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Chat: Steven Goldman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday September 29, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Steven Goldman.

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Whether it's reviewing history's lessons or the perils of pinstripes, you'll want to check in with Steven Goldman about what's going on within the game in today's chat.

Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, seekers of wisdom and truth. Steven Goldman here to grapple with weighty issues of philosophy, morality, and baseball... Or just old comic books. It really depends on what you're in the mood to talk about. Has your favorite team clinched yet? Has it clinched last place? Let's begin.

kcboomer (kc): With the CYA (Greinke) and the MVP (Mauer) awards pretty well settled who do you have for RoY??

Steven Goldman: I'm sort of ambivalent. I imagine it will be Gordon Beckham, but I feel like you could make just as good a case for Andrew Bailey or Jeff Neimann. Nolan Reimold had a good year too, and I'm sure that some people will claim that Elvis Andrus helped the Rangers accomplish... accomplish... Oh, never mind.

mattymatty (Philly, PA): Hi Steve, long time no chat. I'm not a Yankee fan, so I don't mind jumping over this year entirely to ask you this: when are Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte going to hit the wall? They've got to start aging at some point, right? The Yankees are extraordinarily lucky to some extent that the guys they built their team around have been so productive into their mid and late 30's, right?

Steven Goldman: Crazy lucky. Not many 37-year-old catchers, let alone 37-year-old catchers coming off of surgery, have had years like Posada has had. A-Rod has been, if not the exact guy he was before, terrifically productive for a guy with a bad hip. Damon has had one of the best years of his career. Jeter, who looked like he was in rapid decline a year ago, has had one of the best years of his career. Matsui, who has all the mobility of the Maginot Line, has been tremendous. It can't last, and in a world in which teams were strictly objective, the Yankees would view whatever happens this fall as a last hurrah for this group.

Steve N (Delaware): Adam Dunn, 40 homers again?

Steven Goldman: I'm impatiently waiting, just like you.

Ching-Chih Lu (Taipei): In your 9/4 Pinstriped Bible column, you gave a somewhat negative comment on the 2009 Joba rules by saying the Yankees might get what they want but lost what they have. Since "rules of 30" is widely accepted if not preached by stat-heads, what approach do you think is better to take for handling Joba Chamberlain barring shutting him down in the middle of the season? Lu

Steven Goldman: The rule of 30 is overly broad. There has to be a more nuanced approach. In Joba's case, they yanked him from the rotation at the exact moment he was building up a run of good starts, so they killed his rhythm. Then they put him back in the rotation but gave him a crazy-short leash, so he was under pressure to be perfect from the outset. A better approach, I think, would have been to keep him in the rotation, monitor for stressful innings, which do the real damage, and above all, just not say anything, because I don't think Joba can pitch while thinking about all this stuff.

WilliamWallace (Pittsburgh): Garrett Jones would easily have 30+ home runs if he had come up with McCutchen. Are either viable ROY candidates in the NL?

Steven Goldman: Jones leads NL rookies in VORP, curiously enough, with McCutchen right behind him. As good as Jones has been, I view him as a journeyman having an unsustainable season, and I wonder if the Writers will see it the same way. I think Chris Coghlan also has to be in the conversation, as well as J.A. Happ and Tommy Hanson.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): How many years do you think Mo has left? Is he a fairly unprecedented player?

Steven Goldman: The conventional wisdom on Rivera has always been that he's a one-pitch pitcher and when that one pitch stopped working, well, that would be that. Maybe there's been a slight decline in velocity on the cutter, but not enough to make the difference. I don't know what the inflection point is for losing effectiveness with that pitch. If he's averaging 91-92 now, is it 89-90? Then the question is, does he want to reinvent himself, and he can he? As for unprecedented, he is. The thing that makes him so much more impressive than any reliever is the consistency he's had over the course of his long career. There are no bogus Jeff Reardon years on his resume. I guess you can look at Trevor Hoffman in a similar light, but he hasn't done it at quite the same level or under as difficult circumstances.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): How are you feeling these days? All the best.

