Goatriders of the Apocalypse


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Dempster + Lee = Win (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Dodgers 0)

Ryan Dempster is vindicated! Except not quite. Sigh.

Demp starred in last night's outing, mostly by not crapping his pants and/or giving up any grand slams. No, but seriously, eight innings, seven strikeouts to only one walk, and just three hits. That'll do it.

I was hoping Ryan would get a shot at completing the game, but I'm not going to complain about the opportunity to watch Carlos Marmol make lame-os like Manny Ramirez look compleetly stoopid with his narsty slider.

Derrek Lee knocked in all three Cub runs, taking himself above both the .230 mark in batting average as well as the .700 mark in OPS. He'll keep coming back around, I promise. (For the record, Fangraphs' preferred predictor suggets he'll hit .280/.364/.476 for the rest of the season, which would be fine by me.)

So yeah, see? Winning is easy!

Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles at Chicago Cubs (May 25- May 27, 2010)

Don't look now, but the Cubs are coming off another series win.  In fact, they've actually not lost any of the past three series.  Much of this success can be attributed to the fact that the Cubs have done just enough to win games lately.  The pitching continues to be pretty good and the offense has been showing occassional signs of life.

The Dodgers have been one of the most torrid teams in baseball right now.  At one point an afterthought in the San Diego/San Francisco race to the top of the NL West, the Dodgers rattled off an 8 game winning streak and are 8-2 in their last ten.  Momentum is definitely on the Dodgers side right now.  After a much needed off day for both teams, the Dodgers head into Wrigley and try to improve their road record from 10-11.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010- Clayton Kershaw (4-2, 3.23) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.73)
Kershaw was (and the Dodgers continue to hope he is) the wunderkind that can anchor their starting rotation.  Earlier in the season, Kershaw was all over the place and many speculated he couldn't control his emotions on the mound.  Some of those critics have been quieted as of late.  Kershaw has had a ridiculous month of May in which he has allowed only two runs over 22 1/3 innings since his catastrophic first start of the month (1 1/3, 7 runs).  In that time he has also struck out 23 batters and added 3 wins to his record.  Clayton has a fastball that sits mid-90s that is complemented by a hard 1-to-7 curve (mid-70s), a "plus" circle change and a slider.  He has a great repeatable delivery and a good frame for it.  The best way to get at Kershaw is to attack the pitches he throws early in the count, particularly early in the game.  Opponents are batting .353 against Clayton in his first 15 pitches of the game, and .429 on the first pitch in the sequence.

Dempster has lost his last four starts and looks to get back on track tonight.  He's been a victim of the big gopherball lately and needs to cut down in order to see a bit more success in the W column.  On the month, Clownsevelt is 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA.  Over his career, Dempster has had good success against the Dodgers, including two wins last year, so hopefully he keeps that pace.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010- Chad Billingsley (5-2, 3.66) vs. Tom Gorzelanny (2-4, 3.09)
Billingsley is the other reason the Dodgers have had success in the month of May.  He has won his last three starts and has made it through at least seven innings in his past two starts.  Billingsley experimented with adding some sink to his fastball last year and into this year with moderate success.  He has since ditched that plan and gone back to being a four-seam fastball and curveball combination with great results as demonstrated by his 44:21 K:BB ratio.

Gorz took a ball off of his pitching hand in his last start and still made a fine play to get the out.  The X-rays were negative, but the schedule allowed for Tommy to get an extra day of rest regardless.  Gorz had a strong outing in that start against the Phils, going 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball and allowing only three hits.

Thursday, May 27, 2010- John Ely (3-1, 3.41) vs. Ted Lilly (1-4, 4.30)
Ely, the Homewood-Flossmoor native, was traded this offseason to the Dodgers along with Jon Link for the currently floundering Juan Pierre by the White Sox.  Since he has been called up Ely has had nothing but success, winning his last three starts.  Ely aggressively attacks the strike zone and is seemingly fearless in doing so.  Much like our own Carlos Silva, Ely issues few walks.  To date, he has only issued a walk.  Ely features a high-80s fastball with a changeup that Baseball America referred to in 2009 as a "plus-plus" pitch.  While he won't blow it by batters, the dominance of his change has allowed him to strike out 28 batters in only 31 2/3 innings and also will induce a lot of ground balls.

Lilly is coming off a good start against the offensively talented Rangers this weekend where he went 6 2/3 innings and allowed only two runs.  The Cubs, however, only managed to score one run so Lilly got tagged with the loss.  It's looking like the more Lilly pitches this season, the more comfortable he looks on the mound.  Hopefully he can keep up the momentum from the Rangers game and pitch a gem on Thursday for a much deserved win.

