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Obviously losing a slugger like Albert Pujols will wreak havoc on your fantasy team. You simply aren’t going to be able to plug a player in to replace his production (even in his “off” year). That said, here are some first base options that can help soften the blow.
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Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies:  He’s owned in about half of Yahoo! leagues and hitting .308 on the year with 32 runs, nine home runs, and 30 RBI. Helton may be past his prime, but he’s still productive.
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Ty Wiggington, Colorado Rockies:  Wiggington has first base, second base, and third base eligibility (and outfield in Yahoo! leagues). He’s hitting .267 on the year with 24 runs, seven home runs, 24 RBI, and four stolen bases, but has hit better (.279) in June. He’s only owned in about of quarter of fantasy leagues. Helton is a better option, but Wigginton is more versatile and available.
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James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers:  Far from a sexy pick, he’s finally coming around hitting .291 in June to raise his average to .258 with 17 runs, four home runs, 25 RBI, and four stolen bases. He’ll likely sit against lefties (hitting .167) like he did this past Saturday. Loney is only owned in about 20 percent of fantasy leagues.
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Brett Wallace, Houston Astros:  Wallace is hitting .308 on the year with 30 runs, four home runs, 21 RBI, and a stolen base. You’ll be hurting in the home run category, but he should help you batting average as Pujols was hitting .279 on the year.
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Carlos Peña, Chicago Cubs:  Pena will help offset some of the power (11 home runs on the year), but he’ll drag your average down with his .218 average. He’s owned in a little over half of fantasy leagues.
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Albert Pujols is hitting .241. He has seven home runs, but his slugging percentage is at .438. He has just one double on the year. He is dealing with a minor hamstring strain and the weight of the contract issue could be weighing on his mind. Not exactly the kind of start that justifies asking for gobs of cash.
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While  Phat Albert is struggling, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are raking. Pujols has an OPS of .747 while Berkman leads the club at 1.249 and Holliday check in at 1.1137. Even Colby Rasmus (.859) and David Freese (.865 before he went down) were higher.
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Is the machine broken for good? I wouldn’t go that for. He is still only 31 with a lot of baseball ahead of him. Pujols is so consistent that any dip in production is unsettling. Only twice in his ten-year career has his OPS dipped below 1.000. Even then it was .955 and .997. He always hits 30+ HR and drives in 100+ runs. Only twice has he hit below .327 and they were .314 and .312.
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If you look at his career production from month to month, it’s even more consistent.
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April:  1.060 OPS
May:  1.008
June:  1.049
July:  1.006
August:  1.099
September :  1.059
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Even as consistent as Phat Albert is, he is noticeably better in the second half of the season. Before the All-Star Break Albert hits .322 with a 1.029 OPS. After the break he hits .339 with a 1.063 OPS.
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Historically speaking, Albert’s best days of the season have yet to come. Not to mention that common sense says Pujols isn’t going to continue to struggle for long, especially when his compadres are producing.
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Albert has been through slumps before. He hit .267 last July before torching the league by hitting .379 with 11 homer runs and 23 RBI in August.
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If you own Albert, don’t do anything rash. You aren’t going to get fair trade value for him now. You just have to ride it out. Just stay the course and Mr. Consistent will start hitting like he always does. His BABIP is a mere .213, which is 100 points lower than his career mark. His luck and  his health will improve and he’ll be one of the best in the game in no time.
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You can try to buy low on him, but your leaguemate should see that coming a mile away.
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As the 2000s come to a close let’s look back at the fantasy players who made the biggest impact in their respective sports.

LT
I lead off with the fantasy football player of the decade since it is the most popular fantasy sport. I had a tough time deciding between Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson. They both were so dominant for such a long time.

Peyton is on pace for his ninth 4,000+ passing season. Should he throw two more TDs this season, which is all but a given, his low water mark for passing TDs in a year will be 26. He has also never missed a game.

