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Today's lineup, and things that might affect future lineups

Bos and I had a wide-ranging discussion this morning with Nats principal owner Mark Lerner. We talked everything from offseason strategy to federal investigations.

Here is just an excerpt from some of the most interesting things he said...

* When Bos mentioned to him the key guys who will be available this offseason -- Sabathia, Teixeira, Orlando Hudson -- Lerner preached patience, saying that the team had to stick with its plan. He didn't rule out taking a serious run at such a high-profile player, but he also said "Nobody wants - you don't want to be in the situation where you wake up one morning and Johan Santana has won eight games all season and you owe him $150 million. That's the thing. You see a lot of guys for $150 million, but we're going to stick with what we're doing. We're going to take a lot of heat from you and everybody else, but I think you're starting to see it."

* Talking about the team's first five draft picks from June, all still unsigned, Lerner indicated the team was taking a more conservative approach with negotiations. Several of the picks, including second-rounder Destin Hood, have asked for bonuses that exceed those suggested by their slot in the draft.

Asked about the tendency from last year's draft to pay bonuses exceeding the slotted suggestions, Lerner said, "Well, for the right guys it's a possibility. We were willing to do it for a Jack McGeary because we thought the long-term payoff would be incredible. Our guys were just enamored with the fellow. And the reports are, the guy is doing great. That's what we need to improve.

"Jim and the guys are negotiating, and a lot of them will be right up to the deadline, August 14, August 15 -- they might be midnight signings. But everybody plays a different way. A lot of these agents are not letting anybody sign. They're all waiting until the last minute, trying to get better bargaining power. If we don't sign them, we get the same pick next year. So, we'll have another shot it at if for some reason we didn't sign the top picks."

Lerner called some of his early draft picks' bonus requests "ridiculous," and added, "You have to look at the global thing. This is the budget for signing these guys, and you if sign them for this much, you won't be able to sign somebody else down the ladder."

Now, the lineups. (Since, um... the game has just gotten underway.)

Houston

Erstad - 8
Matsui - 4
Berkman - 3
Lee - 7
Tejada - 6
Wigginton - 5
Pence - 9
Towles - 2
Backe - 1

Washington

Harris - 8
Lo Duca - 3
Guzman - 6
Kearns - 9
Belliard - 5
Casto - 7
Orr - 4
Nieves - 2
Perez - 1

By Chico Harlan  |  July 13, 2008; 1:40 PM ET
 
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Next: To begin the Break, we toast

Comments

"This is the budget for signing these guys, and you if sign them for this much, you won't be able to sign somebody else down the ladder"

Just sue the city for an extra week's worth of penalties for the stadium not being done and you can pay Destin Hood, you cheapskate

Posted by: Pinching pennies until they scream | July 13, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse


Another thing that might effect future line ups is NO FAN BASE....from the last thread:

I also have a frozen frame on MASN2 on FIOS of a crappy looking house that probably can't even get FOIS or MASN and probably wouldn't be a member of the Nats TV Viewing Exclusive 9K Club anyway.

And get this -- if you go to Verizon's web page for a contact number and put in VA in the state and FIOS in the service and then hit go, nothing happens. Verizon is basically saying "GO AWAY" to customer service.

Posted by: Exclusive 9K Club | July 13, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse


2:05pm -- FIOS finally fixes MASN2.

I was watching right when it happened, so maybe, just for a moment, I was a member of the Exclusive 1 Club.

Posted by: Exclusive 9K Club | July 13, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Fire the Lerners.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Why is Perez batting 9th? He has the second highest batting average in the line-up.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse


Perez is batting 9th because they clearly did not learn their lesson yesterday and plan on using Willy Mo Pena as a pinch hitter today, probably in a clutch situation. You'd think they might have skipped Perez in the rotation to keep him on the bench to up the possibility from WMP of scoring in such instances.

Posted by: Exclusive 9K Club | July 13, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

So the Lerners don't plan to overpay for free agents and they don't plan to overpay for draft picks. So why are we overpaying for tickets? Sorry, couldn't resist. The problem is, you always "overpay" when you're among the first people to sign free agents during a new cycle. Sometimes, those contracts look like a bargain in retrospect. Also, they didn't have a problem overpaying Dmitri Young, did they?

Posted by: baltova | July 13, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Have the Nats become the most embarrassing team in baseball -- on the field and off? Does anyone really feel good about being a Nats fan these days? Really, look at this:

They don't pay their taxes.
The FBI is investigating their top execs.
They have the worst record in the NL.
The owners are making more money than any other team in baseball.
They have one of the lowest payrolls.
They have one of the highest ticket price averages.
The owners say every player is asking for too much money.

