Assessing the Matthews situation

I know a lot of people are criticizing Gary Matthews Jr. for taking the stand he’s taking, wanting to play every day. People wonder how a guy making the kind of money he’s making can act like he’s not happy. I hear that all the time. You’re making all that money, how can you complain? What’s your problem? Well, that’s not fair at all, if you understand the mindset of an athlete. We’re competitors by nature, and we all want to be part of something special.

I understand perfectly how Gary feels. Gary’s an athlete. He grew up loving the game and playing for nothing. That’s what got him where he is, that passion he has for the game. The fact he’s now making a lot of money doesn’t change that. He feels he can play at a high level — and I agree with him.

We play the same position, and I know what it takes to get it done. Gary’s a terrific center fielder, and he can also play left and right. But we’ve got a lot of talent everywhere in this clubhouse, and even though that’s great for the organization, it’s not so great for some of the players.

You can’t expect a guy who loves the game to sit on the bench and be happy about it. I’ve always felt older guys who are near the end of their careers make the best bench guys, because they know what they can do and how to respond to situations. Younger guys just want to get out and play. Gary’s not a kid — he’s 34. But he’s not an old guy, either. He’s healthy again, and he wants to get out and show the world what he can do. How can you blame him for that?

Bobby Abreu is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Because of the economy in baseball now, he had to take an $11 million cut this year, down to $5 million, to come play for us. He did it because he loves the game and wants to play baseball. He’s here every day, cracking us up with jokes, laughing, having a great time. I knew he was a great player, but seeing him every day now, i can see he’s a great teammate, too. He’s going to be good for this club in the clubhouse as well as on the field. Bobby’s a real pro. 

I know what it’s like to be frustrated with your situation. I was the same way back with Minnesota. I’d be hitting like .450 in the spring, but they had Otis Nixon in center field in ’97 and ’98, and I couldn’t make the team, no matter what I did. It kind of messes with your mind when you’re young.

That’s why I’m always talking to Brandon Wood, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez, all these young dudes who can play but have established veterans in front of them. I tell them to be patient, that their time will come. I know how frustrating it is, but you have to keep working, keep improving — and be ready when your opportunity arrives. I tell them it’s the same game up here. That doesn’t change. What changes is the hype, the fans. It’s the spotlight, and how you handle it.

The talent level on this club is really amazing. Man, I look around and shake my head. We’ve got athletes all over the place. That’s why I feel for Gary. This guy is a premier athlete. I know it’s tough on him emotionally. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $500 million — you want to play. That’s true of 99 percent of the guys in the Major Leagues. Manny Ramirez is playing because he loves the game, loves to hit. I know Manny, and he lives for the game, the competition.

Gary is no different. He just wants to play. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, by any means. It makes him an athlete.

40 Comments

I agree. People should leave him alone and let him work out the situation with his manager or whoever. It’s his business, not the fans’ or the media’s. You are doing what a great player should be doing. Standing up for a teammate.

I agree, although I am not a fan of Gary Matthews Jr., I get sick of him watching strike 3 go right past him and then either saying something or just giving the umpire a nasty look, all this while batting .220 last year. I hope the Angels trade him.

Thank you, Torii! Get through to the people who keep on criticizing Matthews. If we give him a chance this season, maybe he’ll do great. But that’s just it; we have to give him the chance!

Torii, it’s good to hear that you have the back of your teammates. That’s a really good attitude to have.

By the way, show me where a horse kicked you.

It’s interesting how the game is changing. Job / position security used to be a given among veterans–slumps were tolerated and players were allowed seemingly unlimited time to work their way out of them. Now if it’s a matter of who the best person for the position is on a week to week and month to month basis. It’s completely understandable that this would bring out the competitive nature in an athlete; to be honest, who wants a player on their team that DOESN’T have that drive and that desire to be out there every day?

You’re a fun guy to watch play, Torii. Glad you’re not in the Central anymore, leaping over the wall and taking bombs away from my Tribe.

If you find yourself with an extra minute, check out my Indians blog. I think I even quoted you a while back talking about how filthy Fausto Carmona’s sinking fastball is.

