Goatriders of the Apocalypse

News and Notes

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GROTA News and Notes

Just a few things this morning to occupy your thoughts...

As some of you may have noticed, we've been touching up the looks of the blog the past few weeks. Kevin and I are presently working on one or three additional skins, all of which very well may give this blog one of the most unique looks on the net. So, if you haven't looked yet here's how you'd check them out: once you log in go into "my account," click on the "edit" tab, scroll down and pick your favorite. Feedback is of course welcome.

Not to mention that if you happen to have a blog yourself and would like a new logo, you are more than welcome to contact me. My prices are ridiculously fair. Apart from GROTA you can see examples of what I've done recently at Another Cubs Blog and the Bush League Times, and I've recently taken to designing a few logos for Hockee Night although Fork hasn't changed them yet.

Speaking of Fork, like the Uncouth Sloth he is another old time Cub fan with a strong writing style and a long memory. He has graciously volunteered to join us in contributing his perspective on Cubs 101. And while I haven't directly asked him to contribute to the more mundain articles on the 2009 Cubs, nothing is stopping him -- so let's welcome Forklift to the team.

Speaking of additions to the team, GROTA has a long-standing tradition of absorbing writers the way the Blob would absorb the flesh of its victims. I've always tried to tentitively keep the number fairly low -- generally we have had a minimum of four contributors at one time but that number has balooned to six (and more) as the original writers have gone on to get jobs, wives, children, offers from other, better blogs and other deals that directly correlate to lower post production. So, since we're not exactly drowning you in content -- despite having myself, Byron, Jason, Rob, Colin, Kyle, Chris, AJ, and at large Tonker, Huey, and Chuck -- I've decided to take an open approach to adding on part-time contributors like Forklift.

Not that we're exactly screening for auditions or anything -- although any reader who's interested in writing for the site has the option to "audition" through a regular production of reader blogs, which aren't being used often enough -- but don't be surprised to see some old-time familiar faces posting sporadically on this blog.

Lastly, feedback is welcome.  Is there anything you'd like to see more of on this blog?  What do you think we're missing?  Please note that none of these two questions are invitations to hate on something we presently have that you DON'T like, be it a writer or regular topic.  If you can't resist the urge to tell me how much you despise something that I have no intention of changing then I promise I will make all efforts to double the amount of the content you dislike.  Why would I do something like that?  Because I'm a bastard, obviously.

Saturday Cub news round-up

I'm going to try a new experiment where I actually read about Cubs news from a variety of different sources and then I'm going to report on it!  I know, it's a thrilling concept that I expect will catch like wild-fire and become the standard template across the internet.  When websites everywhere start collecting news while adding their own snarky spin to it you can tell them that you read it here first.

Hopefully most Saturdays I will remember to do this, and on Sundays I'll try to do a Cubs blog recap of what the various bloggers are up to.  I expect this experiment to last about three weeks because it will probably take too long.  Nevertheless...

First our friends at ESPN Chicago (who I wish would at least give us a link or something)
Gene Wojciechowski -- who almost gave up on being a writer after the first few times he tried to spell his own last name -- writes that the Tribune should turn to Oprah to buy the Cubs.  After all, she's freakin' rich and she likes to help the helpless. 

Gene writes,

She's local. She's brilliant. She could pull a $1 billion bill out
of her wallet to buy the Cubs and, according to Forbes magazine, still
have enough money left over to be the 281st-richest person in America.

you see what ABC's Diane Sawyer recently wrote about Oprah in Time
magazine? "Her curiosity is undiminished. So is her passion for healing
the bruised parts of the world and wielding truth against bruisers."

there a part of the world more bruised than the corner of Clark and
Addison? The Cubs are on their second 100-year rebuilding plan. They
need Oprah's healing powers.

That's fantastic, Gene.  Maybe Oprah can bring in a new-age guru who will help the team get positive and think past their uncertainties.  Actually I liked this idea better when Michael Moore had it, although he was stumping for Oprah to run for President.  Probably the only good thing to come out of this story is the picture they used of Oprah, where she appears to be profiling her mammoth knockers ... not that I really want to see Oprah's mammoth knockers by any means. 

