Ask Boswell: Redskins, Caps, Nationals and more

Dec 17, 2012

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

But now they've got film on him. Think he can beat Philly? (OK, John Beck could probably beat Philly. I guess I should ask if we can expect one of the tough games from a team in its death throws, or is Philly just plain dead.)

Cousins looked very good, not just an "unknown quantity" and not just a hot hand against a not-really-bad 5-9 team.

Certainly sounded like RGIII might start vs Eagles. Unless there's been fresh news that I haven't seen, I'd assume that Cousins/RGIII will be kept a mystery a while longer. Looks like Cousins could do fine against the Eagles. You want to protect RGIII __in line with best medical advice.

Congrats to Skins for following the doctor's advice in a game which, if they'd lost, a LOT of people would be saying thast the Skins "pulled a Strasburg" when RGIII said he could have played and wanted to play.

Try to remember that. After four ugly series, it looked like the Skins very well might lose, fall to 7-7, and the "tone" would be much diferent this morning.

Just a note: I;ve been working on a Skins column for tomorrow's paper, so I'm just starting on the chat. You won't see the usual early burst of answers to get us rolling. For a deadline writer, I'm pretty fast. But as a three-finger typist/chatter, I'm a little slow. Compared to Tracee, I'm glacial. But we'll get it done!

Is it just my paranoia due to the anti-DC mood in this country, or do the 'skins really get the shaft from the refs repeatedly?

No, I don't think so. Yestyerday, a big fuss was made on a supposed pass interference penalty on a Cousins bomb. Announcers acted like a shirt had been grabbed. And that's how it looked __the first time. On the next replay, which drew no comment, it was clear that the jersey was not grabbed but merely touched.

IMO, that wasn't a penalty. The announcers __a really good crew with Martz outstanding__ had their one "blown play" on that one. In my eyes anyway.

What is it going to take to settle this MASN Mess?

Time. Anger. More tim. This is baseball. This is Bud World.

It'll also take: Selig taking a "best interests of the game" stand. Or the Nats threatening to sure. Or MLB rendering an opinion on the Nats "reset." (They are OWED a reset. Nobody disagrees with that, including MASN. It's just how much.) Or MASN suing about something or other. Or an act of God.

There's quite a range!

But that three-team "fairness committee" __which came up with a number above $50M I've heard, but how much higher I don't know__ didn't seem to do the trick.

It will happen __within the lifetimes of several people on this chat. 

Who has the most frightening lineup in baseball ( angels, dodgers, or blue jays)?

Great question. It's overlooked that both teams have several mediocre-to-poor bats in their lineup. Those guys count, too. As the Cards of recent years have shown, having a long DEEP lineup is important to total offensive prodution.

The Angels still project in their starting lineupo: Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo.

The Dodgers still look like they may start A.J. Ellis, Mark Ellis, Luis Cruz and, if Carl Crawford isn't ready, perhaps a Hairston.

But they'll both have murderous TOPS of the lineup. And glamor.

With Toronto adding Reyes, Rasmus and Melky C to Bautista, Encarnacion and Lawrie, plus a HR-friendly park, I might slightly favor the Blue Jays for "Depth of Scary."


I think you keep him, at least unitl his contract year? Of course by that time, his value could go down as everyone would know he's going FA after the season. But, me, I'd keep him barring a specific situation such as - a guarantee that you can find a suitable backup (not Rex - no offense), AND you get at least 2 high picks OR 1 high pick and a starter (O-Line or DB with a manageable contract). How do YOU play it?

In one week, Cousins has gone from a backup to someone that is simply refered to as "HIM." As in "Do you keep HIM."

No other name needed!

You KEEP HIM. Certainly through all of next year I wouldn't even give it a thought. After '13 will be plenty of time to see where you are.


Has any city ever had both the NFL and ML ROYs same season? Will DC?

Quick, somebody hit the "research" button! Nice question.

I know NFL pundits want to pretend that there isn't much differemnce between the seasons of RGIII and Luck. Oh, please. And throw in a "Come on, Man!" too.

RGIII has the No. 2 QB rating in the NFL PLUS all his rushing yardage. Luck is 31st!!! Yes, 31st in passer rating. Russell Wilson (8th) should get more consideration. The other two have teams with 9-5 records, Skins 8-6 and 1st in NFC East. Close enough.