Jason
http://jmays.mlblogs.com

Great article. That definitely helps me see a little better where Matthews is coming from. He just got screwed over with a bad contract in a bad time. It’s hard to trade anybody making over 10MM a year, no matter who you are. But if he really wants to play that badly, he will have to rework his contract. Otherwise, it’s the bench for him. The outfield is just TOO good right now and he would just have to take a bench role. http://darion.mlblogs.com/

This illustrates perfectly how disconnected pro athletes can be from their fans and reality of this world. First of all, citing as an example how Abreu “had to take” only $5 million this year, but it doesn’t matter to him because he’s a competitor, absolutely boggles my mind. What Torii fails to mention here is that the teams pay their fat paypecks, and once they negotiate to play for these huge sums of money, what they want becomes immaterial. Players are at the whim of management, just like every other employee. If GMJ wanted leverage in where he played and how, he should have entered into a contract that was commensurate with his worth. He opted instead for the huge jack (that he was somehow able to get even though he sucks — probably a result of that great catch he made over the fence) that effectively eliminates this leverage. It’s a perfect example of wanting your cake and eating it too. GMJ — suck it up, play where you’re told, do what’s best for your TEAM, and go buy a car or something to make yourself feel better.

Then Mathews should offer to take a pay cut. There certainly would be teams interested in him as an everyday player, but not at his salary. Even those of us in the “real world” often have to make financial sacrifices to have the type of job we want. MLB players have allowed the union and their agents to become too strong and over-ride decisions that would make the player happier for the sake of money. Clearly, the union would not allow Mathews to take a pay cut to get traded, but the players need to step up to the union to allow these sorts of decisions to be made. If he is unwilling to make this kind of sacrifice, then he needs to stop whining and be happy with his money!

Agree with Darion regarding being disconnected. During one of the most dire economic times in our countries history GMJ is crying about not getting to play. WA WA! I have a Masters degree and hold a well paying job but it would take me 100 YEARS to make what GMJ will be paid this season. SHUT UP AND DO YOUR JOB GMJ OR TEAR UP YOUR CONTRACT AND LET THE ANGELS OFF THE HOOK.

While I agree that an athlete truly has the drive and desire to play regardless the situation there is more than the athletes goals in tow. While Torii states that the money is not a factor here is where I disagree. The size of GMJ’s contract is a voice telling Gary that he is better than he actually is. If he was getting paid what Juan Rivera is, he would let that money determine his place on the squad. The most recent complete lack of interest from other teams should let Gary know what he is truly worth and should help him make the mental adjustments. A career .498 slg, .300 avg (Abreu) vs. .425 slg, 259 avg (GMJ) is math and at $5 mill/year vs $5 mill/year its bad math at that.

Torii… thanks for your blog, your insight into different issues, and the attitude you bring to the Angels. It’s been a pleasure becoming a fan of yours.

On the Matthews issue, I absolutely understand the frustration. No one wants to sit on the bench, whether it be literally in baseball, or figuratively in life. We all have talents, and want people to appreciate us and allow us to exhibit those talents.

As far as the comments about players disconnect from fans/reality… that’s unfair. Making a lot of money/being successful should not be held against anyone. We are all human with the same emotions and failings, no matter what we earn. Ball players work hard for their position in life, they sacrifice time away from home and family so they can do what they love; the current economics of the sport allow the players to earn what they do. Yes, I agree sometimes the contracts seem skewed, and I am not a fan of guaranteed contracts, but the burden of the contract is on the team signing the player; that’s why the Angels tend to sign players with a certain personality, guys who will give 100%, even when it’s not a contract year.

I must say, I was pleased that Matthews would not speak to the media about the closed door meeting a few days ago. I respected that action more than anything else he has done. I can’t stand hearing players air their dirty laundry in the papers. He has been as subdued as a man can be in his position.

GMJr wanting to play is not a bad thing, he has passion, but it’s obvious he isn’t going to get much opportunity on our team; I hope GMJr gets traded just so he can play ball and be happy; I would imagine that management wants the same, as long as the team isn’t weakened in doing so.

Gary Matthews should not take a pay cut. He may very well be making more money than he should be. His production may not be on par with his compensation. There is a guy at my work who sleeps at his desk about 60% of the day and he makes about $30/hr.Russhttp://wight4256.mlblogs.com

Gary Matthews will never do what Steve Balboni did.