Steven Goldman: Thank you. So far so good, right now on the health front. On the emotional side, my 20th high school reunion is in a month and old ghosts are crawling out of the woodwork. Just before this chat, I received an email from an old friend who suggested that I had to apologize for past behavior, though we've spoken but once, I think, in the last 15 years or so and I thought we had parted on good terms. This is somehow depressing.

Wade (TX): Do you find it funny that a team can just have an historically weak position, transcending eras, ERAs, team ownership, management, POTUSes, ... Off the top of your head, what are likely to be the worst positions you can think of--Tigers catchers? Mariners SSes? Jays 3B?

Steven Goldman: Do you mean now, or historically? The really famous ones are the long droughts the White Sox and Mets had at third base, with the Sox going from Willie Kamm to Robin Ventura with only a couple of decent Bill Melton years in the middle. The Mets basically went from 1962 to Howard Johnson before they got anything great from their third basemen--although Wayne Garrett had a couple of decent seasons if you consider park and league context. And of course, the Yankees got no offense from shortstop whatsoever between Rizzuto's 1950 and Derek Jeter's 1996, except for whenever Casey Stengel played Gil McDougald over there...

Rob (Andover, CT): Re: the productivity of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Mo... Two of those guys are no-doubt HOFers. The other two will have decent cases for induction, even if they end up falling short. So, while it's true that relying on a cadre of old guys is a dangerous business, those PARTICULAR old guys are better bets than many. Matsui is inexplicable, though. I love it.

Steven Goldman: There are Hall of Famers who fell off abruptly, as opposed to fell off gradually. It's true the Yankees are starting from a better place, but we really don't know where the ride is going to stop.

Dorn (DC): I can't find a site to let me view stats from two specific dates. I'm curious how Garrett Jones' production since his first game this season compare to the rest of MLB. He has to be top 10 in homers.

Steven Goldman: He is. He came up on July 1 and since then Derek Lee has hit 24, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and Mark Reynolds have hit 23, and Jones has hit 21. What might surprise you is who is right behind him -- David Ortiz with 20. I wouldn't get too excited by Jones, though. This really seems like a Kevin Maas thing to me.

Nater1177 (Philadelphia): Re: the Joba comments....Is it possible the approach they used would be a good one (or at least viable) if Joba weren't so, ahhh, unstable? immature? millon dollar armed/10 cent headed?

Steven Goldman: Without concurring on Joba's mental state, which let's face it, none of us know, certainly the make-up of the pitcher should have been better taken into account. That said, I don't know if any pitcher would have done well under the kind of pressures that the various Rules created.

Matt (Chicago): Assuming the Cubs will have some financial limitations this offseason, do either Ankiel or Hermida potentially make sense as low-cost options for their likely opening in the outfield?

Steven Goldman: The Cubs are getting to a place where OBP (long the bane of Cubs teams) is a major problem. Hermida is still only 25, and his road stats (.276/.359/.456 career) suggest there's something useful there that can be unlocked. Ankiel is 30 and I'm not sure he really does a whole lot for them. It's really too bad that Bradley is... well, Bradley, because he was just what they needed.

mattymatty (Philly, PA): A follow up to my last question, if I may. So, if the Yankees are very lucky to get the productivity out of Jeter, Posada et. al., and their farm system is pretty low in impact guys at the upper and even mid levels, how is this problem solved? They can't spend $400 million every off-season, can they?

Steven Goldman: The solution is, as the solution has been, better drafting and development of position players and as much money going towards international signings as they can. Even if they COULD spend $400 mil every off season, there aren't enough quality players in free agency to make it worth their while (see Pavano, Carl).

Warner (Kansas): All told, I'd imagine the two most disappointing teams this year were the Mets and then secondly the Cubs. For the AL, is it resoundingly the Rays?

Steven Goldman: The Rays have been disappointing, but not devastatingly so. In the beginning, they played well but lost a lot of games they should have won. They collapsed down the stretch which was a bit surprising, and seemed to coincide with the loss of Carlos Pena (Ben Zobrist got his first start at 1B the other day -- why didn't they do that all along instead of Chris Richard?). Still, a lot of people saw this coming based on regression in the bullpen, and of course dealing Edwin Jackson turned out to be a bigger deal than they (and I to be honest) thought it would be, but that was a financial move. The Indians have to be on that list too, though in retrospect it's hard to see why so many were high on them at the outset.