ESPN writer Nick Friedell -- who could have auditioned for the Jack Black role in the movie Year One but would've lost out because he looks too much like a Neanderthal -- wants what Rob wants: the Cubs to go after a starting pitcher.

Friedell says

I am a simple Caveman.  Your world frightens and confuses me!  But even I have to ask, why are the White Sox the only team in this city that appears to be going after a front-line starting pitcher?

That's the only question I have after reading Bruce Levine's report that the Sox have shown interest in Roy Oswalt.
The common thinking around town seems to be that Ozzie Guillen's team
is in desperate need of another top-of-the-line starter to complement Mark Buehrle and solidify a shaky rotation.

That's true, but while I still sometimes believe that my toaster is the home of an angry fire god out to burn me, what I do know is this: at this point the Cubs need another ace just as badly, if not worse.

the biggest problem with Lou Piniella's club continues to be an
inconsistent offense, an even larger problem is beginning to rear its
head: The Cubs' starting pitching isn't as strong as everyone thought
it would be.

I don't mind that Rob was writing on this topic not too long ago because I'm pretty sure that the Sloth said nothing about how the Cubs starting pitching sucks.  But I just have to ask... how the hell can anybody think the Cubs need to get another starter when it's the bullpen that's consistently crapped the bed? 

And for a guy who actually writes for ESPN, Friedell seems to not understand that it's actually pretty damned easy to look up performance trends.  Ignoring that the Cubs have the fourth best starters' ERA in all of baseball right now at 3.88 it's also not hard to look up this amazing figure: for the month of May, the Cubs had four starters with ERAs of 3.76 or less.  Sure, upgrade if it's available because it never hurts to have one more really good pitcher, but the bullpen has to be the first priority.

Over at Cubs.com...

Carrie Muskat reports that Alfonso Soriano may have injured his knee back into shape.  Wait, what? 

But it's true!

On Wednesday in Atlanta, Soriano singled to lead off, and as he rounded first base, he pulled up and seemed to be in pain.

It turns out, it might have been a good thing.

"The other day in the first inning when he hit the ball down the line
and he sort of stopped at first, I think he might have had some
adhesions or something [in his left knee], and his leg started to feel
better after that," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

The way Soriano made the turn may have broken up some scar tissue in his knee.

"He feels better, which is good to hear," Piniella said.

I guess anything is possible, but this may be the first time in Cubs history that a player tore tissue in a joint resulting in less pain. 

Speaking of Cubs.com, Carrie further reports that Fukudome and Soriano are presently making strong bids for the All Star Game despite neither player doing a whole lot since the month of April.

Lastly, Muskat has a piece on the draft strategery of the Cubs.  I have to admit I was unable to read it all before drowning under a surging tide of ANGER.  Here are the gems:

"I think when you look at a Draft, everybody gets focused on the
first-round pick, and they forget there are 49 other players taken in
the Draft," Fleita said. "When [Greg] Maddux was taken in '84 in the
second round, nobody remembers the first-round pick."

Yeah, and?  I should take this time to mention that the Cubs have had the same scouting director (Tim Wilken) for the past four years.  In that time his only claim to success has been Geovany Soto ... who was drafted by the team four years before Wilken got the job.  (Not to mention that they released two of his first four top picks this Spring in Grant Johnson and Mark Pawalek along with Ryan Harvey.)  And he's just now realizing that they shouldn't get too focused on the first round?!

Wilken's approach is to "take the best big leaguer left." He leans
toward athletic players -- Tyler Colvin and Josh Vitters are good
examples. The Cubs, hoping they can continue to pick low in the
First-Year Player Draft, the order of which is determined by where the
team finishes the year before, have expanded their scouting efforts,
and signed players from Korea and Australia.

Hmm.  Athletic players.  Wasn't Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Ryan Harvey, and pretty much every failed hitter of the past four presidential administrations drafted because he was athletic?  Afagah!  gaoefmeal3a4!!!  $(*$O@!  So mad!  Can't type!

"In my mind, every scouting director is measured over getting three,
four, five players to the Major Leagues. A lot of times, we fail to
talk about the players traded away, like Bobby Hill to get Aramis

Hill = fail. 

or when we traded an international player in Hee Seop Choi to
get Derrek Lee.

Choi = more fail.