I think people get caught up in the money (players make what the market dictates, just like in another other job…but with a few more zeros), but it really is about playing. Most pro athletes that I know have been doing this their entire lives. They have put decades into themselves to get to this point, so when they are told one day that their role is not needed or will be in a diminished capacity, it has got to hurt. In the end it is a business, but that doesn’t mean people still don’t take some things personally.

I agree with you torii. I thought GMJ was going to have a big year, that’s why I didn’t understand the abreu signing.

hey Torii, thanks for the post. here’s the thing…i’d love to play baseball too and i’d do it for a lot less money than even the league minimum. my problem, on a different scale of course, is the same as GMJ’s, and that is neither one of us is good enough to earn a spot as a starter. it doesn’t matter who is paid what, it comes down to what they can contribute. if younger guys make your contending team better, why wouldn’t they start? it’s not like you have a throw-away year to develop a player or work out the kinks, just as it’s not Gary’s fault that a contract that the Angels were willing to pay is now a bad decision b/c of the economy. i want my team to field the best players every day and if he gets back to that level, he SHOULD play. until then, you’re projected to win the West again, shouldn’t management support that by playing the best players? perhaps a trade to a less pressured situation might help him work through the kinks. i’d love to see him return to his Rangers form and i’m not even an Angels fan. i would take a demontion hard too, but it’s not about me, it’s about the team, isn’t it?

Look, face this situation with some reality. Injured or not, Matthews has sucked the last couple years, especially in close games. He needs to be a team player, and do whatever he can to help the team win. Here’s another example of a guy thinking of himself over the team. If he’s convinced that he’s such a great player, he should eat his entire contract and go sign with another team. Hey, Matthews, there are a ton of people out of work, and a bunch of us who slave every day for one-hundreth of what you make, so shut the hell up and either play for the team, or eat your contract and go elsewhere!

Not sure why the anger is necessary by some people on this topic. Like everyone else, I’m disappointed Gary hasn’t played better. The guy has been hurt a lot of the time since coming on board, and that sure as hell doesn’t improve his chances of playing better or of playing at all for that matter.

To me, a guy might be more selfish for not saying anything and just sitting around collecting his paycheck without working for it. From everything I have read, Matthews has worked hard to rehab following his surgery in an attempt to get back on the field and play injury free for the first time since his first 2 months as an Angel. I think the guy seriously wants to contribute and do what the team got him to do–play baseball. I don’t think he is being selfish at all. We will likely not get a chance to see him healthy and in the line-up on a regular basis. Too bad really.

And speaking of the money, is it his fault the Angels agreed to sign him to that huge contract? The guy got the money, he got hurt, he rode the bench, and now he’s getting his health back so he can play again. Matthews isn’t wrong, in my opinion.

It’s hard to have sympathy for somebody making this much money. Yes I am caught up with the money pro players make. Their agents hamstring teams with their contract demands and owners agree all to the demise of the final product which is the game. The ultimate loser is the fan.

Every player should have a “realistic” out clause in their contract.

I hope Gary lands a job somewhere – he would look good in a Padre uniform.

Torii,

don’t you think that you .639 OPS in New Britain in ’97 was a bit more of an issue than Otis Nixon for you making the Twins in ’98?

In response to Jamesbondage.
I’m one of those people who is upset by the situation, but it’s not because the Angel’s were stupid enough to pay him that huge jack (in fact, I’m an A’s fan and love the fact that the Angel’s have that albatross around their neck). I’m upset that he’s been paid, and now he’s complaining about his situation with the team that’s stuffing his wallet. No one should be impressed that he’s worked so hard in rehab because he has an obligation to do just that — he’s paid to play baseball at the highest level he’s capable. And I’m sure he wants to compete and contribute to help his team win, but in the current situation, the management has decided the best way for the team to win is for him to be the 5th starter. So . . . that’s what he should do, and he should feel good that at least he’s getting WAY overpaid to do it. If he really wants to play, he should take advantage of the opportunities whenever he gets thrown on the field in the ninth inning for defensive purposes, and maybe gets an AB or two. Finally, no, it is not his fault that the Angel’s entered into his huge contract, but he should have known that he would have to play up to that contract or face the repercussions — namely having almost zero trade value and potentially riding the pine on a team that has 3 or 4 better outfielders. He made his bed by entering that contract and grossly underperforming to it.

