The incredibly streaky Melky Cabrera


Posts like this always open with an admission of our collective position on Melky Cabrera, as if it needed restating. It is plainly clear that we don’t like Melky as the everyday center fielder. He has had his high points, but the lows are abominable. It is best to have someone else sharing time with him out there, which is why Brett Gardner is an important component to this team. When Melky’s going badly, Gardner can step in and at least lend his speed.

The latest Melky complaint came on August 18. On August 2 he had hit for the cycle, and in the subsequent 56 plate appearances took a nosedive, hitting .115/.161/.173. Small sample or not, it was a terrible stretch in which the Yankees essentially had a pitcher in the ninth slot. Worst of all, Gardner was still on the disabled list, so there were few options to spell Melky. Jerry Hairston got some games out there, but not with any frequency. It was clear the Yankees were going to ride out Melky’s slump.

That appears to have been the right move. Melky has surged since the 19th, hitting .348/.392/.464 in 75 plate appearances. The greatest part of his onslaught has come in September, where he boasts a .419/.471/.581 line in 34 plate appearances. His slump is over, and with the return of Brett Gardner, perhaps the Yankees can stave off another one before the end of the season.

It would be foolish to think that Melky will avoid another slump like the one he experienced in August (.223/.364/.350). He’s had the up-and-down syndrome from month to month since 2007. It makes for an incredibly deep lineup some months, when he can hit (but not run) like Curtis Granderson. It also makes for a short lineup other months, where he hits like Willie Bloomquist. That’s what makes the Melky experience so frustrating at times. We’ve seen him do so much better.

There’s certainly hope for Melky’s future. He’s only 24 years old and has had to learn on the fly at the major league level. When he’s bad he’s really bad, but when he’s good he can be an above average center fielder. Just look at his numbers in July. Over 86 plate appearances he was .289/.372/.447, and his BABIP was only .290. In April it was .324, and in May, when he had a totally acceptable .777 OPS, it was .356. It obviously dropped in his down months, but he did have a good month with an average BABIP. I don’t think anyone would complain if Melky started hitting .289/.372/.447 every season.

Every player streaks and slumps. It’s part of the game. But not every player has a hot month followed by a month-long drought. Not every player puts. up a .819 OPS one month and then follows it up with .613 the next. Over the years we’ve seen Melky develop his game a bit, mostly his power. The next step in his development will be to even out some of this streakiness. If he can avoid the sub-.700 OPS months, he’ll have a place on this team for quite some time. But if he continues to streak and slump in the manner he has over the past three years, it’s going to make for a rough ride in the future.

Categories : Players


  1. A.D. says:

    The upside with the streaks and slumps is we can hope Melk puts it together at some point and is able to limit/eliminate the slumps.

    • Mike HC says:

      I agree. I still think Melky will peak at around 27/28 (which is not very revolutionary to think). I would most definitely hold on to him, at least as an excellent fourth outfielder down the line.

      • A.D. says:

        Agreed, the key is the flashes of greatness, that shows us the potential, then it’s just consistency.

      • Omar says:

        It depends what the trade is for. If there is a team out there that wants to trade an everyday player, or perhaps a 4th starter for Melky Cabrera…I’d jump all over it. However, if a team’s wanting to dump salary for Melky, I dunno if I’d do it. Since Jackson is sucking, they no longer have the luxury of thinking that they have a legit CF in the minors…I’d try to hold onto him and Gardner unless the right deal comes along.

  2. Sounds like Melky is best when he doesn’t have to shoulder the load alone.

  3. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    Could you imagine if he had Garner pushing him AND Larry Bowa coaching him? That would push him to a .350+ hitter. If neither one of those guys are around, he’s just another lazy Dominican.

    /Average fan’d

  4. DSFC says:

    so what are the chances of a CF platoon next season with Jax replacing either Melky or Grit?

  5. In his career, there has been one consistent thing from Melky: inconsistency.

  6. Mike Pop says:

    Yeah, just as the post says. He’s on fire than he’s cold, how cold? Ice cold.

    But, we have to be happy with his overall production this year considering what the expectations were for most of us. He’s exceeded them.