And on and on...

How did this happen? In our very first year in a $611 million stadium. It's enough to make you cry. The Lerners have already destroyed this franchise.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"You don't want to be in the situation where you wake up one morning and Johan Santana has won eight games all season and you owe him $150 million." Really? After a slow start, Santana's enroute to win 15-20 games, he's got more wins, innings pitched and K's than any of our starters, he's probably going to win 15 or more games for the fifth straight year, he's got 100 big league wins and he's only 29. If Mark Lerner knew anything about baseball, he might not mind waking up with Santana on his payroll.

Posted by: baltova | July 13, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Mark Lerner wakes up every morning with a head filled with empty space. He then gets on his knees and thanks God that his father is rich.

His next move is to take his daily morning call from Jim Bowden saying how wonderful he is.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

@ohplease: Your points are reasonable, but your summary statemnt might be a little over the top. Destroyed, no; damaged (in terms of fan faith & regional good will), definately. Maybe they'll learn, maybe they'll never get it. Hopefully, they'll get it before we look on them as a re-incarnation of the owner to the north (who's name must not be invoked).

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse


The Lerners (or at least Mark's*) fatal flaw is not letting the experts do their jobs and trying to address topics that only the experts they've hired should address. On every on-field topic, Mark Lerner should reply "Ask Stan".

*Mark is the guy who, for Opening Day, was obsessed with making sure there were balloon arches on Half Street to the point other topics were often left unanswered because his experts were monopolized by Mark, his sister, and this fixation. How'd those balloons do on that WINDY Opening Day, Mark?

Posted by: Exclusive 9K Club | July 13, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

While M. Lerners' reference to Santana was probably rhetorical, his "on the record" voice of caution does concern me as a fan. I would still hope that when the time is right for this team, the Lerner group will be wiling to make the kind of deal that would lead to League & WS championships.

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Charlie & Dave just announced a shuffle on the SP rotation after the AS break. Redding, Lannan, Perez, Bergmann & Balester. Me likey!

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The Lerners are cheap bastards and are ruining this franchise. Spend some friggin money @$$holes.

Posted by: The Results are in | July 13, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm cool with everything that's going on with the Nats:

. I watch on TV (I can figure out where to find the channels, and have the ability to commit such information to memory in order to locate the broadcast of the next day's game).

. I don't pay to attend games other than once every full moon or less, and probably won't go more frequently until they're a better team.

. I don't think they should overpay for sub-par free agents just to try to draw fans; they're drawing enough as is. If people stop going to games, then perhaps that cause shall have a resultant effect.

. I don't want them to overpay for draftees who may never pan out. Stick to a policy and a plan, and step outside the lines if and when prudent.

Sure, it would be better to have a more competitive and more watchable team right now. Though not at the expense of creating a Redskins-Lite franchise, loading up on names via the wheelbarrow-of-cash method.

For now, I'm patient, and it's not costing me a dime.

Posted by: 1 of 9,000 | July 13, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

With the $200,000 we'll save from not signing Adrian Nieto, I can get another arch of balloons. Teh most awsumest arch of balloons EVAH.

Posted by: (fake) Mark Lerner | July 13, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

::throws cookie to 1 of 9,000::

Posted by: (fake) Stan Kasten | July 13, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

::notes waste of cookie and deducts cost from Kasten's next paycheck::

Posted by: (fake) Ted Lerner | July 13, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I don't see this team ever being competitive. And I do mean ever. A .500 record is the best it can hope for in the next decade.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Lord, for Wil Nieves' double! Love doubles. Love Nieves. C'mon, Odalisque!

Posted by: flynnie | July 13, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Perez preserves shutout through the 5th!

Posted by: flynnie | July 13, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse


I wouldn't go that far, ohplease. In Stan, I trust, as long as the asinine PR misfires by the Lerners don't hamstring him beyond all hope.

Posted by: Exclusive 9K Club | July 13, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

A few things:

--If the Lerners promised that the first 10 years of profits would be entirely plowed back into the team, where is the money going? This team has more net income than any other according to the Forbes analysis, it's got to be going somewhere. But not draft picks, and not free agents.

--Is Mark Lerner negotiating through the media? I hope not, because when you're talking about draft picks, that's rather sad. But let's remember that last year the Nats postured that if their draft picks weren't reasonable in their demands (I think it was either Smolinski or Smoker specifically) they would use the "allocated" money to sign Dominicans instead. (Though that does beg the question "why not both?" when their "Plan" is premised on player development.)