Meanwhile LT is approaching his ninth consecutive double-digit TD season. Prior to this year he had at least 1500 total yards in every year. He had six years with 1700+ total yards, three with 2100+. He had six straight years with 15+ combined TDs. He set the NFL record with 31 combined TDs in 2006. He had 50+ receptions from 2001-2008. The accolades can go on and on.

It truly could go either way, but considering the run of greatness LT had in a position that has a much shorter shelf life than Manning’s, I had to take LaDainian Tomlinson as the fantasy football player of the decade.

Albert Pujols
If you thought switching over to baseball would make it easier, you’d be mistaken. Here the choice is between Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols. A-Rod had 1190 Runs, 433 HRs, 1243 RBIs, and 179 SBs. That’s an incredible 119 Runs, 43.3 HRs, 124.3 RBIs, and 17.9 SBs for a decade. His OPS was .914 or better for nine of the ten years. He had five seasons with an OPS greater than 1.000. He hit .304 for the decade. A-Rod won three MVPs, two Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and was named to nine All-Star teams.

As good as A-Rod was, Pujols was even better. Like LT, Pujols started in 2001 with a bang. In nine years he had 1071 Runs, 366 HRS, 1112 RBIs, and 61 SBs. That’s good for averages of 119 Run, 40.7 HRs, 123.6 RBIs, and 6.8 SBs. I know those numbers are a shade below A-Rod, especially the SBs, but here’s where Pujols more than made up the ground. His batting average for the decade was .334. It never dipped below .314. A-Rod’s best BA of the 2000s was .321. Aside from his low water mark, all of Pujols’ BAs topped that. Albert’s OPS for the decade was 1.055. His lowest OPS was .955. Seven times he was 1.000 or better. Four times he was 1.100 or better. Pujols also won 3 MVPs to go with eight All-Star game appearances, a Gold Glove, and five Silver Sluggers.

The decision wasn’t easy by any means, but in the end Albert Pujols edged A-Rod out.

Kobe Bryant
The fantasy basketball player of the decade also came down to a choice between two amazing players. LeBron didn’t play long enough and Shaq lost his steam so it came down to Tim Duncan vs. Kobe Bryant.

Duncan was such a quiet force, but year in and year out he put up incredible numbers. He has always been a solid scorer, never dipping below 18.5 ppg. He averaged a career best of 25.5 in 01-02. He was one of the leagues best rebounders for a decade, never grabbing less than 10.6 rpg. Not much is said about his passing, but he always had at least 2.7 apg. Last year was the only one in which he failed to reach 2.0 blocks per game. He almost always hit 50 percent of his shots or better. His one downfall has been his free throw shooting.

Kobe has been one of the best offensive players the game has ever seen. He averaged 27 or more ppg six times before this year. He wasn’t just a scorer though as he averaged 5.2+ rpg and 4.5+ apg every year. He was a force on the defensive end as well, with as least 1.3 spg. His field goal percentage was good, not great. It never dipped below .433, but he never had a .500 season either. He made with excellent free throw shooting. He even improved his three-point shooting over the course of the decade.

As much as I prefer Duncan’s personality, I have to choose Kobe Bryant in this debate.

Martin Brodeur
Fantasy hockey was a little more difficult. Jaromir Jagr dominated the early part of the decade. Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have dominated the latter part of the decade. Joe Thornton was pretty solid throughout, but does he really have the star power to nail down this award?

In the end I decided to go with Martin Brodeur. He entered the decade as the game’s best goalie, and he has pretty much maintained that status. He led the league in Wins five or six times (depending on whether you count 99-00 or 09-10 as part of this decade). His Goals Against Average never was above 2.57. In fact, only three times was it above 2.30, including last year in which he was limited to 31 games.He had at least nine shutouts four times. Brodeur won four Vezina Trophies. From 1997-98 through 200708 he was either first or second in Wins. Simply put, Brodeur was the best Goalie in the game and the most dominating hockey player of the decade.