  7. scott l says:

    Melky stinks and will never be a consistent ballplayer in NY. He needs to go asap imo. He flat out sucks facing a starting pitcher the first time in a game and is not much better the second time he faces them. He takes advantage late in games against inferior relief pitching by being a switch hitter. His defense is not all that great in CF and his overall baseball smarts when it comes to playing the game the right way are lacking. He is just a dumb ballplayer.

    Melky is riding a hot streak right now and these usually last anywhere from 20/40 games. So this means to me that he will be stone cold terrible come October. I would not even put him on the post season roster.

    I want Garder playing CF everyday. I don’t care it he hits well. His defense yesterday shows that he can win games with his glove. Defense matters in the post season so Gardner is the MAN for CF.

  8. Free Mike Vick says:

    Melky is who we thought he was….he’s who we thought he was…and we let him off the hock!!

  9. Batty says:

    For streakiness see Matsui, Hideki. But everyone loves Matsui so that’s different.

  10. Esteban says:

    Nicely played RAB. Since we all know the enormous power of RAB with Melky, a positive post on Melky would have caused him to go into a bottomless slump, so a neutral post should not have an effect and his hot hitting might continue.

  11. steve s says:

    How do we know yet that Melky isn’t Bernie Williams with a better arm and a little less power? Take a look at Bernie’s stats by the age of 24. Whatever is being said about Melky now could certainly have been said about Bernie at the same stage of Bernie’s career. The biggest difference was that Bernie came up at a time (91-93) the Yanks were not really contenders so he was given some time to develop while the pressure to win for Melky’s Yanks is much greater. I wouldn’t be so quick to rule out Melky as a more than adequate successor to Bernie. The thought of trading him for a Cameron for example reminds me of the Phelps for Buhner trades the Yanks use to make.

    • leokitty says:

      Bernie Williams was a much better prospect than Melky.

      Bernie and Melky’s major league stats may be similar but their minor league progress was certainly not.

      I don’t know if people are underestimating exactly what Bernie was or what but this line of thinking is getting silly.

      • “Bernie and Melky’s major league stats may be similar but their minor league progress was certainly not.”

        That’s actually not really true.


        Bernie –
        Age 20 – .252 AVG, .443 SLG @ AA; .216 AVG, .315 SLG @ AAA
        Age 21 – .281 AVG, .414 SLG @ AAA
        Age 22 – .294 AVG, .458 SLG @ AAA
        Age 23 – .306 AVG, .393 OBP, .485 SLG @ AAA

        Melky –
        Age 20 – .275 AVG, .322 OBP, .411 SLG @ AA; .248 AVG, .309 OBP, .306 SLG @ AAA
        Age 21 – .385 AVG, .430 OBP, .566 SLG @ AAA
        Age 22 – N/A – MLB
        Age 23 – .333 AVG, .409 OBP, .368 SLG @ AAA (only 15 games)

        *Note that numbers taken from b-ref which did not provide OBP for Bernie pre age-23 season.

  12. Tank Foster says:

    I don’t know what goes on behind the doors of the Yankee FO, but I surely hope they’ve been committed all along to keeping Melky.

    I keep reading how he doesn’t hit well enough “for a centerfielder.” This whole idea that you need certain levels of production from certain positions is of course logical, but it is not a rule. The Yankees get exceptionally good production from 3 positions which are generally not great offensive positions: 2b, SS, and C.

    So they can afford to have a light hitting centerfielder. When you consider that Melky isn’t an offensive zero, that he poses problems for other managers in that he is a switch hitter, that he has a good throwing arm and generally plays solid OF, and that he is CHEAP, trading him or trying to “upgrade” him seems stupid.
    I don’t know how much more offense the Yankees would have had they gotten Mike Cameron, but I am not sure it would have made too much difference in the team’s record if they had. And, as someone said, he is only 24, and there are lots of very good baseball players through history who didn’t set the world on fire and have great “peripherals” at age 24.

    Do I think Melky is the next Bernie Williams? Uh, no. Am I happy with him as the Yankees CF? Absolutely.

    • jsbrendog says:

      he won’t be cheap for long though. he got what, 1.4 mill this year? and that will go up each year..granted he is not expensive, especially to the yankees, but the term cheap for someone who as of right now is/profiles to be a backup OF at hsi price does not apply

      • Tank Foster says:

        See, I don’t think anyone gets my point. “Is/profiles to be…” is making the assumptions that you need X amount of production out of CF, Y amount from 1b, etc. What I’m saying is that, as the Yankees are constructed, I don’t accept that Melky “profiles” as a back up. If Jeter were a CF for his career, and was producing at his current level, now, in CF, and you had a defensively capable SS who hit like Melky, would anyone be upset? Of course not.

