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Monday, November 18, 2019

PASSAN: Astros exec suggested using cameras to spy in ‘17, sources say

A familiar name in these circles emerges…

A high-ranking Houston Astros official asked scouts to spy on opponents’ dugouts leading up to the 2017 postseason, hoping to steal signs and suggesting the potential use of cameras to do so, sources familiar with the request told ESPN.

The reaction among those who received an email from Kevin Goldstein, a special assistant to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, was mixed, sources told ESPN. Some were intrigued by the idea, sources who received the email said, while others were bothered by the thought of pointing cameras from the stands toward opposing teams’ dugouts, a plan that could have earned them scorn within the scouting community if caught. ...

Goldstein, who did not return a message seeking comment, wrote in the email: “One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can [or can’t] do and report back your findings.”

Stormy JE Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:04 AM | 183 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, baseball prospectus, cheating, kevin goldstein, sign stealing

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   1. Brian Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:18 PM (#5902062)
That Kevin Goldstein?
   2. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:25 PM (#5902068)
Yes. Ba, b pro, etc
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:52 PM (#5902076)

Yes. Ba, b pro, etc


I hope the "etc" includes "son of Al."
   4. The Duke Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:58 PM (#5902077)
So none of the SABR-sites will cover this now. Fangraphs has completely embargoed the topic. BP has had one (albeit one really good article). There should be a ton of SABR-analysis that could show whether the cheating actually had an impact. Jomboy seems to be the only one doing detailed research and he’s hit on a goldmine including outing the Astros own video to show Pics of the computer, trashcan and dugout location
   5. Blastin Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:58 PM (#5902079)
Luhnow's special assistants are... not having a good fall.
   6. Blastin Posted: November 18, 2019 at 02:59 PM (#5902082)
Fangraphs has completely embargoed the topic.


It's less than I'd want, but it's on all their podcasts, in fact it has been the subject of the last three.
   7. The Duke Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:10 PM (#5902087)
I only read the articles - so ok, fair enough
   8. JJ1986 Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:16 PM (#5902090)
Fangraphs has completely embargoed the topic.
Are we just making things up?
   9. RoyalFlush Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:30 PM (#5902094)
Outside of the "camera" request, is there anything wrong with advance scouts watching the dugouts and trying to figure out the signs? Is that completely off limits too?


   10. Blastin Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:41 PM (#5902098)
Outside of the "camera" request


But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...'

And right, the rest is fine. But that's the issue.
   11. DCA Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:52 PM (#5902101)
Outside of the "camera" request,

It is the camera that's a problem, or is it only "real time camera" that's problematic?

If the coaching staff (or front office or intern) watches video after the game, and deduces the signs, can't the team "legitimately" steal them without tech the next day?
   12. Blastin Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5902103)
Why is everyone trying to parse the reasons that would make what the Astros did okay?

It was the real-time, camera feed shenanigans that allowed them to determine breaking balls vs fastballs.
   13. The_Ex Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:56 PM (#5902104)
New article in the NY Post suggesting electronic bandages that buzz could have been used too. (saw it on Twitter so no link)
   14. Nasty Nate Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:01 PM (#5902107)
Edit
   15. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:32 PM (#5902116)
Outside of the "camera" request, is there anything wrong with advance scouts watching the dugouts and trying to figure out the signs? Is that completely off limits too?
Even the camera request might be OK, as long as it wasn’t used to relay signs in real-time. I assume that many teams, if not all, review game tapes to see if they can pick up pitchers tipping pitches or decode their opponents signs. That info could then be used to alert on-field personnel as to what to look for in future games. That’s allowed using the available video, and I’m not sure there is any prohibition on supplementing the available video, although that may be easier to do at home. However, there does seem to be some indications that the Astros may not have been content with that, and wanted to use cameras to steal signs in real-time. As we’re seeing, too many people have be involved in this to keep it all hush-hush. We should eventually know the full scope of the Astros transgressions, and who, if any, lied to try to mislead MLB.
   16. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:39 PM (#5902119)

If the coaching staff (or front office or intern) watches video after the game, and deduces the signs, can't the team "legitimately" steal them without tech the next day?