If RGIII comes back and plays before the end of the season, it's a lock. And I assume __no inside knowledge, he just looks pretty good in drills__ that he will.     

Better chance or worse now that Hamilton has bolted for Anaheim? Lanan as a Phillie - good for him, but, while I am not generally superstious, I don't like seeing ex players come back and play against their 'jilted lover.' What is your thought on this, and how might it play out? Otherwise the Nats seem to have been rather lucky? Seems (other than the Dodgers) that EVERYONE has gone to the AL, making teams like the Nats, barring injury, even stronger?

Yes, I;ve been noticing how much talent has left the N.L., except the Dodgers, and out of the N.L. East. If Dickey is tradsed by the Mets, that's even more.

I think it's clear that the Nats are not passionate about keeping LaRoche. They want to respect him, make him a civil offer. But I don't think they can tell __even in their heart of hearts__ whether they are better off with LaRoche or Morse at 1st. So why pay LaR >$35M for 3 yrs when you can have Morse for 1 yr at $6.75M and use the rest of the money elsewhere.

Davey really seems to want LaR. It's not an act. If LaR only gets a 3-yr offer from an ugly team, like Seattle, he might drop back to Nats.

On Lannan (and Lannan vs Haren) I often answer e-mails from fans during the week between chats. This is a LONG answer to an e-mailer. Sorry it is so long. If you don't care about Lannan/Haren, skip it.

The difference between Lannan and Haren has been huge over their careers. For perspective, leave out last year (which was really bizarre statistically) when Haren was 12-13 and gave up 87 ER in 181.2 IP with all but one start in the majors and Lannan went 13-12 with 86 ER in 181.1 IP with all but 6 starts in AAA. In other words, in his worst season, and first injured season ever, Haren pitched identically as well, mostly in the majors, as Lannan did, healthy, and mostly in the minors. The five years before '12, Haren had a 3.30 ERA and averaged 230 IP a year. That's "star." I doubt Strasburg, Gio or Z'mann will ever average 230 innings for five straight years. The previous four years Lannan avearged 179 IP and a 3.98 ERA. That's MLB average. Mediocre. His career comparable is Zane Smith.

Based on the careers of the 10 pitchers most similar to Lannan at the same age, the rest of his career he'll go 24-29. That's not much up side. I actually think there's a chance, but only a chance, that he'll end up being a ~115-115 type pitcher like Larry Gura, Paul Splitorff, Charlie Leibrandt, Ross Grimsley, Tom Browning, John Smiley, Denny Neagle. Similar sinkerball or speed-changing lefties who were underrated early in their careers, for the most part, but were durable and smart. But very few other people in baseball agree with me. Actually, I haven't found one. I think I probably have the highest opinion of Lannan of anybody I've met, certainly higher than any Nats evaluator. And I think that an aging-fast Haren will be at least as good in '13 as Lannan pitching in Citibank in (small) Philly.

A bounce-back Haren, which is possible, might be one of the best off-season deals of the winter __he'd be almost as good as the Gio of '10-'11-'12 and maybe better than Z'mann. Haren has the 2nd best control in MLB, after Halladay. He ranks in the top 15 in almost any measure of Best Pitcher over the last eight years, including K's-per-9-IP and least men on base. This guy has fanned >208 men three times. But he's always played out West and been overlooked by East Coas fans He never had THE 20-win season. But in baseball, he's seen as an elite pitcher who had his first down season in '12 and may be showing all his mileage. Maybe. That's why he settled for a one-yr deal. But he wants to start 33 games, go 215 IP, win 16 games, fan 190 with a 3.30 ERA and get a $50M free agent contract next year! He may be crazy. But you can be sure he thinks that's who he is because he's done it before.

There is NOBODY who would compare Lannan to Haren for talent, past performance, toughness, command, variety of pitchers, stuff. Lannan's toughened up (used to be a bit of a baby), but he's not the clubhouse presence/athlete Haren is. And Lannan is one of the worst hitters anywhere while Haren is one of the 5 best hitting pitchers in baseball (career .223). Could Lannan go 15-10 in Philly and Haren go 3-6 with injuries or knocked out of the rotation in DC? Sure. But if you're looking at possible extreme outcomes, you'd find about 90% of MLB people who'd say Haren would be the more likely 15-10 bounce back and Lannan the 3-6 who can't adjust to Philly.