        But your point that Melky will get more expensive is correct. However, just as you can’t view offensive production in a vacuum, you can’t with salaries, either. Offense is a strong point for the Yankees. Adding cost to the payroll to upgrade from Melky offensively is paying money to add to a huge strength. I don’t know what he’ll cost, but it’s hard to think he’ll be anything other than a bargain, certainly on the NYY scale. I’d rather upgrade the pitching staff than CF, if I have a choice.

        By the same token, part of the global picture includes “who is available?” Lately, I haven’t seen a CF who I thought was worth the upgrade. Doesn’t mean one couldn’t come along, though…

        • Ed says:

          It’s not that the Yankees can’t have a weak center fielder. They’re above average just about everywhere, so they can support some weaker spots.

          While Melky is cheap, you can support a weak performance from him even more.

          But as Melky’s salary goes up, even though he may be cheap by Yankee standards, that doesn’t mean he’s an effective use of money.

          As Melky gets more expensive, it might make sense to get rid of both Melky and Molina, use Cervelli as a really cheap backup catcher, and then spend a little more on a better center fielder.

          Or, it may make sense to get rid of Melky and play a slightly worse but significantly cheaper Gardner or similar player in center and use the money at another position.

          • Drew says:

            Why is Melky “weak?” He currently has an OPS+ over 100. I wouldn’t consider that weak, especially from a centerfielder batting ninth.

            • Ed says:

              He’s weak because he has a several year track record of not being able to sustain a 100 OPS+ over the course of a season.

              • Drew says:

                Year 21: ops + 95
                22: 89
                23: 68 bad year no doubt about it
                24: with the season almost over, 102

                I don’t understand why people think Melky’s progression stopped at age 23. He won’t be in his prime until he is 27-29. We don’t know what that prime will look like, but writing him off at this point makes no sense IMO.

                We’re mainly talking about next year and beyond when discussing our centerfield options.
                Assuming there will be no progression from age 24 to 25 is not representative of one’s typical view on young players.

                • The reason people are choosing to write him off is that Melky’s going into his second arbitration year, and he has two more arb years after that.

                  The point where he’s so cheap that you can just wait on him to keep progressing into a better player is beginning to end, and the point where he starts making more money than other similar players who are less streaky is beginning. So, when Melky asks for 5M in arbitration, the question becomes do we give him the 5M or do we go spend 4M on, say, a Marlon Byrd or a Scott Podsednik or a Coco Crisp, or do we just pocket the 5M and give the CF job to Gardner and AJax and spend the 5M on another reliever or something?

                  Because Melky isn’t going to be dirt cheap forever. There comes a time where you’ve got to decide on whether to pay him or dump him and pay someone else.

                • Ed says:

                  He’s 102 while on another hot streak. Based on his history of hot and cold streaks, it’s not likely to last the rest of the year.

                  He probably will improve. But he’s not fast, he doesn’t have much power, and after improving a little, he only has average plate OBP skills. There’s a limit to what you can expect out of him.

                • Drew says:

                  What’s he making this year? I think it’s 1.3 mil.

                  Do you think his salary is going to jump 3.7 mil to 5 mil this winter?

                • Drew says:

                  Whoops, 1.4 mil according to Cots.

                • Point #2: In addition to Melky hitting his arb years and thus ceasing to be inexpensive, he’s also got people in the pipeline behind him with higher ceilings who are pushing him. Gardner and AJax are both solid players who may be able to equal his production now (at fractions of the price) and exceed his production in the future.

                  So, again, Melky needs to iron out his inconsistencies in order to remain on this roster indefinitely, because he’s a solidly serviceable young CF but he’s got way more service time than the young turks behind him, and not much of a track record of excellence to justify keeping them on the farm behind him.

                • Drew says:

                  I agree, when money is an issue and you can get equal/nearly equal performance for a lesser price you should generally take it.

                  Gardy is older than Melk. While your argument is accurate, most people just like the shiny new toy that Gardy is.