Starting pitching is the name of the game for this series.  Whichever team gets the most out of their starting staff will likely win the serie.  Despite the fact that our de facto "ace" so far isn't going in this series, I can see the Cubs winning two of three with Dempster and Lilly getting a "W."  Either way, runs are going to be at a premium in this series for both teams.

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Gamecast: May 25th, 2010 - Cubs vs. Dodgers

Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.73 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (4-2, 3.23 ERA)


The Cubs face a Dodger team that has been on a roll tonight. The Dodgers were multible games back just a week ago, but have gained four games in their past 10 to close within a game of the surprising San Deigo Padres.

Kershaw, a lefty, has the stuff that usually baffles the Cubs. So, it will be interesting to see if the Cubs can manufacture some runs in tonight's game.

Dempster has pitched well this season, but has been plagued by a lack of run support and the long ball. He's already given up 8 HR's this year and he is well on his way to matching the 22 HR's he gave up last year.

The Cubs are in one of those gray areas of the season. They either get hot and make a run or it could be over in a few weeks.

Who's Hot

Tyler Colvin - Wow, he's one fire with five hits in his last eight AB's. He won't get a start against Kershaw tonight, but maybe tomorrow against Chad "The Buzzsaw" Billingsley.

Xavier Nady - After a slow start, Nady has turned things around somewhat. It will be interesting to see how "PT" he gets in the next couple of weeks.

Who's Not

Aramis Ramirez - He's hurt and looks done. Has there been somebody this bad, this quickly? He's 0-for-13 in his last five games and probably won't play for a few days.

John Grabow - What's the over/under on Grabow coming up with a injury that places him on the DL for a few weeks? I'm going with 7 days. Your thoughts? Anyway, he's sucked with a 10.13 ERA with 22/3 innings pitched.


The Cubs would be lucky to take two of three. If they do, it sets up a nice series against the Cardinals this weekend.

Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

Editor's Note: If you want to also write on the Readers Blog page of GROTA, drop us a line and let us know!  If you do a bang-up job, we'll even promote your article to the front page of the site!

Game & Series Recap - Cubs 3, Dodgers 1 (1 game to 3)

Game Recap
Earlier this morning I did a guest spot on Jon Miller's show on KXNO 1460 in Iowa. He asked me if I was ready to throw in the towel on the season, and my response was "in baseball anything can happen, but I don't think a Cubs playoff appearance is high up on the probability list this season." The problem -- well, one big problem -- has been their total inability to defeat good teams. The Dodgers are an example of that -- Los Angeles took 3 of 4 from the Cubs, whose offense evaporated this past weekend.

Still, Ryan Dempster managed to stop the slide, as he pitched 7 solid innings of 3-hit, 1 walk ball, surrendering only 1 run (unearned). He was successfully relieved by John Grabow and Carlos Marmol, who sealed the deal. Marmol pitched a flawless, 2 strikeout 9th inning for the save, but I would respectfully suggest that we maybe give him a few chances to eat ass before he becomes the deserved, defacto closer for 2010.

Offensively the Cubs collected 12 hits and 2 walks, including a dominating 4 for 4 day from Jake Fox. Fox now has 9 homeruns in his rookie season, and like Hoffpauir before him has earned the right to be a part of the team's roster next year. But before we get too excited about his future as a Cub All Star, let's not forget that he's already 27, he's defensively inept everywhere, and like Hoffpauir I'm not sold on him having as successful a follow-up year. Still, just for kicks I think the Cubs should send him to Winter Ball and ask him to learn how to play second base. At this point, why not?

Anyway, the Cubs have off today before returning home to Wrigley Field where they'll host the Nationals. They have 40 more games remaining, including 32 games against teams currently under .500. Their remaing 8 games against good teams include 1 against the 63-61 White Sox, 3 against the Cardinals, and 4 against the Giants. I'm not suggesting at this point that they can pull a miracle out of their asses and win their way into wild card supremacy, but with a schedule like that the Cubs would have to absolutely blow to not finish the year with a winning season.

Current Record: 62-60
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 8 games out
Best Possible Record: 102-60
Worst Possible Record: 62-100
Record needed to win 90: 28-12
On Pace For: 82-80

GameCast: August 23rd at Los Angeles -- putting the weep in sweep

GameCastRyan Dempster vs. Chad Billingsley

The Cubs play today not only to avoid being swept by the Dodgers, but to also stay above .500 on the season.  Ryan Dempster, who has had just about as bad a season as possible for a guy who just signed a ridiculous 4-year extension, will try to be the stopper.