WilliamWallace (Pittsburgh): Why not get excited by Jones? We have little else to be excited by, and he's got 40+ homer power to go with reasonable defense at first and excellent speed. He's got double digits in steals as well. What do you see that makes you doubt?

Steven Goldman: Age and minor league performances that don't suggest this kind of production. Think about it -- how many players are consistent at the level of .305/.380/.596? I'll wait... Can't argue about the "little else to be excited by" part, which also plays into my Kevin Maas analogy.

Rob (Alaska): Would your rookie of the year vote change if the award were Most Valuable Rookie? I think it would be a lot more fun if some semblance of future value were implicitly included. [And yes I know you're not Kevin Goldstein.]

Steven Goldman: It's an interesting distinction, but I wonder if you'd be asking the voters to perform acts of evaluation that they're not really competent to make. I was implicitly making that distinction when I said I wouldn't vote for Jones because although he may be the best rookie in the NL, he's not going to be revisiting the spot he's in now. That's the fun/annoying thing about the undefined nature of these awards.

brian (brooklyn): Re: The excitement directed toward the Indians, they signed a famous closer during the offseason plus they had a #1 pitcher in Lee, a guy who many htought would bounce back (Carmona) and top of the best position players in the league in Sizemore and V-Mart. When you add in the unexpected seasons from Shoo and Cabrera plus the weak division, this should have been a good team.

Steven Goldman: Yeah, I remember going through those same justifications myself, and I bet if you look up BP's preseason predictions I had the Indians down (please don't look them up). All of those things seem reasonable to me too, except for the part about Carmona bouncing back. That seems like an act of faith now, and there also probably should have been more questioning of who came after in the rotation. I know I thought that bullpen would be improved, and that turned out to be a major miss.

ekanenh (capitol city): When should the Twins bring in Nathan?

Steven Goldman: Now? I don't let Thames face Mijares.

RHughes (NJ): Re: "The Yankees got no offense from shortstop whatsoever between Rizzuto's 1950 and Derek Jeter's 1996." Roy Smalley, Jr. was a fairly potent offensive shortstop in '82 and '83, though he faded quickly. The Yanks' decision to trade for him, I thought was a good one, though it didn't work out - sort of shortstop version of the Javier Vasquez trade - great idea, bad outcome.

Steven Goldman: That's true. The Yankees failed to realize that injuries had pretty much stripped Smalley of whatever range he might have had, with the result that though he was about twice the hitter that Bucky Dent was (well, to be fair, Bucky was done, so Smalley was infinitely better), he looked very poor in comparison on defense. The only thing that gets me about that trade is that they gave up Greg Gagne, who wasn't Honus Wagner, but they certainly oculd have used him a couple of years down the line.

ekanenh (Capitol City): Its Rauch?! cant....use.....closer.....in....8th.......

Steven Goldman: Gotta save Nathan to protect that lead that you might never get.

dtwhite (Toronto): Rauch? Really?

Steven Goldman: Well, it worked out, but I'm with you.

Lincoln (Dallas): So future performance should be part of the RoY voting calculus? You don't like Bob Hamelin being on the list of winners? In that same vien, should Wieters win in the AL since he's the best prospect as it were (and I know you're not KG)

Steven Goldman: But then you're giving him an award for future performance, which you can't possibly know about. What we've been talking about, I guess that's more in the vein of a tie-breaker between candidates.

Christopher (Nashville): How does someone like Robison Cano, who takes such few walks, and who has such mediocre speed, manage to hit .320 with 25 home runs? To put it in perspective, he walks half as much as even Vladimir Guerrero did at the same age.

Steven Goldman: The secret to batting average is a good line drive rate, and despite his lack of selectivity, when Cano is on his game he's very good at getting a pitch and hitting it hard somewhere. When he's off his game he not only swings at everything but pulls off the ball so it heads weakly for shortstop on the ground or short left field in the air.

...Bunt Punto now?