                  My whole point is that Melky will probably get better with time. The league has adjusted to him, it seems he’s made the necessary adjustments back.
                  As he ages he should gain mental and maybe even physical attributes that he doesn’t currently have. I’d like to see what he turns into over the next two or three years, hopefully for the Yanks.

                • Gardy is older than Melk. While your argument is accurate, most people just like the shiny new toy that Gardy is.

                  While that’s true, Gardy is older than Melky in age. He’s quite younger than him in service time. That’s a very important distinction.

                  Melky is out of options and is already in his arb years (and he gets four of them as a Super-Two). Gardner has options and is on rookie scale contracts.

                  No, I don’t expect Melky to get 5M next year, but 3.5M isn’t out of the question. And that means that 2010 Melky could be making 7 times as much as 2010 Brett Gardner, for quite possibly inferior production. And, unlike Brett, he can’t be sent down if we want some temporary roster flexibility. And the payroll discrepancy will only get worse in 2011 for Melky’s third arb year, and 2012 for his fourth arb year.

                • Chris says:

                  I thought Melky has one more option left. I believe they didn’t burn an option last year because it was so late in the season that they sent him down.

                  Also, I’m not sure that the service time argument is correct. I think that is important for a case where he wasn’t playing baseball full time, but both Gardner and Melky have basically been full time baseball players their whole adult lives. I don’t have much evidence to back up this thinking though…

                  I was looking for examples of players that had a relatively poor track record for a while and then developed in the majors at age 24-26. There really aren’t many that I could find, but I don’t know why there aren’t more. It’s relatively rare for players to come up at age 20, and those that do are usually the super stars (Justin Upton, A-Rod). Those that do come up with less hype seem to generally fall flat, but there are some examples of success.

                  The best comp I could find is Aramis Ramirez. Through his age 24 season, his line was .259/.308/.432/.740 (88 OPS+) in 1838 PA. For Melky, he’s currently at .271/.332/.387/.719 (88 OPS+) in 2079 PA. Ramirez finally developed at age 26, and his line since then is .302/.366/.551/.917 (131 OPS+).

    • Drew says:

      Not just a switch-hitter, he’s equally consistent from both sides which is hard for most switch-hitters to do.

  13. mryankee says:

    Any word on Sizemore’s availability of Melky-Gardner-Ajax does not workout?

    • jsbrendog says:

      yeah it’s the same as verlander. not gonna happen

      • mryankee says:

        Anything is ossible, cleveland is in salary dump mode. VMART Cliff Lee. Anything can happen-I only point out Verlander is a good pitcher on a team we might face in the 1st round and if he pitches two of those games it makes the Tigers a lot tougherteam. I know CC would pitch twice as well but one has to admit that still is a tricky 1st round team.

        • 11th in average, 10th in OBP, 9th in SLG. The Tigers’ offense does not worry me outside of Miguel Cabrera.

          • mryankee says:

            I agree with you totally, the numbers would in no way give the Tigers a chance. They are the underdogs no doubt, All I am saying is they have some talaent, more pitching than offense. Hoevere guys like Mags-Carlos Guillen and Granderson and Polanco can certainly do damage. I just am saying this Tigers team can be dangerous. Not as dangerous as the Yankees offens but I would feel a lot better about Aj vs Edwin Jackson if AJ can find it these last few starts.

            • Tom Zig says:

              The only time Grady Sizemore is a Yankee is in 2013.

              Sure Cleveland may be in salary dump mode, but a 26 year old centerfielder who is making $4.6 mil doesn’t qualify. Sizemore has an 8.5 mil club option for 2012…so don’t expect him to go anywhere.

  14. Makavelli says:

    He will be facing FAR BETTER pitching in the playoffs…so one would assume he will, at best, be mediocre then. As of right now we’ll take what we can get I guess.

  15. mryankee says:

    If you mean he(AJ) i was really happy with last night’s performance but you have to ask what would have happened had Bartlett, Zobrist, Crawford been in the lineup?

  16. Stuckey says:

    I believe in the value of stats, but this is one of those times where people rely on them too heavily and miss the forest for the trees.

    The Yankees lead the majors in runs scored and record by substantial margins and run differential too.

    They already have a $200m payroll.

    How much MORE production in the 9-hole does this team REALLY need?

    What price do you put in terms of salary and or trade chips on an “upgrade” to elevate you from 103 wins to what?? 106?