My guess: Both do pretty well, but Haren better, because he's so much better to start with.


Is 10 games too high? Really, even how they finished last year, this team is just terrible. I don't understand. But I do have a solution - And his name is Jim Laranaga! I don't think that Gary W is the answer for a team like this. I think it's an older person - who succeeded with 'cast offs' showed that they could fit and win his record at Mason once he really got his own players was impressive. Tourney wins over a lot of schools that have titles. I was (and remain) sad that he left. Anyway, I think he could get the younger players attention and get enough buy in from the older guys to win now. Any chance that Ted L. might at least give something outside the box any consideration - and if he did, would a coach like Jim L consider an offer?

I wouldn't wish this team on Satan, especially with Wall still hurt and with a "well, we'll see" timetable for his return. 

At least Randy Wittman has them working hard (usually). Go on , get another coach in hear, especially a college coach with some age on him. What if they QUIT on HIM? Then you see ugly.

Gary for Wiz??? Sorry, the 101st time he screams at somebody, several of them hit the "mute" button. And that would be by the 2nd practice. It only takes a few to tune out and this becomes a legendary bad team. Ohhhh, if that's what you WANT, for more pingpong balls, well, that's an idea.

 And Jim...leave the man his sanity and reputation. But if you are going to tab a local for a long shot and a $$$ present, I guess Jim. But I think he'd be too sensible to want it.  

If they do win out to get into the playoffs, how far do they go? The defense is imoproving - against all odds and the O-Line has been sufficient with a mobile QB. They can run and have talented targets - losses to both SF and ATL were not blowouts, nor was the first one to the Giants. That said they lost to Carolina - which is inexcusable.

If they win out, they win the NFC East and get a home game in the first round. If RGIII is back and the two O-linemen who were nicked on Sunday are back, I'd take them in the first round.

The Skins have beaten four winning teams and played good teams close. Their 8-6 record is who they are now, imo. Dallas has won 3 in a row. The final game at FedEx could be a memory game. Redskins close out NFC East and start a new period in team history Or, ugh, they don't. Subject to (injury related) change, put me down for "W" on Dec. 30.

Is it too early to start daydreaming about firing up the Bandwagon? I really, really, REALLY want to, even though I know it's far from being over (or possibly not, depending on how the next two weeks shake out). My Monday morning optimism is sky-high right now, but I can't help thinking... get out the gas can. Help?

The Bandwagon, owned and driven by TK, is, as I understand it, a Super Bowl vehicle. I wouldn't turn the ignition on THAT one yet.

But in a little while my Skins column should be up on the Sports site and, I believe, the first words are: The Redskins are back.

But back as the leader in the NFC East, and more likely than any other tyeam right now, to have the best future within the NFC East.

The Redskins have only won the NFC East ONCE in the last 20 years. Once!

And they haven't looked like The Best team in the division since they were the best team in the NFL in '91.

So, forget the Bandwagon for now. But they have a huge opprotunoity to stake a claim to the top spot in the NFC East __in the standings and probably in the psyches of the other teams in the division.

The Giants, of course, still believe in themselves. It's only been a week since they scored 52. But losing 34-0 to Atlanta in a "Define Where Both Teams Are Right Now" game has to bring in the start of some self-doubts.


Looks l;ike R.A. Dickey just got a 2-year/$25M extension and will be traded to the Blue Jays.

Good for him. Great guy/story. But I have always hated to watch knuckleballers. It's a bias. It's not fair. But there it is. Glad not to see him in the N.L.

But even gladder, after all he's been through in his life, that, at 38, he got paid and got traded to a team with a good chance to be in the post-season.

But not good for the Orioles. They need an off-season answer.

Mr. Boswell, not to look ahead too far but how big does the Redskins game against Dallas seem now? It appears the NFC East Division Title will be on the line. How important is this game to this rivalry? When was the last really big Redskins vs. Cowboys game with so much on the line?

If it's a winner-take-all game for the division title, it will be a big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big, huge, gigantic monster mega-game.