Agree with my choices? Disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts and state your case.

Images courtesy of Icon SMI.

albert-pujols david-wright-jose-reyes
Images courtesy of Icon SMI

It’s pretty common knowledge that Hanley Ramírez is going to be the #1 pick.  What’s not to like about him?  He has 30/30 potential at the shallow Shortstop position.  Once he’s plucked out of the draft pool, the question is what do you do with the second pick?  Not long ago, before a steroid scandal, a bad hip, an affair with an aging Pop star, a link to an infamous madam, the list goes on, that answer would have been simple.  Now that A-Rod and his tarnished image is on the shelf, three other names  (Albert Pujols, José Reyes, David Wright) rise to the surface.

Naturally Albert Pujols is going to generate some heavy consideration.  Why not?  The dude can mash.  He shrugged off an elbow scare last year to put up another monster year (.357, 100 R, 37 HR, 116 RBI).  His 1.115 OPS was the highest of his career.  While his numbers are amazing, his Run, HR, and RBI totals of the past two seasons make up the worst two-season stretch in his career.  He’s getting walked more.  He had a career high 104 BBs last year, which was up five from his previous career high set in 2007.  Aside from a minor dip in his production, the other main reason to pass on Pujols in the two-hole is his position.  He’s easily the best First Baseman in the league, but he isn’t ahead of his competition by leaps and bounds.  You have Lance Berkman, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, Adrián González, Justin Morneau, and Prince Fielder to name a few.  While they aren’t Prince Albert, they’re close. 

That leads me to José Reyes.  He is part of a Big Three Shortstop group of the aforementioned Hanley Ramírez and Jimmy Rollins.  Reyes is rock solid, but he leaves you hanging in the HR, RBI, and Batting Average departments compared to Pujols and teammate David Wright.  He scores a lot of Runs, but he gets little (if any) separation from Pujols and Wright there.  He swipes a ton of bases, but I contend that they can be made up later.  I’d love to have Reyes on my fantasy team, but not before Pujols and Wright come off the board.

That leads me to David Wright.  He has averaged 106 Runs, 29 HRs, 112 RBI, 22 SBs, and .311 over the past four seasons.   His numbers have looked even better the past two years (114 R, 32 HRs, 116 RBI, 25 SBs, .313).  He has topped Pujols in Runs, RBI, and SBs without losing much in HRs or Average.  He has topped Reyes in HRs, RBI, and Average without losing much in Runs.  He doesn’t touch Reyes SBs, but he’s pretty good for a Third Basemen.  Which brings me to the second part of my argument.  With A-Rod hurt and Miguel Cabrera switching to 1B, Wright doesn’t really have any peers.  Kevin Youkilis and Aubrey Huff had great seasons, but I see them taking a step back.  Chipper Jones is solid, but he’ll turn 37 in a month and he hasn’t played 150 games since 2003.  Aramis Ramírez is real good, but he doesn’t score Runs or steal bases like Wright, and his HR, RBI, and BA numbers are slightly lower.  Evan Longoria has the potential to make the leap, but I see much lower R, SB, and BA for him.

This debate was sparked by the Rotoprofessor’s First Round Rankings.

Friday, August 15th
Randy Wynn
went 4 for 4 with 2 Runs, 2 Doubles, a HR, and 2 RBI.  Benjie Molina also had 4 Hits.  Melvin Mora went 3 for 4 with 2 Runs, a Triple, a HR, 4 RBI, and a Walk.  Jack Cust smashed a pair of HRs and drove in 3 Runs.  Chris Snyder had 4 RBI.  Mark DeRosa scored 3 Runs, with a HR, 2 RBI, and 3 Walks.  Jason Kubel (3 RBI), Mark Teixeira, Aubrey Huff, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Adam LaRoche, Albert Pujols, Ty Wiggington, Jeff Kent (he’s been on fire), Casey Blake, and Tony Clark each had 3 Hits.  Juan Castro and Carlos Pena each scored 3 Runs.  Daryle Ward, Chris Burke, and Jorge Cantu each had 3 RBI.