I think you have to look inside the numbers inside the
Draft. I think the scouting directors are measured by the depth of the
Draft. The guy who's out there trying to get Mark Grace, who was a
later-round pick, that's where you really value your scouts. Everybody
in the country is talking about the top players. The true meaning of
the scout is to go out there and scour and get the guy who nobody
thought was going to be a top player."
-- Fleita

Translation: I do not know what I am saying.  But still they employ me! 

One look at the Sun-Times webpage and I can understand why Mariotti bailed.  It doesn't even appear as if they're trying.  This week's winners:

Carlos Zambrano is akin to Babe Ruth, says Gordon Wittenmyer.  Ignoring the theatrics he plays his heart out, he does little things right, and he's entertaining. 

Then again, Carlos has proclaimed that he'll be retiring in five years.  I frankly do not buy it.  Ask yourselves if you've ever fantasized about quitting your job in the next couple of months (or years) only for you to bitterly realize that it ain't gonna happen.  For whatever reason that is Carlos's fantasy right now.  But five years is a long-ass time for somebody to change his mind.

Carol Slezak writes like a college journalism student.  Er, I mean, she writes about Carlos's issues with rage control.

Amazingly, she actually appears to have contacted a psychiatrist for this piece. 

But can he learn to control his temper? Does anger management actually work?

''It works for people who are coachable,'' said Dr. Eric Morse, a
psychiatrist who works with professional and college athletes. ''But it
depends upon the individual. If a person doesn't have a co-occurring
disorder [such as addiction or bipolar disorder, for instance], if he
truly just has an anger problem, anger management works very well.''

There's just one catch.

''The main way to stop that behavior is to have a high level of
motivation to stop it,'' said Morse, who graduated from Northwestern
Medical School. ''In [Zambrano's] case, the consequences of the
outbursts have not been strong enough to make him want to change. The
consequences are not significant to him.'

Really, Carol?  You're being paid to write this?  I guess I get it.  You're being paid to sit in a newspaper probably 220 to 250 days each year and sometimes it must be awfully tough to figure out what to write about next.  Hey, if the Blackhawks lose a game because Kane's skate's break, you could always call up a skates expert and ask his opinion on, well, skates!  If the Bears win because the wind pushes an errant field goal back in line, why not call up a meteorologist to ask how unusually strong the breeze has to be for that kind of effect!  Then you can transcribe their words to fit your pre-determined opinion and you'll be good to go!

More from Gordon - Jake Fox is ready to choke a bitch if he doesn't get in the lineup more regularly soon.  Maybe he's just completely defensively inadequate, but I don't see the point of promoting the hottest-hitting minor leaguer in baseball to sit on your bench as your team's offense continues to struggle. 

And lest we forget, Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood now play for the Indians.  Just a reminder.

Over in the Daily Herald, Goat Friend Bruce Miles relates his own perspective on the Pending Z Retirement.  Like me, he's not buying it.

Lastly, the Chicago Tribune takes a lot of looks at Sammy Sosa and his future chasing the Hall of Fame.

The Tribune asks its Hall voters if they'd give Sosa the nod.  But I'm pretty sure Goat Friend Paul Sullivan gets a vote too and he's not on the list.  Then again, I already know his answer ... when in doubt, vote him out.  Derrek Lee and Lou Piniella would both disagree on this sentiment. 

Speaking of Sullivan -- and Jake Fox -- Sully says he may get a chance to start in right field soon.  Screw it, I say play him everywhere -- a bit at catcher, a little at first, third, left, right, but not shortstop! 

And that's the news recap for Saturday.  Sure enough, I've been working on this for two or three hours.  Next time I'll cut it down somehow.

WBC shaping up nicely

Is anyone else following the World Baseball Classic? I've been trying to. It's the busy season at work, so I can't always watch March baseball, but the WBC is infinitely more interesting than Spring Training.

For one, despite the pitch limits, you've actually heard of all the guys playing for the USA throughout the game. It's better than watching #62 pitch to #78 in the eighth inning. And for another, the teams actually care about winning.

This year's WBC included a major shocker with the Netherlands ousting of the Dominican Republic in the first round, but last night's drama was almost worthy of the MLB post-season.