Yes.
   17. RoyalFlush Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:42 PM (#5902120)
Why is everyone trying to parse the reasons that would make what the Astros did okay?



I'm not trying to parse anything. Nor am I saying what the Astros did was OK. I just don't want to vilify the entire notion of advance scouting when it comes to sign stealing. I don't want my team cheating or breaking rules, but I'd like them to be looking into anything and everything up to that rule boundary.
   18. base ball chick Posted: November 18, 2019 at 04:43 PM (#5902122)
RoyalFlush Posted: November 18, 2019 at 03:30 PM (#5902094)

Outside of the "camera" request, is there anything wrong with advance scouts watching the dugouts and trying to figure out the signs? Is that completely off limits too?

- well, um, YEAH

it's ok for players on the field, or players in the opposing dugouts (who NOT allowed to communicate that to the hitter at bat)

- so
what fangraphs got to say bout all this?

seeing as how i hate podcasts

and i also want to know if any other teams besides yankeees and redsox doing this stuff too
   19. Roger Cedeno's Spleen Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:08 PM (#5902134)
Bringing cameras or binoculars to the game wouldn't be illegal... scouts can bring whatever other spectators can. The problem would be if they were relaying information to players or coaches in real time. Taking pictures while scouting a live game is apparently breaking some kind of unwritten rule, even though trying to read opponents' signs is part of a scout's job. Nothing described in the messages is technically illegal, although it could arguably be used as evidence of the Astros' willingness to violate norms. The interesting thing is that all of these reports describe events... experimenting with illegal electronic spying, ordering scouts to be hyper-vigilant and take extraordinary (if legal) measures... happening late in the regular season, as if the Astros were gearing up for war going into the postseason. What prompted that? Was it as simple as "we just want an advantage" or were they convinced that their postseason opponents would be spying on them and decided to respond in kind? It appears this really took off after news of the Red Sox and Yankees spying broke...
   20. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:23 PM (#5902151)


- well, um, YEAH

it's ok for players on the field, or players in the opposing dugouts (who NOT allowed to communicate that to the hitter at bat)


Is this your interpretation of the unwritten rules? Or is there a written rule prohibiting this?
   21. base ball chick Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:40 PM (#5902153)
interpretation of unwritten rules

any stealing done by any baserunner is accepted, no probs. apparently, they don't like 1st or 3rd base coach doing stealing

MLB says use of anything electronic to transmit signs to help current batter is against the rules
   22. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:43 PM (#5902157)

Right, I don't think MLB is investigating whether there was a violation of the unwritten rules, considering there's no universal agreement on what those say. But there's a written rule that Houston apparently broke. MLB should be investigating that.
   23. RoyalFlush Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:43 PM (#5902158)
any stealing done by any baserunner is accepted, no probs. apparently, they don't like 1st or 3rd base coach doing stealing

MLB says use of anything electronic to transmit signs to help current batter is against the rules


In my hypothetical, I was just talking about good ol' eyes-on-the-field advance scouting. Maybe binoculars, but no camera. And the team isn't even in the stadium yet - this is the series before.
   24. Roger Cedeno's Spleen Posted: November 18, 2019 at 05:44 PM (#5902159)
Signals from people outside the field of play (not players or coaches), even without electronics, are also a major no no. That's what the Blue Jays were allegedly doing a few years back with the 'man in white.'
   25. Zach Posted: November 18, 2019 at 06:32 PM (#5902167)
I've read that an experienced baseball guy can figure out the catcher's signs within a few pitches. I don't think advanced scouts are required.

The point that 1st and 3rd base coaches aren't allowed to steal signs is an excellent observation. The problem isn't the way in which you help the batter, it's that helping the batter gives him too much of an advantage over the pitcher. The one exception seems to be runners on base, who are after all active players on the field of play.
   26. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 07:17 PM (#5902177)
Signals from people outside the field of play (not players or coaches), even without electronics, are also a major no no.