In Washington.

Elsewhere, it'll be a pretty darn good game between two good but flawed teams (Skins defense), neither of which figures to get to the Super Bowl.

Welcome to the land of Redsk-insanity.

Bos, in a recent column, you noted that the MASN decision occured, probably a while ago, and neither side liked the deal. So, does that mean that the contratc is not iron-clad? If the contract was clear, there's the reset, there's the formula, there's a valuation and that's it. Right? So, what's in this contract that MASN/MLB aren't enforcing the contract? Are the Lerners questioning the validity of the contract on the basis that they didn't enter into it voluntarily - that it was a condition of the sale and not bargained in good faith?

They agree there is a "reset" provision and that the Nats should get more money. After that, I bet they can find a way to disagree about the meaning or interpretation of every word in the contract.

When you hear the phrase "internal baseball dispute," that means they think it is at the level of black-ops mystery.

That's why James Wagner's story last week, with multiple sources, on baseball going to Allen Co (Wall Street) in an attempt to find a buyer for all of MASN was such a first-rate scoop.

Would Kyle take a head coaching position or wait out his old man and inherit skins job and let mike move up to the front office as team president.?

That's now a question on the table, or soon will be if Skins finish 10-6. Not until Mike's five-year deal is finished, of course. But the Skins 7 30-point games so far and the way both RGIII and Cousins have succeeded in different versions of Kyle's offense __no read option yesterday__ is going to get him offers soon, I'd think.

Boz, Do you think Phillie fans will forgive Lannan for breaking Chase Utley's hand and hitting a significant number of other Phils over the years? I don't recall the numbers but Lannan seems to have great command and hit few batsmen, except for when the Nats played Philly. Coincidence or should Bryce Harper be worried when the Nats face Lannan?

Utley hits himself, just like Jeter. No sympathy. If you dive into the pl,ate, you bring it on yourself. You can dive. No problem. They've bveen doing it since the '80's. But then you bring hand-wrist-elbow injuries into play yourself.

If anything, Lannan should probably be annoyed at the Phils for taking both sides of the plate away from him for years and beating him like...(pick cliche).

Any team that goes more than two series without drilling Utley with a pitch that misses the plate by less than six inches isn't pitching him correctly. (He knows it. And that's just about his average __gets hit once every 6-7-8-9 games.)

Would you consider Washington's 2012 draft this year's best draft? Although he was not drafted this year (or by the Skins), Forbath i technically still a rookie this year . One of the Skins best rookie class.

Because of Griffin, Morris and maybe Forbath & Cousins (and a couple of others who haven't finished developing), this may be the flashiest class because RGIII may end up being THAT good.

But, you are not going to beat '81 for total value, including a HOFer (Grimm). Look at the number of games each played in the NFL (almost all with Skins).

Mark May (159 games), Grimm (140), Dexter Manley (143), Charlie Brown WR (68), Darryl Grant DT (141) and __a favorite under-rated Redskin of mine__ Clint Didier (105).

Boz, After wandering in the NFL wilderness for the better part of two decades, we 'Skins fans thought we might have a chance at least not to be a laughing stock when they hired Shanahan. It's taken a while, but Sunday's game proves, at least in my mind, that the entire team is moving in the right direction. Am I putting too much stock in an RGIII-less victory? Did we just get lucky?

No, no, not in my book. You'll see my thoughts at more length in my column that'll be up soon and in the paper tomorrow. Of course, what could be "at more length" than this chat?

I have enjoyed your writing for decades. In view of Cousins' excellent work the past couple of games, there is already talk of his value on the trade market. Given the value of QB play in the NFL, wouldn't it make more sense for the Skins to keep him as a reliable backup to RGIII? RG's style makes him like to miss a game or 2 each season. Why not keep a great #2 QB? Is it $ issue? Or would Cousins not appreciate this role?

Thanks. At some point, Cousins probably wouldn't be happy if he continues to be exceptional when given a chance. The guy just turned a 20-28 defeat into a 31-28 OT win in the last 2 mins of regulation, then went for 329. But that time isn't now. And it's not any time soon enough to worry about it. Pat hand. Enjoy it for now and next year. 