In Miami, team USA was losing 5-3 to Puerto Rico before the Red White&Blue started a ninth inning rally against JC Romero. After loading the bases and closing the gap to one, David Wright stepped to the plate and knocked in two to secure the walk-off victory. Just like a post-season win, Derek Jeter streaked out of the dugout to mob his teammates... although he wisely did not join in the dog-pile that ensued. (That's the difference between the WBC and the WS.)

Subsequently in San Diego, Japan and Korea squared off. While you've heard of most of the Japanese stars (Ichiro, etc), the South Koreans are fairly anonymous, but equally as good. In fact they won last night, clinching a berth in the semi-finals. And if there wasn't enough bad blood between the two countries, South Korea planted a flag on the Petco park mound to taunt the Japanese. (This was in retribution for an earlier Japanese flag planting.)

Anyhow, I'm just wondering if anyone else is following the WBC, and if there are any predictions. If I were a betting man, I'd go with South Korea to take the '09 WBC title.

Hello and News Roundup

Hello everybody. I wanted to get a chance to introduce myself to a few of you, while provided some news updates on the Cubs.

Like Kurt said, I've been blogging since 2003 at the Yarbage Cub Review, which I started for two reasons:

1. I wanted an outlet to talk about the Cubs, which was most important. Back in the day, Scott Lange of the Northside Lounge, Ruz of The Cub Reporter and a few others dominated the scene. I just wanted to share the opinion of one Cubs' fan from afar.

2. The second reason was much more selfish. I needed some kind of hook to get a job, and a blog about the Cubs was the trick. I wrote quite a bit in the first vew years, but as soon as I got a job covering High School sports in Arkansas it became harder to keep going. Writing full-time and keeping a blog going are two things that don't go together, unless you are blogging about the things you cover.

Now that that is out of the way, it is time to look at some stories making news. Kurt asked me to do a news round up from time-to-time, and I will try to fill that void while writing other articles.

The Trib, Suntimes and Daily Herald all say the Cubs got off to good start. The hero was Micah Hoffpauir, who hit a Grand Slam. I know it's early, but I'll take a win.

The Gordon Wittenmyer says that Jeff Samardzija's role isn't determined quite yet. Really? I know he is just trying to fill up copy, something I did back in the day, but of course Samardzija's role isn't settled. My guess is he is heading to Iowa, and will soon take Rich Harden's spot after another shoulder problem.

That's it for now, but as the news cyle starts up, I will be back to give my comments about each of them. Think of me as the GROTA Ombudsman.

Sunday yawn

Well, it would appear as though little is happening in the world of the Cubs today ... or this week ... or this month ... in fact, little has happened since they got knocked out of the playoffs in October.

At this point, the very real fear of the Cubs reaching Zero Objectives this off season appears possible.  So, let me open it up to you.  Do you think the Cubs will get anybody on their radar?  And if not, will they upgrade at all or roll into March with last year's team, minus Kerry Wood?

Miday Monday News and Notes

You know, I've been meaning to write this post since Friday.  My plan is to basically comment on the many items of interest in a witty and amusing way.  So, let's take a look at what's news:

Kerry Wood returns to the DL for the 12th time in his career.   However, if, March of this year, you were going to tell me that Wood was DL bound at some point in '08, believe me, I'd have felt relieved to learn it was for a blister.  Lou chose to celebrate Kerry's DL-boundness by pitching Carlos Marmol in a blowout as he was preparing Marmol to be the interim closer.  It was a "tune up" because Marmol apparently needed the work.

I know that Rob has retaliated to my criticism of Piniella for his mismanagement of Marmol.   Hey, I remain a huge fan of Piniella.  If you want to talk about pitcher mismanagement, Lou will never come close to escaping the shadow of Dusty Baker.  However, as this season progresses my frustration about the way he handles Marmol will grow, believe me. 

Alfonso Soriano has begun his rehab.   There has been some debate as to whether or not he would return directly to the majors, or recover in the minors for a while.  I for one am happy that the Cubs smartly assigned him to the minors, and I suspect that he'll be there for only a few games.  However, the strength of his hand will remain an issue for the rest of the season.  I believe that Alfonso will again be a contributing factor to the team's offense, but I don't think he's going to hit a whole lot of homeruns for the rest of this year.  I look forward to being wrong.