You know I was a nay sayer last year but my husband kept reminding me of his first year with the Angels. From listening to his spring I am kind of excited to see what he could do this year! Everybody loves a come back story!! I also listen to XM and listening to Dibbs talk I am glad that Gary is a good guy too. I hope he works it out however it falls and wish him the best with or with out the Angels (if he is hitting I would prefer with) I am so excited for opening day and I’ll be there in my Torii Hunter jersey ready for another GREAT year of Angels baseball!!

Alot of you are talking about the disconnect athletes have from reality… OK. Let’s talk about the disconnect you all have from these athletes. you go watch a game and play fantasy baseball on Espn or mlb r on a 09 and just see these athletes as numbers. These are human beings! Baseball is a game that you need to play on a consistent basis to achieve any level of greatness. So how can you fault the man for wanting to do what he is being payed for. Michael Jordan said that he was not driven by making money when he was drafted but by making people say that he is worth the money. That is all Gary is trying to do. So in conclusion, all of you who said Gary sucks or call him GMJ like you know him personally suck at life.

Alot of you are talking about the disconnect athletes have from reality… OK. Let’s talk about the disconnect you all have from these athletes. you go watch a game and play fantasy baseball on Espn or mlb r on a 09 and just see these athletes as numbers. These are human beings! Baseball is a game that you need to play on a consistent basis to achieve any level of greatness. So how can you fault the man for wanting to do what he is being payed for. Michael Jordan said that he was not driven by making money when he was drafted but by making people say that he is worth the money. That is all Gary is trying to do. So in conclusion, all of you who said Gary sucks or call him GMJ like you know him personally suck at life.

I’m sure this whole situation is very tough on Gary, but I feel it is going to get tougher. I don’t see a team eating the rest of his salary. You mentioned Bobby Abreau taking an $11M cut and what about Garret Anderson taking a $2M contract to play for the Braves… he’ll be tough to move in these economic times. I don’t and have never questioned Gary’s heart or competativeness. I think a lot of how I feel about Gary is going to depend on how he reacts from here.

From one MLB alumni to a MLB star…

Chop on it!

I hope you know what I mean.

Texas loves you Torii, but I have to hate on your Angel Fans. What a bunch of babies they are!!!

First of all I think he has every right to want what he wants! He might not have been the super hero we all expected when he joined the team, but keep in mind he did play injured for a while and still helped out the team a lot. Honestly it must have been hard to have someone as great as Torii take his place last year, and now that he’s healthy and ready to do what hes got to do, in comes Bobby! Anyone who knows anything about these guys knows its not about money, and seriously GMJ just wants to play. So let him go shine! As much as I want him to stay with us he deserves to do what he was put on this earth to do…and thats playin ball.

First of all I think he has every right to want what he wants! He might not have been the super hero we all expected when he joined the team, but keep in mind he did play injured for a while and still helped out the team a lot. Honestly it must have been hard to have someone as great as Torii take his place last year, and now that he’s healthy and ready to do what hes got to do, in comes Bobby! Anyone who knows anything about these guys knows its not about money, and seriously GMJ just wants to play. So let him go shine! As much as I want him to stay with us he deserves to do what he was put on this earth to do…and thats playin ball.

First of all I think he has every right to want what he wants! He might not have been the super hero we all expected when he joined the team, but keep in mind he did play injured for a while and still helped out the team a lot. Uh hello! Anyone remember his amazing catch!? Honestly it must have been hard to have someone as great as Torii take his place last year, and now that he’s healthy and ready to do what hes got to do, in comes Bobby! Anyone who knows anything about these guys knows its not about money, and seriously GMJ just wants to play. So let him go shine! As much as I want him to stay with us he deserves to do what he was put on this earth to do…and thats playin ball.

