opportunity”.  Many fans had signed up recently for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the Royals home opener and most jumped quickly to the assumption that their name had been drawn in that regard.

Unfortunately, the subject line did not match the body of the email.  As overjoyed fans opened the email to see what they needed to do to ensure their seat at the home opener, they found the following text:

RoyalsTicketOpp

“You are receiving an exclusive opportunity to purchase tickets to every 2013 game, excluding Opening Day, today! Buy tickets before the rush!”

That’s right, the email that stated it contained your opportunity for Opening Day tickets revealed that it, in fact, contained your opportunity to buy tickets to anything except opening day.

Fans have taken to social media with their displeasure with the club over what some are calling a “bait and switch” tactic.  Many felt slighted and wondered how the club could provide an email with such a glaring oversight.  Many seem to feel this is “par for the course” with the Royals business over the last few seasons.

There is a lot of excitement around the Royals going into 2013.  The team should take notice and make sure they are not coming across as “the same old Royals”.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in I-70 Baseball Exclusives, RoyalsComments (0)

Royals acquire Angels starter Ervin Santana

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore likes to strike early, and this offseason is no exception. To help bolster the rotation, the Royals acquired right-handed starter Ervin Santana, 29, and $1MM cash from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk, 27. The Royals will likely pay Santana $13MM for 2013.

So what are the Royals getting for $13MM? In 2012, Santana had a 5.16 ERA with a 9-13 record over 30 starts and 178.0 innings pitched. He had a 6.7 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 2.18 SO/BB ratio and gave up 2.0 HR/9. His WAR was -1.6. Of the five Angels starters, Santana had the worst ERA, had the least amount of SO/9, gave up the most home runs in the league at 39, and had the worst WAR among Angels starters.

That doesn’t sound good, but Santana’s ERA was lower than Bruce Chen, Will Smith and Luke Hochevar (I think everyone’s ERA is lower than Hochevar’s. Well, except for Jonathan Sanchez). Only Chen and Hochevar pitched more innings than Santana and only Chen won more games than Santana with 11. Santana had a better SO/9 than the 2012 Royals starters, but worse HR/9. Only Hochevar had a worse WAR at 1.7. In other words, the 2012 Santana is an improvement, but not by much.

What’s the upside? If you average out Santana’s 2008-2011 seasons, his ERA was 3.90, he had a 52-37 record with 202.1 average innings pitched. His average SO/9 was 7.4, BB/9 was 2.7, SO/BB was 2.89 and he gave up an average of 1.1 HR/9 with a 2.4 WAR. Compare that to top free agent Zack Greinke‘s 2012 season with a 3.48 ERA, 212.1 innings pitched, 8.5 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.70 SO/BB and giving up 0.8 HR/9 and 1.6 WAR. Greinke’s overall numbers are better, but Santana’s numbers are close. If the Royals get the 2008-2011 Santana, he will be a vast improvement to the Royals rotation.

Between the two, Greinke is a much better pitcher. But if you think the Royals are getting Greinke for $13MM a year, you’re dreaming. Santana is a one year, $13MM deal and unless he goes all Jonathan Sanchez on the Royals, they’re getting a league average middle of the rotation innings eater. The Royals hope Santana can bridge the team to 2014, when pitchers like Jake Odorizzi, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino are a part of the rotation.

Let’s put it this way: the Royals offseason is better compared to last offseason by getting Ervin Santana and trading Sisk to the Angels, who wasn’t going to be on the Royals 40-man roster anyway. Of course that’s a pretty low bar to clear. But it shows the Royals are serious and Moore says the team isn’t through looking for starting pitching.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

At least we aren’t Pirates fans…right?

The Pittsburgh Pirates today clinched their 20th consecutive losing season, a mark that surpasses even the futility of our Kansas City Royals. That brought to my mind a pretty good question, which franchise is really more hopeless? To start I’ll look at the recent performance of the two clubs, as putrid as it is, and then I’ll finish with the future prospects.