--"We'll just take the same pick next year?". Come on! I don't care if Lerner is posturing or not, he should not say these things to the public. This organization has tried to sell its fanbase on The Plan with the draft as the foundation. The fact that the Nats would profess to their fans that they have no sense of urgency with respect to that Plan is an insult.

--Didn't the Nats claim that all of their first 5 picks were on their Top 50 list? Were they posturing then? Or now?

--I don't think Stan is going to be making any more Tigers comparisons.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | July 13, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

"use the "allocated" money to sign Dominicans instead"

::whistle uncomfortably::

Posted by: (fake) Jim Bowden & Jose Rijo | July 13, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

@1of9K: The problem with your third statement is that it's harder to get fans back than it is to keep them. An ownership group wants to add a player when it would seem to be either 1)a step to the future (i.e. LMillz, EDukes, et al), 2)a committment to "nearly there" (TBD), or 3)a perceived opportunity for an "over-the-top" player. I'd like to see us make 1-2 "nearly there" acquisitions this winter just to keep the fans' faith, but we might not be ready yet.

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

even as a glass-half-full person, those statements didn't exactly inspire confidence.

i do see where he's going with santana. there are a lot of scouts saying he's just not the pitcher this year that he's been up until the middle of last year. velocity down, not the same kind of "dominant" he was before. he's still winning, but he has to work a lot more for it. and it's not that he's not worth *this* year's salary, but that you're worried what he'll be worth in years 3-7, when he's still making $20m/yr or more.

still, he could have picked better examples of the point he was trying to make. he's really not good at the whole PR thing.

Posted by: 231 | July 13, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

@CiL: Your third point partly echos my earlier "on the record" comment. If Mark Lerner is truly speaking for the orginazation, we're pooched as fans. If we can instead trust that Stan & JimBo can convince the ownership & pony up the out-of-slot $$ for draft choices that are worth it, we're gonna be ok in the long run.

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

@231: Agreed, M. Lerner's probably not the best "face of the Nationals" (Steinbrenner pups, anyone)? He should have bit his toungue & deferred to Kasten & Bowden, but when you have a chance to yap, who doesn't take it? This blog is a perfect example - it's just that we don't have a vested interest.

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
-- Bill Cosby

Posted by: Jell-Opuddin'pop | July 13, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Looks like mop-up time - get "Gasoline Alley" ready.

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

9,000 viewers per game for the first half of the season. What will that number be after the break as the Nats continue to get shut out, people go on vacation, and schools start up again? 4,500?

Sounds like Lerner has no Plan B.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Yup, "Gasoline Alley" gets the call... I'm outta here. For those of you joining CHarlan later this evening, have fun (I hope somebody's got his back).

Posted by: BIM | July 13, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

As pathetic a defense as this is, it is 9000 households, not 9000 viewers.

I really don't see that going down, because it would seem that the only people watching are the diehards whose only real choice is TV or radio.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | July 13, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

OK, here is some news that could affect future lineups:

Shairon Martis of our Columbus squad earned the save today for the World Team in the Futures Game. He is a starter who is having a good year, but this island of good news in the current sea of despair is welcome.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | July 13, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Even I'm losing interest in this team, and I've been known to attend low A ballgames and get excited...

Posted by: Ed | July 13, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Did I really just read that Santana quote?

Posted by: Turd Furgeson | July 13, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Me too.

Sadly, I've been attending them in Southeast DC, usually against major-league opponents.

Posted by: Scoreboard Scotty | July 13, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I have now come to expect a GIDP whenever we have a runner on 1st and less than 2 outs. It doesn't matter who the batter is, it just comes naturally to this team.

Posted by: John | July 13, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

This team is screwed. I was cool with the team eschewing the big money free agents when they were signing all their draft picks, but now the owners look like men who are content with running out a loser ballclub. The idea that you can't simultaneously invest in the major league team and minor league system is absurd. The idea that you are ever going to improve your franchise without overpaying anyone is asinine. You want to go cheap on major league talent? Fine, I'll watch Rob Mackowiak and Ryan Langerhans play baseball. But you better sign your draft picks.

What really pisses me off is that the Lerners already know this - Kasten has surely told them as much. But they don't appear to care. And if the owners aren't committed to providing a winning product, not just a profitable product, then we can go ahead and accept our spot next to the Pirates as a team with no chance in the present and no hope for the future.