DaveKavanagh (Dublin, Ireland): Thanks for the chat, Steven. Consider the following scenario please: A contending team loses its star player to injury half-way through the season and decides to trade him to a rebuilding team for a merely good (but healthy) player. The contending team could win, because flags fly forever and a decent player on the field contributes more than a star on the DL; and the rebuilding team definitely wins, because it gets a great player for a bargain. So, I think that the above type of trade could make sense, but I can't think of any that fits the description; with your far greater knowledge of baseball history, can you?

Steven Goldman: Not at the moment, but I'll cogitate on it.

Brilliant managing on Gardenhire's part there... squeezed into a double play. How often do you see that?

Lincoln (Dallas): Does Gardenhire (who I actually like) think you get extra points for being tall? Bring in Nathan!

Steven Goldman: Maybe Gardenhire is a great leader of men or something, but as an in-game manager he's always been pretty terrible. On the other hand, I'm not sure what I would do if the bottom of my order was Casilla and Punto. Weep a lot, spontaneously, in appropriate places. Ordering at Burger King.

...I actually haven't ordered anything at any burger chain in over 15 years now.

...In the previous answer I meant to say something about the downside of swinging at everything, hitting it hard, and having no speed is that Cano's double play rates are pretty bad, but I got distracted by the Twins Punto-ing that opportunity.

Wade (TX): I thought you'd answer "Yankees backup C" :)

Steven Goldman: That would have been a fun answer, but although I tend to bitch about carrying an automatic out on the bench, I'm not sure how high our expectations should really be. As I wrote in today's You Could Look It Up, I'm looking for something better than Kevin Cash/Corky Miller, but much more than that probably isn't too realistic... John Flaherty hit .259/.291/.461 from 2003-2004, which is basically Miguel Olivo, obviously not great, but also not horrible given the alternatives. He had some big hits, too...

dtwhite (Toronto): Do you think Gardenhire would have brought in Nathan to start the inning if the Tigers had a better part of the lineup coming up?

Steven Goldman: I think Nathan must have gone home sick or something.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): This isn't mean to be an argumentative question, but how do you as a Yankees fan rationalize or think about the tremendous financial advantages your favorite team has? I don't want to take away from the smart management of the team under Cashman, but it has to cause some discomfort, I'd imagine.

Steven Goldman: First, although I did grow up a Yankees fan, I really do check that at the door when I put on my writing cap. And yes, I do think about the financial advantages, but I'd also like to know how the other owners go about their business. George Steinbrenner and his family haven't always taken as much money out of the Yankees as they could have, preferring to reinvest in better teams, and they sure as hell ain't pocketing any revenue-sharing checks. And of course there's the part that you've talked about, which is that you have to spend it wisely. It certainly plays a part, a big part, but I'm not sure that it's everything, and some teams could probably narrow the gap some if they wanted to.

Adam (Riverside): Other than BP and your own site, which websites do you fritter away most of your time on?

Steven Goldman: I can get lost following links at wikipedia and all-music guide. I read a ton of politics, and I particularly like Eschaton and Glenn Greenwald. As far as baseball, I would hesitate to list all the sites. I check a good dozen a day at least. That's work, though, not "frittering."

An Old Friend (Crawling out of the woodwork): Sorry. I got you confused with Kevin.

Steven Goldman: So KEVIN offended you? Okay, that explains a lot. Honest, I didn't even think about making a pass!

...Maybe that's the problem. Hmmm.

sprechs (Brooklyn): With all the outcry over Joba rules 2.0, what do you think the Yankees do with Hughes? I think he's at about 120 innings between majors and minors,so they'll have the same issue with him next year (not helped by Girardi's use of him). Also, if Girardi won't play Gardner over Melky, is there any use to having Freddy Guzman on the post-season roster?

Steven Goldman: With Guzman, they're looking for a David Roberts '04 moment. I guess if the A's won a World Series with Herb Washington on the bench the Yankees can survive having Guzman around. With Hughes, I imagine they slide him in at #5 and skip days wherever possible. I am not looking forward to the endless second-guessing the first time David Robertson blows a lead in the eighth inning.

...Delmon Young, up with the bases loaded, might be my least favorite player in the major leagues.

WilliamWilde (Boston): Could Boston's trade of Nomar in season (2004) for a package of "regulars" (O. Cabrera, Minciqlekjlswz) satisfy the trade question posed by DaveKavanagh?