While it’s true that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season in 20 years, it’s easily arguable that they’ve been more competitive than our Royals. For one, they’ve only lost 100 games twice in the last 26 years, while the Royals have done it four times in the last eleven. However, in terms of actual wins, it’s ridiculously close with the Pirates averaging 68.2 wins to the Royals 67.7 since 2000. The Pirates have a more recent playoff appearance, with three straight from ’90-’92 but they’ve gone six years longer without a championship winning their last in 1979. Trying to compare these teams based on their past performances is like a race between a Prizm and a Sunfire, so let’s move on to what the future looks like.

It might be easy to think that since the Pirates have won more games in 2012 they’re better set up for next year, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. For one thing, the Royals are much younger. The average position player for the Royals is a full year younger than the Pirates and their pitchers are an average of three years younger. The Pirates best two pitchers, A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, are 35 and 33 respectively and it seems unlikely they’ll match this year’s performance. On the other hand, their best offensive players, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, are both under 26 and just entering the prime of their careers. Whit the Royals having club control of virtually their entire line up, and most of them at an age where improvement is expected, I think you’d have to give the position player advantage to the Royals. I’m not sure anyone has a worse prospective starting rotation in 2012 than the Royals though, so until David Glass actually opens his pocket book this winter, the starting pitching edge goes to the Pirates. Although the bullpen may be an advantage for the Royals, I’m not sure it’s enough to put them over the top.

Looking at the minor leagues doesn’t offer a much clearer picture. Wil Myers is the best prospect in either organization, but the Pirates probably have the next three best is Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Starling Marte. While both clubs have exceptional talent in the minors, if anything I’d give the edge to the Pirates if only because their top two prospects are pitchers and we’ve all seen what a need that is for small market clubs.

Essentially there’s no separating these two clubs because they’re almost mirror images. Young players, hungry fans, embarrassing recent history and cheap owners. I guess you could call them our sister club in the National League, and that should be depressing enough for both fan bases.

Posted in RoyalsComments (0)

It Shouldn’t Have To Be This Difficult

For most of the last quarter of a century, the Kansas City Royals have done something more difficult than achieving success…they’ve avoided it completely.

Royals fans are very well aware of the last time their favorite team played a post-season game. It was October of 1985, and there is a large group of Royals fans that have been born and graduated college and maybe even gotten their first promotion that have never witnessed this feat. This is truly a remarkable feat, especially when you consider the following things that have taken place in major league baseball since October of 1985:

  • The Florida/Miami Marlins have managed to enter the league as an expansion team, and win 2 World Series titles
  • The Colorado Rockies emerged as an expansion team and have qualified for the playoffs 3 times and played in one World Series
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks entered the league as an expansion team and have qualified for the playoffs 5 times and won one World Series title
  • The Tampa Bay Rays entered the league as an expansion team and have made 3 playoff appearances and one World Series appearance, and are currently on pace to make the playoffs again this year
  • The Cincinnati Reds have made 3 playoff appearances and won one World Series title, and are currently on pace to make the playoffs again this year
  • The Minnesota Twins have made 8 playoff appearances and won two World Series titles
  • The Baltimore Orioles have made 2 playoff appearances and are currently on pace to make the playoffs this year
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates have made 3 playoff appearances and are currently in contention for a playoff spot this year
  • The Toronto Blue Jays have made 4 playoff appearances and won 2 World Series titles
  • The Cleveland Indians have made 7 playoff appearances and appeared in 1 World Series
  • The Oakland Athletics have made 9 playoff appearances, 3 World Series appearances, and won 1 World Series title
  • The Seattle Mariners have made 4 playoff appearances
  • The Milwaukee Brewers have made 2 playoff appearances
  • The San Diego Padres have made 4 playoff appearances and one World Series appearance

The 14 organizations listed above are all similar in market size to the Royals.  Most of these organizations have had multiple runs of competitive/championship baseball in the time that the Royals have not even been able to put together one. The only organization that has managed to go longer than the Royals without a playoff appearance is the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.  However, they are all but assured of making the playoffs this season.  While Royals fans likely are ready to throw their computers out the window after reading this, it provides some good perspective on just how pathetic this organization has been over the last 25+ years.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

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