First of all I think he has every right to want what he wants! He might not have been the super hero we all expected when he joined the team, but keep in mind he did play injured for a while and still helped out the team a lot. Uh hello! Anyone remember his amazing catch!? Honestly it must have been hard to have someone as great as Torii take his place last year, and now that he’s healthy and ready to do what hes got to do, in comes Bobby! Anyone who knows anything about these guys knows its not about money, and seriously GMJ just wants to play. So let him go shine! As much as I want him to stay with us he deserves to do what he was put on this earth to do…and thats playin ball. oh and fyi…I heart torii ;-)

Mr. Hunter.
Great talking to you tonight in SD…..good luck this year.
Scott
P.S. check your website email :)

I think it’s great that you’re willing to go to bat, metaphorically, for a teammate. Though I never broke through into the Majors, I did play minor league ball, and I do understand the athlete’s mentality. That said, selfishness is not a great quality to have. The simple fact of the matter is that Gary does not give the team the best chance to win as an everyday player. He needs to understand that. As you pointed out, he’s not an old player, and he’s not a young player. But he is a veteran, and the example he sets goes a long way with the younger guys.

When they see Gary’s complaints over playing time feeding out into the media – and that’s a fault of both the player and the organization – that can’t have a good effect on them. If they seem him showing discontent for taking on a lesser role, then why should they be happy with a lesser role themselves? It’s an ugly precedent to set, and he has handled this about as poorly as he could, without being Jay Cutler.

Congrats to all MLB players’ who have agreed in the past year to take less money, in hopes of winning a World Series! Too much greed is never a good thing

http://baseballintheattic.mlblogs.com/

Torii, Isn’t part of the Code “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse”? I know the game and the code seem to be changing, but I just dont think Gary should be saying anything to the press. I can understand him saying all he wants to management. But this stuff should not be said to the press. All this has done has made him lose more respect with a lot of fans.

I agree with your views about him wanting to play and why. He also did what everyone does…played hurt and roughted it out, but then he worked his tail off to get into shape in the offseason. He did the right things….except he should not have said anything to the press.

I also dont think anyone should complain about what guys get paid…many dont understand how poorly paid ballplayers are before they make the show. It is a rough life getting there. Plus, players were underpaid and abused my owners for many years in baseball history and they players are getting their fair pay based on what the owners are bringing in now.

I dont think people should be jealous of a guy getting paid well, they should be happy for them.

J

This is our fifth annual list of possible breakout players based on Spring Training statistics. We researched the value of Spring Training stats a few years back and it was quite revealing. For the most part, we agree with the common perception that they don?t have value. A bad spring training means nothing. An average spring training tells us nothing. Nevertheless, we did find that when a player has an exceptional spring, it does suggest a better than a 60% chance they will take their game up a notch. It applies to teams as well. Did anybody notice the Angels are 24-8 despite losing Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez to free agency, and having three star pitchers hurt in John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar?
We define ?exceptional spring? as a positive difference between a hitter?s spring training slugging percentage and their lifetime slugging percentage of 200 points or more
We analyzed hitters with both a minimum of 200 career regular season at-bats and with a minimum of 40 spring training or World Baseball Classic at-bats (through spring training games of Thursday, April 2) and found the following 46 players.
Possible Breakout Players
(Slugging percentage 200+ points better in spring training)