The point that 1st and 3rd base coaches aren't allowed to steal signs is an excellent observation. The problem isn't the way in which you help the batter, it's that helping the batter gives him too much of an advantage over the pitcher. The one exception seems to be runners on base, who are after all active players on the field of play.


Out of curiosity, where in the official MLB rules is any of this stated? And what is the penalty for violating the rule?

According to Wikipedia:

At the December 1961 Winter Meetings, the National League banned the use of a "mechanical device" to steal signs.[7] The use of electronic equipment is not specifically forbidden by MLB rules, though in 2001, Sandy Alderson while serving as executive vice president for baseball operations of MLB, issued a memorandum stating that teams cannot use electronic equipment to communicate with each other during games, especially for the purpose of stealing signs.[8]


Then, this article says the following:

MLB has drafted a five-page document which essentially takes a rule already on the books—that signs cannot be stolen from the dugout, bullpens or essentially anywhere other than via a runner on second base—and updated it to fit a game changed by the fast growth of technology.


But I don't see where that part between the dashes ("signs cannot be stolen from the dugout, bullpens or essentially anywhere other than via a runner on second base") appears in the rulebook. I can't find the Manfred memo online (admittedly I haven't looked very hard) but the SI article describing it only mentions prohibitions on electronic sign stealing. It doesn't say anything about having a guy in the stands (even though I agree that would probably be viewed negatively if it was going on) and it certainly doesn't say anything about coaches on the field of play.
   27. Dr. Pooks Posted: November 18, 2019 at 07:54 PM (#5902182)
YouTuber and engineer Mark Rober made a video earlier this year making an app that could decode a base coach's signs within minutes with only a smartphone and a little bit of human input.

I Used Machine Learning to Hack Baseball

Relaying stolen signs to players in real time is obviously wrong.

But if anyone with an app and a smartphone can crack any team's base coach signs from the stands via advanced scouting, it raises some interesting questions on how to relay information on the field in secret and where the ethical line for advanced scouting resides.
   28. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: November 18, 2019 at 08:53 PM (#5902187)
Clearly the solution is for catchers and pitchers to converse on the mound between every pitch. That will give batters plenty of time to adjust their batting gloves too.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 18, 2019 at 08:58 PM (#5902189)
Clearly the solution is for catchers and pitchers to converse on the mound between every pitch. That will give batters plenty of time to adjust their batting gloves too.
Tony Clark confirms that this is the players' position, although they may be open to negotiation in exchange for "significant concessions" from the owners.
   30. vortex of dissipation Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:25 PM (#5902193)
At the December 1961 Winter Meetings, the National League banned the use of a "mechanical device" to steal signs.


I'm wondering if the timing of that was a response to the AL's White Sox, who were using a spy in the center field Comiskey Park scoreboard to pick up the catcher's signals, and then relay them to the batter using certain lights on the scoreboard. Pitcher Al Worthington, who was traded to Chicago late in the 1960 season, didn't want anything to do with the scheme, and spent the 1961 and 1962 seasons in the minors rather than pitch for the White Sox, who he felt were cheating. I wouldn't be surprised if others knew about it...
   31. The Duke Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:37 PM (#5902196)
I caught for a number of years early in my life but never anything professionally. I never found it hard to catch a fastball if a curve was supposed to be coming. Why can’t the pitcher just throw what he wants to throw and the catcher just catches it ? The biggest obstacle to catching a ball is not the speed but missed location - but if you are centered on the middle of the plate, you should be able to catch all normal pitches.