    Let’s at least give the guy his first real run at some play-off AB’s, shall we?

    • Tom Zig says:

      It is more like how do elevate a team from a 8 win playoff team to an 11 win playoff team?

      • Stuckey says:

        Well, maybe the incredibly streaky Melky Cabrera will hit a hot streak in October?

        I think we’ve all seen enough short October series that last 5 years to know that “consistency” often doesn’t carry over to the post-season, even for the star players.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

      well put.

      +6 (in honor of DJ’s 4-4 performance tonight)

    • I believe in the value of stats, but this is one of those times where people rely on them too heavily and miss the forest for the trees.

      I believe in the value of logic, and your argument is illogical. To wit:

      The Yankees lead the majors in runs scored and record by substantial margins and run differential too.

      They already have a $200m payroll.

      None of these facts have anything to do with whether or not the Yankees should continue to have Melky Cabrera as their starting centerfielder. Both our stellar record and our large payroll were basically achieved in spite of Melky, not because of him. These are both red herrings.

      How much MORE production in the 9-hole does this team REALLY need?

      Irrelevant. The question is, can this team get more production from its 9-hole in a way that is smart and beneficial to the long-term plans of the team? If it can, it should. If Gardner presents such an upgrade now, he should be starting. If someone else in the offseason represents such an upgrade, and it does not deviate from our organizational philosophy, that player should be acquired and Melky should be jettisoned. You don’t stop looking for ways to improve your team just because your team is good. That’s how good teams become bad teams.

      What price do you put in terms of salary and or trade chips on an “upgrade” to elevate you from 103 wins to what?? 106?

      Another red herring. Nobody is arguing for us to trade good prospects for the tiny marginal upgrade of a Rick Ankiel or a David DeJesus. And again, success does not equal “everything is perfect and we should do nothing”. Melky is a decent CF. He has numerous flaws, though, and we should be looking to upgrade him because constantly looking to upgrade every position is precisely the reason we have a team that can win 103-106 games in a season. You are arguing that the success of our organizational philosophy means that we should abandon our organizational philosophy.

      Let’s at least give the guy his first real run at some play-off AB’s, shall we?

      Indeed, let’s. But he only gets the lion’s share if he’s outplaying both Gardner and Hairston. Nothing is promised to Melky, he hasn’t earned it.

      • Tank Foster says:

        I don’t think his argument is illogical. You can be a real fussbudget tsjc. You miss his premise…

        • No, I didn’t miss his premise. His premise is essentially “we shouldn’t need to complain about this because our team is awesome”. His premise itself is a logical fallacy, which is why his argument is illogical.

        • Tank Foster says:

          One argument articulated in this thread on Melky is that his offense isn’t “good enough for a starting CF.” This argument is based on the idea – a rational, logical idea, for sure – that in assembling a team, the amount of offense and defense you get from the specific defensive positions is variable. It’s hard to find good hitting catchers, so you will accept .800 OPS, maybe, from your catcher. But it’s much easier to find good hitting leftfielders, so an OPS of .800 from a LF isn’t necessarily good. This is a common argument against Melky–he is borderline as a defensive CF, and is really better as a corner OF, and in the corner, his career OPS doesn’t cut it. We’ll call this the position-conditional offense theory–PCOT.

          I think what he meant by “taking statistics too far” was that he thinks you cannot apply the PCOT to every player in the absence of a team context. It is obviously not the norm for a baseball team to have above average offensive players at every position; someone always bats 9th. If you discard the PCOT theory, and you accept that Melky is a capable defensive outfielder and a hitter who overall tends toward league average, having him as your worst offensive player is not a bad thing. It IS relevant that he’s the 9th batter…if he were your third best player on the team, you have a serious problem. If he bats 9th, obviously the team has enough offense, and the marginal upgrade of going from, as he said, 103-106 wins, if you could even guarantee that, isn’t worth worrying about.

          Saying that a team should always be looking to upgrade is a given. Of course this is true. I think he was simply saying that, given how the Yankees are constructed right now, and knowing what happens to be available, there is no need to worry about Melky’s offense.

          • Your response is much more well reasoned than Stuckey’s.

            It would be an understatement to say that you put words in his mouth at every possible opportunity, and put in smarter words than he used himself.