Also mentioned in the article, Scott Eyre is also recovering from his injury problems, but he will not do a minor league rehab stint, and Rich Hill continues to tank in the minors.  Hill claims that his problems are related to a back spasm, rather than a brain spasm.  Time will tell on that one.

Ray Durham has been dealt to the Brewers for two minor leaguers.  Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Durham does not know how to pitch out of the bullpen, so the Cubs are probably not sweating this acquisition.

Lastly, at some point tonight I'm going to do a direct comparison of the Cubs with the various teams in the American League who are likely playoff bound.  I haven't looked yet, but I have a suspicion that the Cubs will compare favorably.   

News and Notes (or "Jason wants to write again")

So, as it turns out, writing is the kind of thing where you have to do it or the ability goes away. Given that my "ability" was limited to various nerdisms and poo-jokes, I'm not sure if the break was a good idea. But a break I took, and so now in my own bed I will lie (lay? lye?). I'd like to say that I'm going to break out the funny (or the relevant) in this post , but I'm really just trying to get all the commas in the right places and keep the typos to a minimum, something I struggle with in the best of times. Given all this, I feel it is best to stick to a bullet list, some links, and minimal personal contribution.

But wait! What's this? I'm feeling the urge to write? The words...they're spilling out. Is it the wine? Or the frozen Tombstone pizza? What is the source of this inspiration? And how long can I keep rambling about my desire to write before I have to actually write something of value?

One paragraph?


And did that count as two paragraphs? And is this now three?

These are all questions to which I have no answers and so I'm going with the bullet list after all. Here's what's happened in the world since I've left*

(* quick note: did anyone notice I was gone? Anyone? Hello?)

  • Will Leitch left Deadspin. As it turns out, there are people over at Desipio who like to talk bad about Will, but I've never found him to be anything other than extremely polite and friendly. He's willingly submitted himself to my ridiculous interview questions (note: not a bad read, surprisingly. I usually can't stand reading my old writing) and has linked us on many an occasion, including our hand in the downfall of Stephen A. Smith. Dislike of Will Leitch continues to baffle me as I couldn't disagree more with the claims that he is "full of himself" or "a douche". All I ever noticed is a guy with midwest values living in the New York. I contend that Midwest values never leave you. Thanks for the entertainment lo these many years, Will, and good luck in the future.
  • Blackhawks sign two of the top free agents available, giving Chicago the possibility of having the top teams in the NHL, NFL, NBA, NL, and AL. Of course, that just requires a Chicago team to win the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals, ALCS and NLCS...yep, I called it here first.
  • We decide that, no, particle physics isn't going to end the world as we know it. But if it did, it would be frickin' cool (you know,briefly).
  • And guess who submitted her thesis? Yep, that's right, she's going to be a doctor. But not that kind of doctor, the cool kind. You know, the kind that can't heal you but can make a histogram of the frequency of your gaseous emissions, fit it to a Gaussian, and predict your next release. Now *that's* a real doctor.

So now you're saying, hey! You didn't talk about baseball! And I'm thinking, hay? Why are we talking about hay? Hay is for horses and grass is cheaper? And then I realize, that's a verbal joke. That doesn't make any sense in print. Clearly you said "hey". not "hay". But my point is, there was no need for me to talk about baseball. The rest of the gang here at Goat Riders has kept you up to date and well covered, much like a blanket...a blanket of words. And anything I could add regarding to Rich Hill's relation to Steve Blass or Derrek Lee's desire to double his pleasure could only serve to distract from the real story around these parts:

The Cubs are in first. The Cubs are getting healthy. The Cubs are going to be in even firstier very soon.

Take it to the bank.

And have the bank look at you curiously.

Because that wasn't a form of currency.

Just words. Not subject to inflation.

Go Cubs.

Monday morning off-day round-up

I'd be driving to work right about now, but I have the morning off for a doctor's appointment. The Cubs are even luckier - they've got a full day off, allowing them the opportunity to rest after the intense beating they've given the White Sox this past weekend. Cubs and Sox players describe the interleague series as having "a playoff atmosphere," and usually when they say it, they do so in a way where they sound like nobody had ever said the same thing before and they just struck Baseball-Quote Gold. I overheard Jim Thome on ESPN Radio on Friday. "It's a fun series to play in and watch," he said (or something close to it, I'm paraphrasing). "It's definitely intense. It's like ... it's like ... it's like a Playoff Atmosphere!!!! Wooo-hooo! I just came up with a good'un. They're gonna quote me everywhere for that'un!"