So was I the only one who wasn't wild about Griffin's press conference? He wasn't exactly supportive of his teammate(s). Instead of commending Cousins for a terrific game and a great win, he made the press conference about himself. Though he said otherwise, he did not seem particularly happy about the win or how Cousins did. I realize the kid can't always be on, but I hope all of the accolades aren't getting to his head.

No, no. In my opinion, that was as close to Strasburg's comments __though Stephens shutdown "press conference" was just a mob scene in the locker room__ as you could find. They both saids exactly the same things. Don't like it. Wanted to play/pitch. Understand the decision. Don't have to like it.

Very interesting that, whether entirely true or not, RGIII said he absolutely could have played. And, unlike Strasburg who'd been struggling for his previous 8-0to-10 starts, there's not much reason to think that RGIII, with some limitations on running, wouldn't have been pretty much himself. He was held out of a potential season-damaging game because the Skins chose medicine over macho. Not identical to Strasburg. But both are responses to "how to let an injury heal properly" so something much worse __but unknowable__ doesn't happen. 

Do we have a QB controversy in DC? Cousins looked pretty unbeatable once he got settled. There was one camera shot after a touchdown where he threw his arm around RGIII and patted his shoulder as if to say, "watch and learn, kid," and I couldn't help but laugh. What confidence! Seriously, what happens to Cousins at the end of the year? He ought to have a ton of trade value with which the team could pick up some defense, but he's also a great asset to keep around.

You don't have a QB controversy. You have a QB cornucopia.

Is Fletcher destined for the Hall of Fame?

If he isn't, they should rip the place down. Fox had GREAT stats beforeSunday's game comparing Fletcher to Ray Lewis.





Force Fum......19...........19


Then Fletcher went out and had an interception and ran a defense that had Weeden totally perplexed.

I know that the NHL has been damaged, but how badly? I'm starting to really resent the owners (like Ted, btw) who've pushed this craziness to the point of killing this season, and maybe worse. Will the fans just come back as if nothing happened, or will there be a serious backlash? Any chance of a backlash bad enough to lead to contraction of the league? Do you think the owners regret the lockout at all, or is this just SOP in hardball labor negotiations? Thanks.

As I've said, it looks to me like Fehr is just running the MLBPA polay book in situation where the union was convinced that owners had initiated a bad-faith lockout and that, if necessary, the union would win the End Game in court because they knew labor law __and the owner's true intentions (break th eunion)__ better than the owners themselves.

If anything, the NHL has been even more transparent about its intentions and its lack of good-faith bargaining. I don't think the NHLPA preferred this End  Game. But if they are forced into it, I'd bet anything that Don and Steve Fehr already think that decertification and possible triple damages for players is a very high probability event. 

The Fehrs aren't going to reinvent the wheel. Will this law-is-ultiumately-on-our-side hold true in the NHL as it did in MLB? I don't know. Not my area of expertise.


Sorry about the "Caps," as in letters as well as the Caps.

If the owners think the players are going to mutiny on the union, they might. But they never did in M LB. Why did they HIRE Fehr if they didn't want to see if his methods worked? And if they think they know the applicable labor law better than the union, well, I have the names and numbers of awhole bunch of MLB owners and execs who can tell them how that kind of over-confidence worked out for them.

As I've said: Hockey isn't baseball. Until it is.

More tosses to Morris and the bootlegs were working all day. The kid knows how to call a game with the talent he has. Not as fun to watch as with Griffin but very effective.

They stuck with the stretch plays toi Morris on early downs for four futile possessions. Dumb or patience? Ended up looking like patience. The Browns defender charged with contain __on either side__ just kept crashing as though Cousins had to walk with a cane. Cousins is mobile and loves to throw on the move. He just isn't fast. But he's fast enough to run a hundred bootlegs. Looks like Kyle set 'em up, then killed them with boots, play action passes __the whole "base" playbook. 

You're Mike Rizzo: Do you have another big move up your sleeve, either a trade of a FA signing? Or are you satisfied with what you've got, and standing pat?

I suspect he stand pat, except for adding a solid reliever. If LaRoche says "Yes," then he obviously trades Morse for prospects or a reliever. If LaRoche leaves, the Nats get a compensatory draft pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds __the same area where they've found value before.