Except -- not to sound like a broken record -- I still don't think Dempster's year has been as bad as it's looked.  At this point, due to time missed Dempster is on pace to pitch 182 innings, to surrender 185 hits, 71 walks, and to strike out 157.  Last year in 206.2 innings he surrendered 174 hits, 71 walks, and struck out 187.  Obviously there's a difference there -- but per 9 innings he's still striking out 7.71 to last year's 8.14 along with 3.3 walks to last year's 3.5, and his K/BB ratio is still 2.21 compared to last year's 2.46.  The one difference has been the amount of hits he's given up -- in '08 it was 7.6 per 9, this year it's 9.1  Question is ... should that be enough for a guy's ERA to go from 2.96 to 4.28? 

I think it's a bit of bad luck.  Teams have a batting average of balls in play (BABIP) of .309 this season on Dempster, compared with .288 last season.  Just a thought -- maybe he'll turn things around next year.

Who's hot
Maybe some of the girls watching the games?

Who's not
Aaron Miles.  Why not just make him the scapegoat, eh?

The Cubs will have a tough road ahead of them today against a very successful Dodgers pitcher in Billingsley.  Still, they can't lose all their games ...

...can they?

Game Recap: Dodgers 2, Cubs 0

(graphic to come later)
The Cubs have fallen to merely 1 game over .500 as they continue to be offensively impotent against Los Angeles.  Clearly, nobody looked particularly good last night and I'm hoping that Lou and Jim will white flag this grand season very shortly so the hurt players on the team can begin preparing for 2010.

In the ShoutBox f-a-u-s-t-u-s wrote that the Cubs need to go out and grab somebody who can bat 5th and drive in runs.  Theoretically, that guy is Soriano or Bradley, but neither player has done a servicable job in that regard this season.  At this point I'm more interested in who won't be returning -- Aaron Miles, for example.  Since he and his .170 AVG has made it this far, I have little doubt that the Cubs will continue to employ him through March of 2010, but I hope that he is kept on an extremely short rope once the Cubs start playing baseball games that matter.

There's also been some discussion as to whether or not Rich Harden's worth bringing back.  He's turned around and put up some very good numbers after his slow start, but he remains a fragile player waiting to break. As much as it might not be "smart" per se to invest our hopes in Tom Gorzelanny to pitch effectively in the rotation next year, the Cubs need to throw their money at guys without baggage who can actually hit the ball hard. 

Later today we'll have the GameCast.

Game Recap: Dodgers 2, Cubs 1 -- One Hit?! GameCast - August 21st at Los Angeles

(forgive me for the U2 reference in the graphic)

Randy Wells must be having flashbacks to earlier this season.  After surrendering only 2 runs, both unearned, the Cubs starter received his 6th loss of the season, this one to the Dodgers.  (Then again, the unearned runs came off a double surrendered to Dodgers pitcher Randy Wolf, so...)  The Cubs, meanwhile, managed only a single hit.  Between their games last year and this season, Chicago and L.A. rarely have high scoring games and I have to wonder if it's just chance or if perhaps the Dodgers just have the Cubs' number.

And with that, we could have the shortest recap of the season.  I mean, what else is there to really say about the game?

In other news, though, Carlos Zambrano is set to return shortly.  He's coming back to a hostile environment.  Fans have begun turning on him (hi, Rob), members of the media have a low opinion of him (hi, Paul Sullivan), whereas jamokes like me think he's a bit of a gift horse whose teeth we shouldn't be counting. 

Basically, my take is this -- and Rob, if you respond to this article at all I hope you respond to this part -- the Ace as Responsible Leader is kind of a myth.  There are plenty of examples of amazingly good pitchers who were selfish douchebags that teammates hated, with Roger Clemens coming to the forefront in that case.  I'm sure even Rob would agree that Clemens was ace material all day long, but he was also a selfish asshole prick who wouldn't even travel with the team on days he wasn't pitching.  Maybe what Carlos needs is to actually grow more selfish, become obsessed with his body and his statistics, and build himself into an iron machine of muscle and pitching domination.  Just a thought.

(And, incidentally, when Roger Clemens was in his late 20's he was a pudgy, out-of-shape douchebag ... just like Carlos.  Keep an eye on this comparrison.)