Except maybe it's true. As I wrote in my guest column for 35th Street, it's probably different within Chicago where Cub fans go to work with Sox fans and have to live with each other's taunts on a regular basis. Taking that kind of mindset to a game can certainly lead to a charged-up atmosphere. But, as a resident of the Rest of the World, I can say truthfully that it didn't matter much, except in the standings.

Now then, the Cubs are off today, and because I've got time to kill I've researched a few interesting things. Be prepared to be shocked.

  • It's June 23rd, 2008. The Cubs have the best record in all of baseball.
  • They have won 14 games in a row at home - their longest such streak since 1934 or '35. You know what else happened in the 1930's? There was a depression going on, fascism was on the rise in Europe, and, oh, the Cubs made the World Series on 3 different occasions.
  • Aramis Ramirez - whose name is pronounced inconsistently by ESPN broadcasters - hulked up this weekend and hit a lot of homeruns. He suddenly finds himself on pace for more than 30.
  • Speaking of hulking up, as we've suggested all along, the Alfonso Soriano Replacement Sweepstakes has now become the Cubs Deadline Trade-Bait Showcase. Eric Patterson is now batting .318 with 2 walks in 22 at bats (Corey could get 220 at bats and still he might only walk twice), and he hit a big homerun last night against the Sox. Matt Murton is now batting .273, but he's yet to hit any extra base hits or homers. Micah Hoffpauir is batting .400 in 35 at bats with 6 doubles and a homer. If even one of these guys contribute toward the landing of C.C. Sabathia at the trade deadline, then this little Showcase will be a mission accomplished, and I will start accusing the Cubs of faking Soriano's injury in order to allow for the opportunity.
  • If it's true that this series was a "playoff atmosphere" then it's good that Dempster pitched well. I remain unconvinced that the Cubs have the arms to win a short series. A few more epic starts like the last one, and Clownsevelt will convince me to change my mind.
  • Carlos Marmol is hugely concerning. Lou did the right thing by trotting him out there, and you can safely bet money on Marmol making an appearance tomorrow night against Baltimore, regardless the situation, but his last two outings have been Ankiel-like. In his 4-run outing against Tampa, where he was unable to get a single out, Marmol threw 20 pitches, 7 for strikes, and he hit 2 batters. In his next outing against the Sox, Marmol threw 31 pitches, 13 for strikes, including a wild pitch. In total, that's 51 pitches, 20 strikes, 5 walked batters, 2 hit batters, and at least 1 wild pitch that I know of. I am comforted by Kerry Wood, who once noted that he went through a similar stretch when he was still a minor league pitcher, and it actually may be more common than we realize.
  • Speaking of K.Wood, Jon Miller EMailed me recently to note that ESPN has him - and 2 other Cubs out of 10 total players - in their National League Cy Young Predictor.

Oh, and one last thing. The Cubs are now 13-7 for the month of June, and they are 6-4 in 10 games without The Fonz. They play 7 more games this month - 3 at home against the 38-36 (but 16-24 on the road) Orioles, 3 at near-home against the reeling-but-still-deadly Sox, and 1 on the road in San Fran as a precursor to a 4-game series that will carry into July. As I keep pointing out, at the start of this horribly rough stretch of games, I said, "the Cubs might exit June with 13 or 14 wins for the month." I also said that, if the Cubs won 16, we should be happy and the Cubs should have a healthy lead on the #2 team. Byron then made a poll in which the vast majority of readers predicted between 14 and 17 wins. With 7 games remaining, it is very, very possible that the Cubs will win 17, or even 18 games in the hardest month of their season!

Even if you want to argue that other months are tougher schedule-wise (and that's an argument you will lose, in my opinion), with Carlos missing two or three starts, with Marmol looking like Ankiel, and with Alfonso missing more than half the month due to injury, the play of the Cubs has been just flat out amazing. And maybe that's what we should call them - the Amazing Cubs. The way things are headed, we also might have a few other prefixes to tack onto their names. Some remain unspeakable for now, but The 100-Win Cubs is becoming a strong possibility.

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