I think Mike's happy either way. The stat guys will tell you Morse probably have a slightly better chance of a big offensive year in '13 __like '11__ than LaR has of duplicating his career year in '13. BUT LaRoche has had many consistent full years. Morse has only managed one full season at the MLB level. He has more injury history. But LaRoche is older.


Who you got for more wins this year, Angels or Dodgers?

Both win plenty. Both make the playoffs. Neither makes the Series. Not with the rosters they have now.

Angels have lost pitching and now Dickey are Shields are off the board. Lets see where Lohse goes.

It's sort of fascinating to watch two teams headed in opposite directions in the area, Boz. Suddenly, the Shanahans can't do anything wrong. It seemed a little bit of a risk to go with Kirk in Cleveland, especially given the way the Browns have played the last three weeks...and the end result of yesterday is that Shanahan and Allen would be totally legitimate in asking for at least two second round picks if someone wants Cousins (I'd go so far as a one, but I'm not ready to overstep just yet...). Not to get ahead of everything, but doesn't it seem poetic that, if chalk holds, it comes down to Dallas??!? On the other hand, here are the Ravens. Suddenly old, injured, and all the years of running that inept offense (That 'control the ball and let the defense win the game" stuff never set well with me..), and now it appears that Flacco might be the FOURTH-best QB between the two teams (I'm putting Joe behind INT-Rex, only because Grossman didn't play yesterday). Good QBs and good teams have beaten the Ravens for years; Peyton hasn't lost to them since he was a rookie. The bad thing for the Ravens is that the organizational mindset won't change until certain people leave the playing field for good...and you can guess who I mean, Boz.

Lot of good points about The Model Franchise.

They're smart. But they are in a transition period. And that beatdown yesterday after firing Cam Cameron last week makes it looks like they're fading for '12. Peyrton owns 'em. Flacco face down watching the 98-yard pick six. The franchise cycles go round and round. Ravens are still 9-5. When you're having  a bad patch and you're still that good, it illustrates structural soundness. (But I do seem to remember the Redskins beat them fairly recently. )

Tell me it was the years, Boz. No one wanted to go beyond four, then Arte Moreno comes up with five. Part of me looks at it and believes that Los Anaheim did this more because of Pujols' slow starts the last couple of years--they figure he'll see better pitching early in the season. Plus, if I'm Scoscia, I'd flip-flop Hamilton and Mark Trumbo defensively--put Trumbo in left and Hamilton in right...

The Dodgers and Angels have as many bad contracts as any two teams I could name in a long time. Hamilton isn't worth five years. It may not show. But it'll drag down the Angels down a notch soon enough. The Dodgers can just keep on spending.

First off, I'm not a Redskins fan. I'm a Ravens fan (no, I don't want to talk about it) who follows the Skins because I live in Northern Virginia. So, consider that when I say this: this could be one of "those seasons." Where almost everything goes your way and you go to the Super Bowl. Think the Cardinals a few years ago, or the Giants. Yesterday's win convinced me. The backup QB, a rookie who's never started before, comes in and guides them to a smooth win? When does that happen? Plus, the Giants' loss and the Eagles' embarrassment on Thursday helps move things along nicely. And when your season may come down to a must-win game against the Cowboys, the most gutless team in football, you have to love your chances. Get a good seat on the bandwagon, Skins fans. You might be in for a fun ride.

Don;t ever say, "That can't happen" in sports __especially when things have alreadys atrted to run that way.

BUT I'll let this be your brave prediction, not mine.

Not that I personally remember, but, didn't the Skins draft a QB a few years ago (1937) and didn't he lead the Skins to an NFL championship in his first year in the league? Wouldn't that be nice. Has anyone else done that?

Thanks. Forgotten that about Baugh. Oh, it's gonna get crazy around here. This 5-game winning streak, why it'll be 11 in a row before you know it...right?

As I said to Nats fans, don't set yourself up to be disappointed by a wonderful season. Just enjoy it.

Would he go into the Hall as a Redskin, Ram or Bill?

Just so he goes in. He has the ring as a Ram but he's finally getting the credit he's always been due as a Redskin.

That's it for this week __and what a week! Thanks. See you next Monday.

In This Chat
Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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