            • Johnny says:

              Dunno why you backed down. The point is the same.

              Even if a baseball team goes 162-0 its the job of management to improve the team. There is NO resting. There is NO sitting back and enjoying the game… Thats for us fans.

              And the best way to improve as a team is to replace your weakest link since its MUCH more cost efficient to replace a slightly below average player with an average or slightly above average player.

              If, heaven forbid, you have all-stars at every position, you should be trying to replace your weakest all-star with better one… or a younger one (i.e. cheaper)… or a super star.

              Thats the mentality a good GM should have.

              As for Melky, I think the weakest position right now is the 4th starter, 5th starter (but who cares in Oct) and CF. I have more confidence in Joba than Melky so that makes CF the position that needs the most scrutiny.

              And who cares if he is even above average for a CF or that he helps more than hurts. If everyone else helps a lot and he helps a bit, then he is still your worst player.

              • Tank Foster says:

                There are practical limits to everything: payroll, availability of players, willingness of players or other teams to deal available players, the value of upgrades, etc. What you write here would, I think, clash with these practical limitations, on several fronts.

                Maybe it will be a different story if Melky gets $5M/year in arbitration. Then, as has been suggested, maybe letting Gardner and Jackson platoon in CF and using the $5M on, say, a relief pitcher, would be better. But for the current NYY team, even with $5M to work with, if I were GM I’d be wondering how much I’d be really accomplishing trying to replace Melky at or near that salary.

      • Charlie says:

        melky has done more good for bad for this team this year, so he has certainly contributed to the yankees’ stellar record. just sayin’

  17. toad says:

    Streakiness is a symptom. Inconsistency is the disease. The fact is you can’t predict how Melky (or anyone else) will do in tomorrow’s game based on today’s performance. What you know is that his performance varies widely. That leads to apparent streaks.

    The point is, you don’t say, “When Melky is in a slump have him sit out a few games.” You try to figure out why he’s so inconsistent relative to other players.

    Do players in general become more consistent as they gain experience, so that it’s reasonable to expect Melky to do that also?

  18. Drew says:

    “The New York Yankees assigned Melky Cabrera to the Staten Island Yankees in 2003 after he played for the Yankees Dominican Republic Summer League Team in 2002. The then 18 year old Cabrera immediately showed his talent in the Dominican League and was quickly assigned to the Yankees affiliate. This is where he showed his raw ability and his overall scrappy style to the Yankee scouts.”

    Got this from;c=223111

    There’s some more specific scouting profiles on each of his tools a little lower on the page. I found it to be a good read last night.

    One thing I learned, as Melky’s body filled out over the past 5 years, he has lost some speed. It seems he’s also improved things like power and patience/discipline.

  19. jsbrendog says:

    minor league statistics:

    Player A:
    5 seasons 372 games
    27 hr
    .769 ops

    Player B:
    9 seasons 660 games
    48 hr
    .822 ops

    who do you think these two players are…

    Player A
    Power 44
    Speed 60
    Contact 77
    Patience 32

    Player B
    Power 77
    Speed 62
    Contact 68
    Patience 84

  20. mustang says:

    The bigger question here is whether this is an anti-Melky post or not. Because we know how Melky reacts to those anti-Melky posts, but RAB has thrown us a curveball on this one.

  21. Kevin Davis says:

    Please, Melky is a 4th outfielder at best. Put Gardener in the lineup everyday and let him play. He is far superior to Melky as a cenerfielder and makes us a better team. I believe if the Yankees leave Gardener alone and let him play, he’ll prove to be an outstanding player.

  22. Bo says:

    Well the quota is met for the week on the Melky stinks postings. Opens the whole week up now.

  23. leftylarry says:

    Melky is a bit of a dog.
    Seems like he only picks it pu when he’s about to be demoted or lose his ojb.He stunk when Gardner was injured and now with Gardner about to return he suddenly gets hot.
    Can’t fgiure out if he’s a mediocre player or a solid one but immature.
    I certainly wouldn’t ever give him a long term deal.He’ll dog it until his contract year every time.

  24. Omar says:

    I wish there was a word in the English language to describe how bad Melky is during his slumps.

  25. [...] last wrote about Melky on September 8. He had just gone 3 for 4 with two RBI in the second game of the Tampa Bay doubleheader, in which [...]

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