PS: If I were the Nats, I'd consider picking up Bobby Kielty to play left field why we wait for Milledge and/or Dukes to return.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

There's only one thing that will help:

Don't renew your season tickets -- and for that matter, don't even go to the rest of the games this year. That's the only thing the Lerners will understand.

And I am serious. People should not renew their tickets for next year or go to games this year. You want to have an impact on this team -- that will do it.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

If people keep going to the games -- and putting money in Mark Lerner's pocket -- there's no reason for him to change.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Mark Lerner comes across like an idiot here. And that's especially worrisome, because he's the guy that's going to be running the show long-term. How can you point to John Santana as an example of unwise spending? The guy has an ERA+ of 142! The Nats should be so lucky to "waste" money like that.

Ugh. I'll keep rooting for the Nats, but I won't be betting on them. Sad.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I think I've been pretty patient with the team over the last few years. I watched as they let Soriano go because of the $. Fine. I even buy into the build from the ground up mentality. But this is getting ridiculous. This is essentially a AAA team taking the field every night. These guys are being forced to develop in the majors and some of them will. But when they do, guess what, they'll be free agents because of how much major league time they are accruing. I wonder if Lerner will want to pay his own guys then. Also, this vaunted farm system produced 1 all-star in the futures game. It's hard to read stories like this and stay patient.

Posted by: slowly losing it | July 13, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Manny in his today's press conference:

"We're not frustrated."

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

If the Lerners aren't following the Loria ownership blueprint (with a few twists of their own), they certainly don't act like it.

I understand that they can be the most profitable franchise in MLB by trotting out the worst team in baseball and talking about the future. I just wish they'd throw the fans a bone once in a while instead of acting like we should be greatful for the swill they spray on the field day after day.

The team mailed it in today, and why not? They all have excuses for why they can't score a run against a pitcher with an ERA over 5 who has given up 22 home runs. And besides, when the owners only pay lip service to the won-lost record, and everyone gets a free pass because of "injuries", what is there to play for?

Posted by: L Street | July 13, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Manny won't be here next year -- he'll negotiate his way out.

Stan may be gone, too. By his choice.

Posted by: ohplease | July 13, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

But I'll still be here

::drinks bottle of vanilla extract::

SPRING BREAK!!! WOOOOO!!!!!

Posted by: (fake) Jim Bowden | July 13, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I posted this earlier but it still applies.

A Few thoughts on this train wreck:

(1) The Times report about the Nats not paying over slot is rather confusing given their actions last year. You would think that the FO would know of this major policy change to the Plan before drafting players. If in fact this is the case then the Nats are back to where MLB owned them. We will be forever regulated to an also ran status. This doesn't compute. If the Nats pass on the years draft I would hope that there is a major revolt on the part of the fans in Washington.

(2)If Pena is as hurt as Harris says he is why does Acta continue to trot him out. He should go on the DL. I question whether Harris is just trying to garner some sympathy for Pena.

(3) If I am Manny I play Belliard at first. The guy looks like he can field that position. Also Casto should be playing everyday.

(4) I see where our old friend Fernando Tatis is back and working wonders with the Mets. Boy these former Expos/Nats sure play well for the Mets.

(5) I see LoDuca is rather quiet. These former Mets sure play poorly for the Nats. I assume Paul even regrets the day he signed on with this sorry punch. Poor Paul. He can't play left field and first base and that is where Manny plays him. Brilliant Manny. Guaranteed Paulie is not traded.

(6) Watch Bowden trade for Holiday and give away the farm. I can feel another Colon for Sizemore, Phillips and Lee trade coming. Just watch.

(7) No FA worth anything will sign with this team. This team will be forever populated with reclamation projects.

(8) The Expos under major league baseball had a better chance of wining than this sorry bunch. I bet Washington is sorry the Lerners were awarded the team. The team appears in shambles from top to bottom.

Posted by: mjames | July 13, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Ronnie Belliard didn't mail it in at third. Willie Harris didn't mail it in at center. (I say sign this guy-he's great defensively, only 30, and has found some pop.) Wil Nieves didn't mail it in with his double. But I hate being shut out by a previously struggling pitcher, and I hate what's happened to Wily Mo, exemplified today with another rally-killing double -play hit weakly to the pitcher. I sure will miss 'em this week! Have a great week, everybody!

Posted by: flynnie | July 13, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Really dreadful interview by Mark Lerner - comes across as cheap and clueless. Very depressing. The franchise is not destroyed, but it is becoming increasingly likely that the Nats have a long time and way to go before they are decent team.