Now for the GameCast portion of this -- known also as Kurt is a lazy bastard who won't be around much today, so he's doing it now:

GameCastTed Lilly vs. Charlie Haeger

We like to call this "playing with a fork in them."  That's what the Cubs are doing.  At this point the season has jumped the ghost so much that they might actually finish the year with a losing record, which would make them -- even with all the injuries -- the most under-achieving team in history.

I would like to very strongly suggest that if the Cubs enter September with a losing record -- or if they are damn close on Sept 1 -- then perhaps they should very strongly consider shutting down Ted Lilly, Aramis Ramirez, and anybody else who qualifies as a member of the walking wounded.  There's no point to them playing and delaying their rehabilitation time if all they are playing for is pride.

Who's Hot

Nobody's hot.  Not even Cub fans are hot at the team anymore, it's more of a sense of resignation. 

Who's Not
The list is long and painful.  Let's skip it.

Win, lose, meh. 

With the sale of the team, I think it's fair to say that everybody's focus is now on what the Ricketts will do, what the team will look like, and what will happen next once this season finally, mercifully ends.  In the meantime, at least these losses don't hurt so much.

GameCast: August 21st at Los Angeles

GameCastRandy Wells v. Randy Wolf

Another night, another tough game for a team that's less than good.  But remember -- a week-or-so ago, I suggested that we stop getting upset when the Cubs are beaten like donkeys and focus instead on the smaller accomplishments of the individual players.  For example -- wouldn't it be something for Milton Bradley to get his AVG up to .280 in the ass-eating style of Fred McGriff (killing the ball when it's pointless)?  And wouldn't it be something for Kosuke to get his average up to .290 in an attempt to help set the table for the resurgent Derrek Lee reach 30 homers and 100 RBI?

Randy Wells is one of those stories.  For a guy who needed 8 starts to get his first win, he's been pretty tough to beat this season.  With a 9-5 record, his only real competition for the Rookie of the Year award is the sexier J.A. Happ, who's 9-2 with a 2.66 ERA for the eventual repeat championship winning Phillies.  It will probably be a second place performance for Wells, unless J.A. ehapporates -- get it, it's like "evaporates" but incorporates Happ's name, I kill me -- but for Randy to have any chance he'll need to be next-to-perfect the rest of the way. 

So, that's tonight's story-line.  Can Wells step up?

Who's Hot
After last night's dull performance, I'll only go as far as to say that Fukudome is hot.  In fact, he's so hot that they may use him as a stove element the next time they film an episode of Iron Chef.  Snap, the bad jokes just keep on coming!  Still, I probably will never get tired of pointing out that Fukudome is not so great.  But he is one of the better Cubs.

Who's Not

It's a list both long and storied.  Let's just sum it up with the bullpen and most of the lineup and leave it at that.


I love me some late night baseball, and watching the Cubs for the individuals -- rather than the broken promise of playoff glory -- makes this a dramatically less frustrating activity.  You should try it some time.  You might just enjoy it.

Game Recap - Dodgers 7, Cubs 2

Game Recap
5 innings pitched, 5 hits allowed, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, 2 earned runs. Chances are that will be Tom Gorzelanny's final line as a starter this season or at least for a week or two -- not that he pitched poorly, but he's not going to over-take the more vested starters in the Cubs rotation, nor Randy Wells as he continues to pitch his way into Rookie of the Year contention. If Gorzo returns to the rotation, it will probably be to replace a shut-down Ted Lilly, assuming the Cubs do the right thing and send him (and Aramis) off to be surgeoned once they decide this season is a lost cause.

Meanwhile, Angel Guzman got rocked by the Dodgers. Maybe he shouldn't close. He served up a Grand Slam to Russ Martin, and that was pretty much all she wrote in this game against the inevitable NL West champions. Not that it's fair to only blame the horrible bullpen -- the equally terrible offense only managed to score twice, once off a solo homerun by the 3 for 3 Fukudome and once from a Ramirez single. All told, the Cubs as a team left 10 guys on base and squandered 17 total scoring opportunties. It's like Dustyball all over again. Thankfully it will all be over very soon.

On the bright side, the Tribune is reporting that the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family will be finalized very soon.  While there really isn't anything about this sale that could be accurrately described as "soon," it will be nice having a clear idea about what the Cubs will be able to do in 2010 budget-wise, whether or not Hendry and Lou will return, and what the outlook of the team over the coming years might resemble. 

So we've got that going for us, which is nice.

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