Matt Garza tossed a Complete Game two-hit Shutout with 9 Ks to improve to 10-7 with a 3.63 ERA.  Freakin’ Cliff Lee threw a Complete Game allowing 2 Runs to run his record to 17-2 with a 2.43 ERA.  Jamie Moyer gave up 3 Hits in 7 scoreless Innings to improve to 11-7 with a 3.64 ERA.  Mike Pelfrey threw 7 scoreless Innings to improve to 11-8 with a 3.91 ERA.  Matt Cain gave up 1 Run in 7 Innings with 5 Ks to improve to 8-9 with a 3.57 ERA.  Brandon Webb gave up 2 Runs on 4 Hits in 8 Innings with 6 Ks to improve to 18-4 with a 2.85 ERA.  Francisco Liriano gave up 2 unearned Runs on 2 Hits in 7 Innings with 5 Ks to even his record at 3-3.   Gil Meche (6 Innings, 1 Run, 8 Ks) and Josh Johnson (6 Innings, 3 Runs, 5 Hits, 8 Ks) got no-decisions.  Jason Davis (7 Innings, 2 Runs), Greg Maddux (7 Innings, 1 Run, 5 Hits), and Jair Jurrjens (7 Innings, 2 Runs, 9 Ks) pitched well, but lost.

Wednesday, August 6th
Johnny Peralta
went 5 for 5 with 2 Runs, 2 Doubles, a HR, and 2 RBI.  Albert Pujols went 4 for 4 with 2 Runs, a Double, a Grand Slam, and 4 RBI.  Mark DeRosa went 2 for 3 with a Run, a Double, a Grand Slam, and 5 RBI.  Denard Span went 3 for 5 with a Triple, 4 RBI, and a SB.  Richie Weeks and Randy Wynn each had 4 Hits.  Vladimir Guerrero had 4 RBI.  Mike Cameron, Jason Bartlett, Ty Wiggington, Garrett Anderson, Brian McCann, Dan Murphy, Billy Butler, Casey Blake, Ryan Ludwick, and Jacoby Ellsbury (3 RBI) each had 3 Hits.  Jay Bruce, Carlos Pena, Cliff Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Markakis, Aaron Rowand, Jim Thome, and Rod Barajas each had 3 RBI.  Ben Zobrist and Mark Teixeira each scored 3 Runs.

Jeff Karstens nearly had a Perfect Game.  He settled for a Complete Game two-hit Shutout to improve to 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA.  Tim Lincecum gave up 2 Runs on 5 Hits in 8 Innings with 8 Ks to improve to 12-3 with a 2.68 ERA.  Kyle Kendrick gave up 4 Hits in 6 scoreless Innings to improve to 10-5.  Shaun Marcum gave up 1 Run on 3 Hits in 7 Innings with 7 Ks to improve to 6-5 with a 3.44 ERA.  Cha Seung Baek gave up 2 Runs in 6-1/3 Innings to improve to 4-5.  John Danks gave up 1 Run on 4 Hits in 6-2/3 Innings with 6 Ks to improve to 9-4 with a 3.21 ERA.  Tim Wakefield gave up 1 Earned Run on 4 Hits with 6 Ks in 6 Innings to improve to 7-8 with a 3.67 ERA.  Randy Johnson gave up 2 Runs in 7-1/3 Innings with 7 Ks, but lost.  Pedro Martinez gave up 2 Earned Runs on 4 Hits in 6-1/3 Innings, but lost.