Steven Goldman: Good one. It sort of does, in that it was done in anticipation of future injuries as much as any one he was dealing with at exactly that moment. We wrote about this decision in Mind Game, if you want to dig into more.

John (Arlington): Where does Milton Bradley end up...I guess the only sure choice is not on the North Side

Steven Goldman: The Pat Burrell/Bradley offseason deal that has been speculated upon seems like an interesting gamble for both teams. I don't know if any manager can get along with Bradley, but Maddon seems like a better bet than Piniella.

dtwhite (Toronto): I think everyone looks at the Royals and see an organization that "just doesn't get it" - are there any organizations recently you can think of that have made great improvements in terms of operating philosophy, management, etc.?

Steven Goldman: Certainly the Rays in the post-Namoli era, seemingly the Pirates, but we'll see if it bears fruit.

ekanenh (Capitol City): Gardy's a genius. We toil in mom's basement. C'est la vie!!

Steven Goldman: Can I just say -- not meaning to pick on you at all, you being ironic and all -- how tired I am of that mom's basement thing? Twice this year, once just a couple of days ago, readers at the Pinstriped Bible have hit me with these mom's basement "insults" as if they just thought of it. Hey, haters... It's time for a new meme.

...So much for the clamoring for Nathan, with Granderson parking a ball. Yipes.

Rodeojones (Nj): Is 2009 going to eclipse 1964 as the worst year in Phillies history?

Steven Goldman: The odds are still against it, but the Braves are sure making things interesting, aren't they? The Phillies tragedy quotient is equivalent to how much more rope they give Lidge... Doesn't seem like they're prepared to give him much more, but he keeps turning up anyway.

WilliamWilde (Boston): How much could the Twins have used someone like Russell Branyan down the stretch (injury complications aside)? Why the heck did the M's not trade a 33 year old at the height of his career value?

Steven Goldman: Twins win, and the best thing about it is, we get to see the next chapter this very same day...

I'll see your Branyan and raise you an Adam Kennedy, both because the Twins could have used him and because of the inexplicable non-trading of a journeyman having a good year.

dcoonce (bloomington indiana): Least qualified hall of famer? Most qualified non Hall of Famer? (My picks, respectively: Bottomley and Ted Simmons)

Steven Goldman: Jesse Haines/Tim Raines.

Brett (PEI): Favorite non-baseball sport?

Steven Goldman: Football, but the gap is huge.

I like it when Kevin answers this question by saying, "There are other sports?" I'm not that cool, though.

John Foley (Los Angeles, CA): Steven, I wonder if you have the same frustration with Glenn Greenwald that I do. He's obviously a very smart man, but I just get the impression that NO ONE is ideologically pure enough for his liking. It can be a little wearing. Your thoughts?

Steven Goldman: He can sometimes come across as kind of a rigid policeman, I agree, but I'm grateful that he's doing what he does using the method that he does. He holds people up to a very rigorous logical standard, and we need more of that, so much more. Everywhere. I've said this at many appearances over the years, and though I've never invoked his name in this context, I think that what he tries to do there is similar to what we do here -- not the ideological watchdog part of it, because I think for most of us we're post-ideological (in a stats/scouts sense, not left/right), but in placing a premium on truth over hyperbole and invective.

jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): Raines over Blyleven?

Steven Goldman: We're splitting hairs, and I'm not going to make a statistical argument just now. They should both be in.

Tony (Kalamazoo): Rock Raines over Ron Santo?

Steven Goldman: Tough call there... Okay, this time I will look at the stats. I think I still have to go with Raines on career value and having one or two more great seasons, but cripes, Santo should be in already.

dtwhite (Toronto): Any love hockey amongs the BP crowd?

Steven Goldman: You know about Puck Prospectus, right?

...I haven't heard much hockey talk around these parts. I like to go to a game now and again, but don't follow it more than casually.

Ralphus (Connecticut): Hi Steve, what do you think the Yankees should do for DH next year? Lots of folks are saying they need to keep it open as a revolving door for the older players (specifically Posada), but isn't that a dangerous thing to do? Don't they need to acquire an actual hitter for that spot? If those older players are really going to play so much DH, that means lots of plate appearances will go to inferior bench players. I don't like that at all. Maybe a trade for Adam Dunn makes sense? If not, how about Matsui or Thome on a one-year deal?