Hitter Diff. Spring Career
Mark Teahen, Royals .494 .915 .421
Erick Aybar, Angels .436 .784 .348
Milton Bradley, Cubs .429 .886 .457
Jeff Mathis, Angels .388 .714 .326
John Buck, Royals .358 .756 .398
J.J. Hardy, Brewers .351 .797 .446
Juan Castro, Dodgers .329 .660 .331
Endy Chavez, Mariners .322 .691 .369
Mark DeRosa, Indians .313 .735 .422
Corey Hart, Brewers .312 .797 .485
Torii Hunter, Angels .309 .778 .468
Koyie Hill, Cubs .287 .569 .281
Miguel Olivo, Royals .285 .696 .411
Jason Lane, Blue Jays .279 .736 .457
Alex Gordon, Royals .265 .686 .421
Chris Shelton, Mariners .259 .720 .461
Nelson Cruz, Rangers .258 .689 .431
Jolbert Cabrera, Orioles .257 .622 .365
Kendry Morales, Angels .254 .663 .408
Robb Quinlan, Angels .251 .667 .416
Chris Woodward, Phillies .250 .625 .375
Ivan Rodriguez, Astros .246 .721 .475
Ryan Spilborghs, Rockies .239 .705 .466
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies .236 .595 .359
Jed Lowrie, Red Sox .235 .635 .400
Russell Martin, Dodgers .234 .667 .433
Josh Fields, White Sox .233 .688 .454
Craig Monroe, Pirates .233 .676 .444
Angel Berroa, Yankees .232 .610 .378
Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners .231 .632 .400
Doug Mientkiewicz, Dodgers .229 .634 .405
Craig Counsell, Brewers .224 .568 .344
Jose Lopez, Mariners .221 .619 .398
Ian Stewart, Rockies .218 .661 .443
Josh Hamilton, Rangers .215 .753 .538
Carlos Delgado, Mets .215 .761 .546
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies .214 .655 .441
Jayson Werth, Phillies .211 .662 .451
Adrian Gonzalez, Padres .209 .703 .494
Andy LaRoche, Pirates .208 .480 .272
Fred Lewis, Giants .208 .642 .434
Eric Bruntlett, Phillies .204 .548 .344
Carlos Gomez, Twins .203 .554 .350
Brandon Inge, Tigers .202 .593 .392
Russell Branyan, Mariners .200 .685 .485
Mark Teixeira, Yankees .200 .741 .541

(minimum 200 career AB and 40 spring Training or WBC AB thru April 2, 2009)

Which players might go up a notch this year
based on their Spring Training statistics?
This is our fifth annual list of possible breakout players based on Spring Training statistics. We researched the value of Spring Training stats a few years back and it was quite revealing. For the most part, we agree with the common perception that they don?t have value. A bad spring training means nothing. An average spring training tells us nothing. Nevertheless, we did find that when a player has an exceptional spring, it does suggest a better than a 60% chance they will take their game up a notch. It applies to teams as well. Did anybody notice the Angels are 24-8 despite losing Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez to free agency, and having three star pitchers hurt in John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar?

Which players might go up a notch this year
based on their Spring Training statistics?
This is our fifth annual list of possible breakout players based on Spring Training statistics. We researched the value of Spring Training stats a few years back and it was quite revealing. For the most part, we agree with the common perception that they don?t have value. A bad spring training means nothing. An average spring training tells us nothing. Nevertheless, we did find that when a player has an exceptional spring, it does suggest a better than a 60% chance they will take their game up a notch. It applies to teams as well. Did anybody notice the Angels are 24-8 despite losing Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez to free agency, and having three star pitchers hurt in John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar?

Gary Matthews Jr. has the potential to be a marquee player, but on a squad as talented as th 2009 Angels, it’s gonna be hard to be an every day player. That said, I think that if GMJ is serious about playting every day, he needs to hit better. Spend more time in BP and show the management he’s got what it takes. But you can’t whine and bit less than .250 and expect to start every game.

Randy – ExposurePerfect.com

Most of you dont know GMJ at all so dont judge someone you dont know or you will be judged as well. If you knew him then you would know that he would settle for anything under $50,000 to play everyday, seriously, its not about the money to him, its about the game.His father played too, it is in his blood. Now that we cleared up the money issue (which is NOT in his control), about him not playing so well.If you have ever spoke to him personally he would tell you that if you dont get to play that often, then you get rusty and its hard to play as well as those who get to play everyday.If you get to play everyday you play a lot better, so thats another reason he wants to play everyday because he would play as good as he use to prior to his injuries. Its not his choice how much he wants to get paid.He does want to get traded to play everyday and he would settle for next to nothing.
As for his “attitude” he is a really nice guy but maybe he really wants to get traded and doesn’t know any other way how to get traded.You dont know him and what goes thru his head. He loves his team, he loves the town, he loves his fans. To sit on the bench when you trained all your life to play, is torture. There are some people who dont get mind doing nothing and getting paid because they are lazy, but there are some who constantly want to work and keep busy and stay productive. He didnt work this hard to sit on the bench.He would settle for less to play more often and if he played more often his game would vastly improve! Hes a great guy and he really loves his team and the game. Torii knows him well so dont look beyond what he is saying. Gary should play more often and they should trade him if that what it takes for him to play more, even if it means a big pay cut. GO ANGELS!!!! (RIP #34)

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