You almost have to wonder if the Lerners are some kind of Manchurian Candidate type of owners - approved and selected by MLB and Angelos b/c they will manage to screwup the team.

I'll settled down later - but, at this point, I can really see myself not renewing season tickets next year.

Posted by: Count Demoney | July 13, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Well next year I don't plan on renewing my season tickets for the 5th straight year. The Caps will be going deep into the playoffs and as a Caps STH I don't plan on missing any of their games in April May or June. There will be plenty of time to see a sub .500 club starting next July.

Posted by: NatCap | July 13, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Count, when you add it all up, the Nats should show The Manchurian Candidate as their "Saturday Night at the Movies" feature: Wily Mo, The Manchurian Slugger; (In fact, Everyone but Guzman, Flores and Belliard, The Manchurian Slugger);Z-Mann, the Manchurian David Wright; Milledge, the Manchurian CF (though, to be fair he was lookin' good when he ripped that groin, and was going all out-that happened right in front of me, and he will not feel right for a while); Dukes, the Manchurian Iron-man(I mean who expects a guy in that shape to tear up a knee catching a fly ball?); Lo Duca, the Manchurian lifetime .288 hitter; Estrada, the Manchurian NL all-star catcher (in 2004!) etc.

Posted by: flynnie | July 13, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I hope Boswell rips the Lerners and Kasten mercilessly. And not just in one column, but repeatedly and harshly. Mark Lerner can say all he wants that he expects to "take a lot of heat" but I don't think he has any clue what real heat entails. Now, can the substandard DC baseball media ramp up its game and bring that heat? Obviously, that remains to be seen. I sure hope they can, these guys deserve it.

Maybe being tarred as clueless and awful owners won't lead the Lerners to do anything differently--maybe they really do expect it and don't care. But being painted that way consistently and loudly by the media--by Boswell especially, who still does carry a lot of weight in this town with the casual sports fan--will have an impact on ticket sales from casual fans especially. Hey Boz, Manny says, "go for it!"

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | July 13, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse

From Nice Guys Finish Last by Leo Durocher and Ed Lynn:

What do you say about Ernie Banks? Well, you say: He had bad knees but he did the best he could under the circumstances. You say: He was at the end of the road and I guess he knew it as well as anyone else. But he gave you all he had when he was playing, and he was a great player in his time. You say: It was too bad the Cubs didn't have nine Ernie Bankses. Know what I mean? Praise him.

The only thing true about it is that he was a great player in his time. Unfortunately, his time wasn't my time. Even more unfortunately, there was not a thing I could do about it. He couldn't run, he couldn't field; toward the end, he couldn't even hit. There are some players who instinctively do the right thing on the base paths. Ernie had an unfailing instinct for doing the wrong thing. But I had to play him. Had to play the man or there would have been a revolution in the street.

Posted by: flynnie | July 13, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Agreeing with much on here - I have been watching the Nats and been on board with the plan. I aghree with the previous poster who said that he's willing to watch Rob Mackowiak and his ilk, as long as we can sign our picks.

I hope Mark Lerner is banned by Stan from speaking to the media ever again.... what is his title anyway? Oh, he doesn't have a title - then he should STFU.

If the plan is to not major league talent, and the new part of the plan is to not sign our picks... I'm out.

The Nats won't get my $10K next year if they don't sign at least 4 of the top 5.

Posted by: Sec 114, Row E | July 13, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Chico - is there going to be a complete article from the quotemaster - Mark Lerner? Please - make my week - tell me that he rambled for 40 minutes and you have it all on tape....

Posted by: Sec 114, Row E | July 13, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

You want to build a baseball culture in this town? Well, the Lerners have been giving an exemplary lesson of how NOT to do it.

The fan base is emotionally bruised, and is on the verge of disgust. I've had a 20-game plan since day one, and right now I'm wavering on renewing.

Everything about this ownership screams ineptitude. from the Bowden probe to the refusal to go over slot to sign draft picks (this beleaguered organization can't afford to do that, given this team's horrible reputation) to the inane in-game environment (Clint, "Sweet Caroline" -- we don't even have our own song!). It's obvious that the Lerners and Kasten think we're stupid.

Hate to say it, but Washington -- as it's so often been over the past 60 years -- is once again the joke of baseball.

Posted by: Vincent | July 14, 2008 12:38 AM | Report abuse

If this team won't pay its taxes and won't pay its rent why should we expect it to pay for players. This is a minor league team masquerading as a major league ball club.

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