Steven Goldman: Keeping it open for Posada would be a swell idea if they had an equivalent bat to put behind the plate. If you're just opening up a spot for someone like Cervelli to be a regular, you're just hurting yourself. Now, say the Yankees traded for a youngish catcher with pop, someone like Chris Ianetta (alright, Ianetta hit .166 on the road this year, but bear with me) who, IIRC, will be arb-eligible this year. Then it makes sense to do that with Jorge, along the lines of the Yankees pushing Yogi Berra to LF from time to time to make room for Ellie Howard. I'd love to see Dunn as a Yankee, but don't think it will happen. In any case, my preference would be a solution along the lines I just suggested -- a DH rotation is fine provided you're not using it as a way to get an inferior bat in the lineup. If it gets a kid catcher in (one who will develop offensively) great. If it gets Austin Jackson in the lineup and Austin can contribute more than his translations suggest, great. If it gives Montero a place to play, great. Those things would all be better than giving another contract to a 35-40 year-old.

Richie (Washington): Didn't Ron Washington get along OK with Bradley last year? I don't recall hearing anything otherwise, but I'll defer to you on it.

Steven Goldman: Washington says he did, at any rate... I'm going to have to cut things off a little early today as I'm due up at Yankee Stadium, so just a few more.

jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): Has anyone's HOF case ever been hurt more by the era they played in than Santo? His numbers translated to a normal era have to be pretty awesome.

Steven Goldman: Jay Jaffe probably has ten answers for this question, but Santo has to be up there. Clay Davenport puts Santo at .275/.370/.505 in a standard offensive environment. Another guy who comes to mind, though I'm not saying he's a HOFer, is Graig Nettles. Nettles played in the 1970s, which hurt his numbers, though not as badly as Santo's were hurt, and although he was one of the best gloves ever at his position, played at the same time as Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt so that was less impressive than it could have been. There were more good 3B playing when Nettles did (the aforementioned, plus guys who could hit like Buddy Bell, Bill Madlock, George Brett) than there were at any time before in history.

Gregorivitch (Haven): Is there any chance that strength of schedule evens the gap between CC and Greinke this year? I remember last year that BP posted an article saying Halladay should get the Cy over Lee because of the quality of opposition, but for all I know, Greinke's faced better teams (CC's being a Yankee changes this dynamic a lot, I'd bet).

Steven Goldman: BP's SNLVAR says "no."

Rob (Alaska): I guess this is more a comment than a question, but wouldn't it be better to embrace the mom's basement thing? I think there's genuinely important work going on here and elsewhere in the analytical community, but it doesn't have to be self-important. You catch more flies with honey...

Steven Goldman: Well, we can laugh about it here, but there seems to be a sizable contingent of people who really believe that stuff. Besides which, you know, I'd like some props for my life and career. Maybe having a wonderful family and a successful career is nothing to brag about, but it means something to ME, and I don't feel like letting any Joe on the street try to invalidate that.

...On the other hand: I was no great fan of William Safire, but when he passed away, the Times re-ran a column he wrote where he said, "Don't succumb to the temptation to send us nasty emails when we write something. When you do that, the columnist says, "'Ah! Got you!'" That's 200% true. It's too bad they don't know that.

JZirinsky (Washington, DC): Steven: I'm putting you on the spot--will Obama get a healthcare bill passed or not?

Steven Goldman: I think he will, because in the end the Democratic Party won't feel like committing suicide. However, I feel strongly, as I have since before the election, if he doesn't get focused on jobs creation, in making moves that seem to bail out individuals as much as they bail out banks, he's heading for a bad place. On the Herbert Hoover/FDR "Response to a Bad Economy" meter, the needle is still closer to Hoover than Franklin D.

Steven Goldman: Pilgrims, I must sign off a bit early today -- no five-hour marathon for me as I must be off to the Bronx. I had a grand time as always, and wish I could get to more of these questions. Next time I promise to go longer. As always, thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with Baseball Prospectus and myself. Stay healthy and enjoy the end of the regular season.


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