Tuesday, July 29th
Aubrey Huff
went 4 for 5 with 2 Runs, a Double, a HR, and 4 RBI.  Ramon Vazquez went 4 for 5 with 4 RBI.  Gregor Blanco and Aramis Ramirez also had 4 Hits.  Marlon Byrd went 3 for 4 with 2 Runs, a Double, a HR, and 4 RBI.  Carlos Lee hit a Grand Slam.  Albert Pujols scored 3 Runs.  Yadier Molina, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Jose Reyes, Brad Hawpe, Luis Rivas (3 RBI), Jose Lopez (3 Runs), Bryan LaHair (3 Runs), Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, Gerald Laird, and Orlando Hudson each had 3 Hits.  Justin Morneau, John Buck, and Brandon Inge each had 3 RBI.

Matt Garza threw a Complete Game Shutout allowing 5 Hits with 5 Ks to improve to 9-6 with a 3.56 ERA.  Carlos Zambrano gave up 5 Hits in 8 scoreless Innings with 9 Ks to improve to 12-4 with a 2.80 ERA.  John Lackey tossed a Complete Game allowing 2 Runs to improve to 9-2 with a 2.93 ERA.  Jorge Campillo (7 Innings, 2 Runs, 5 Ks) and Todd Wellemeyer (6 Innings, 2 Runs, 5 Ks) got no-decisions.  Brett Myers gave up 1 unearned Run on 4 Hits to improve to 4-9.  Collin Balester gave up 2 Runs in 6 Innings, but took the Loss.  Oliver Perez gave up 1 Run on 5 Hits in 6 Innings with 5 Ks to improve to 7-6.  Brian Moehler gave up 2 Runs in 8-2/3 Innings to improve to 6-4.  Gil Meche gave up 2 Runs on 5 Hits in 7 Innings with 8 Ks to improve to 7-7.  Doug Davis gave up 2 Hits in 7-2/3 scoreless Innings with 8 Ks to improve to 4-5 with a 3.86 ERA.  Chris Young gave up 2 Hits in 5 scoreless Inning with 8 Ks, but got a no-decision.  Jason Johnson gave up 5 Hits in 6 scoreless Innings for his first Win of the Year.  Matt Cain gave up 1 Earned Run in 7 Innings with 8 Ks, but took the Loss.

Monday, July 28th
Adam “Space Invaders” Jones
went 3 for 5 with 3 Runs, a Triple, a Grand Slam, and 5 RBI.  Adrian Beltre hit 2 HRs and had 4 RBI.  Adam Dunn hit a Grand Slam.  Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Torii Hunter, Aubrey Huff, Johnny Damon, Geoff Blum, Nick Hundley, and Justin Morneau each had 3 RBI.  Ryan Ludwick, Joe Mather, Kevin Millar (3 RBI), Ryan Doumit, Doug Mientkiewicz, Derrick Lee (3 RBI), Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon, Kurt Suzuki, and Chris Young each had 3 Hits.

Kevin Slowey tossed a Complete Game Shutout to improve to 7-7.  Paul Byrd tossed 7-2/3 scoreless Innings to improve to 5-10.  Braden Looper gave up 2 Runs in 7 Innings to improve to 10-8.  Jeremy Guthrie gave up 1 Run on 3  Hits in 6-1/3 Innings to improve to 7-8 with a 3.49 ERA.  A.J. Burnett gave up 1 unearned Run in 7 Innings with 10 Ks to improve to 12-9.  Ricky Nolasco gave up 2 Runs with 8 Ks in a 6 Inning no-decision.  Zack Greinke gave up 2 Runs in 7-1/3 Innings with 1 Ks to improve to 8-7 with a 3.98 ERA.

Saturday, July 26th
Skip Schumaker
scored 3 Runs to go with his 6 Hits.  Albert Pujols went 5 for 8 with 3 Runs, a HR, and 3 RBI.  Torii Hunter went 3 for 3 with 4 Runs, 2 HRs, 5 RBI, and 2 Walks.  Jeremy Hermida scored 3 Runs, hit a Double, and smacked 2 HRs.  Adrian Gonzalez went 3 for 5 with 3 Runs, a Double, 2 HRs, and 4 RBI.  Alex Rios and Carlos Delgado each hit a pair of HRs and drove in 3 Runs.  Brian Buscher went 3 for 5 with a Run, a HR, and 5 RBI.  Miguel Tejada and Jose Reyes each had 4 Hits.  Ryan Braun had 4 RBI.  Jose Lopez, Josh Hamilton, Greg Dobbs, Juan Rivera, Aubrey Huff, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jason Michaels, and Mark Teixeira each had 3 RBI.  Joe Inglett, Robinson Cano (3 RBI), Chris Coste (3 RBI), Delmon Young, Magglio Ordonez, Troy Tulowitzki, Yorvit Torrealba, Mark Grudzielanek (3 Doubles), Fernando Tatis, and Rick Ankiel each had 3 Hits.  Ray Durham scored 3 Runs.

Derek Lowe gave up 1 Hit in 8 scoreless Innings to improve to 8-8 with a 3.74 ERA.  Rich Harden (5 Innings, 1 Run, 2 Hits, 10 Ks) and Chris Volstad (6 Innings, 2 Runs, 6 Ks) got no-decisions.  Jorge de La Rosa gave up 1 Run on 2 Hits with 8 Ks in 6-2/3 Innings to even his record at 5-5.  Brandon Webb gave up 2 Runs on 4 Hits in 7 Innings to improve to 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA.  Tim Lincecum gave up 2 Runs in 7 Innings with 13 Ks, but got a no-decision.

Satuday, July 19th
Robinson Cano
went 4 for 6 with 2 Runs and 2 Doubles.  Shin-Soo Choo went 3 for 5 with 2 Runs, 2 Doubles, a HR, and 3 RBI.  Albert Pujols had 3 Hits and 4 RBI.  Pat Burrell went 3 for 5 with 3 Runs, a Double, 2 HRs, and 2 RBI.  Jorge Cantu had 4 Hits.  Placido Polanco went 4 for 6 with 3 Runs, 2 Doubles, an RBI, and a Walk.  Justin Morneau had 5 RBI.  Evan Longoria hit a Grand Slam.  John Baker and Miguel Cabrera each had 4 RBI.  Scott Podsednik went 4 for 5 with 2 Runs and 3 Doubles.  Joe Mauer scored 3 Runs and had 3 RBI.  Brad Hawpe, Cody Ross, Willie Harris (3 Runs), Gregor Blanco, Gary Sheffield, Melvin Mora (3 RBI), Kevin Millar, Luke Scott, Ryan Theriot, Delmon Young, David Wright, Freddy Sanchez, and Ryan Braun each had 3 Hits.  Erick Aybar, Cristian Guzman, Ramon Hernandez, Mike Aviles, Billy Butler, John Buck, Joey Votto, and Edgar Gonzalez each had 3 RBI.

Matt Garza tossed 7-2/3 Innings of two-hit scoreless ball with 6 Ks to improve to 8-5 with a 3.68 ERA.  Dan Haren gave up 4 Hits in 7 scoreless Innings with 7 Ks to improve to 9-5 with a 2.58 ERA.  Joba Chamberlain gave up 1 Run in 6 Innings with 8 Ks, but got a no-decision.  Joe Saunders gave up 2 Runs in 6-2/3 Innings, but got a no-decision.  John “Stawberry Fields Forever” Lannan gave up 1 Run in 6 Innings to improve to 6-9 with a 3.29 ERA.  Gil Meche gave up 1 Run on 2 Hits in 6-1/3 Innings to improve to 7-9.  Wandy Rodriguez gave up 1 Run in 6-2/3 Innings to improve to 5-3 with a 3.31 ERA.  Livan Herandez gave up 2 Runs on 5 Hits in 7 Innings to improve to 10-6.  Josh Fogg gave up 1 Earned Run in 6 Innings to improve to 2-2.  Jorge de la Rosa gave up 1 Run in 6 Innings to improve to 4-5.


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