Molina says wainwright doesn’t need signs - he caught a whole game without giving wainwright a sign.
   32. Esoteric Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:42 PM (#5902197)
I don't think enough people are talking about Fangraphs' almost incomprehensible silence on this issue in any written articles. Literally not one single piece about the topic at all. And yet they found plenty of space to write about Brandon Taubman! Please don't give me "oh they mentioned it in a podcast nobody listens to!" excuse -- that's obviously the dodge they're trying to do here. It's obviously revealing a glaring conflict of interest because all these writers hope to be hired by front offices and they don't want to write something that will jeopardize that possibility, particularly when they fear they may be asked to engage in behavior like this themselves someday.

The whole situation frankly stinks rotten, and it depresses me.
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 18, 2019 at 09:52 PM (#5902201)
I don't think enough people are talking about Fangraphs' almost incomprehensible silence on this issue in any written articles. Literally not one single piece about the topic at all. And yet they found plenty of space to write about Brandon Taubman! Please don't give me "oh they mentioned it in a podcast nobody listens to!" excuse -- that's obviously the dodge they're trying to do here. It's obviously revealing a glaring conflict of interest because all these writers hope to be hired by front offices and they don't want to write something that will jeopardize that possibility, particularly when they fear they may be asked to engage in behavior like this themselves someday.

The whole situation frankly stinks rotten, and it depresses me.


Yes. It's a terrible precedent having journalists that cover an industry frequently taking jobs in said industry. Totally trashes any pretense of objectivity.
   34. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: November 18, 2019 at 10:06 PM (#5902202)
Duke I’m sure you’ve seen enough baseball to see what happens when catchers are crossed up. While I’m sure your high school tea,mates were good the speeds and break on MLB pitches is presumably another matter altogether. Obviously the catchers are better but just seeing what happens when mlb catchers are crossed up I don’t think it’s that simple. Also you probably run into issues with pitch framing and trying to throw runners out stealing.
   35. greenback slays lewks Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:18 PM (#5902214)
Molina says wainwright doesn’t need signs - he caught a whole game without giving wainwright a sign.

Wainwright-to-Molina is something like a top ten all-time battery in pitches thrown.
   36. Zach Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:09 AM (#5902217)
Also, the Astros broke rule #1:

YOU DO NOT PUT THE ILLEGAL PART IN WRITING!
   37. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:17 AM (#5902218)
Seriously. Rule one of email, assume the person you don’t want to read it is going to read it.
   38. catomi01 Posted: November 19, 2019 at 06:56 AM (#5902222)
I caught for a number of years early in my life but never anything professionally. I never found it hard to catch a fastball if a curve was supposed to be coming. Why can’t the pitcher just throw what he wants to throw and the catcher just catches it ? The biggest obstacle to catching a ball is not the speed but missed location - but if you are centered on the middle of the plate, you should be able to catch all normal pitches.


Because until you've seen a pro-level breaking pitch, from the vantage point of a catcher or batter (not just the view, actually standing in there against one), its hard to imagine how much it breaks...and the same goes for setting yourself up for a breaking ball and then having a 90+ MPH pitch come in.

I caught too when I was younger. I had one pitcher who as soon as he thought the other team was on our signs would just ignore what ever I put down for the rest of the inning until we could change. He was throwing in the high 70s/maybe low 80s with a decent breaking ball...I had no trouble catching him whether I knew what was coming or not. Fast forward a few years and I caught a couple of bullpen sessions for the minor league team i worked for...add 10 mph to the FB, and good running action on the pitch and even knowing it was a FB coming it wasn't always easy to "square it up."

I caught for two charity games where it was pros v. amateurs - luckily both times for the pros. In the first one it was 49/50 year old Lee Smith against some local celebrities...he was throwing 3/4 effort cutters and I think maybe allowed 3 balls in play over 3 innings, none squared up. The next time was for a sponsor game up in Bridgeport - we had promised the sponsors that at least 4 members of the team would play - me and one of the interns got to pretend to be catchers, and Tommy John had the idea to use the guys scheduled to throw their bullpen sessions that day. Dual no-hitters until they hit the pitch count they wanted, then they both just shifted over to lobbing it in and throwing knuckle balls and stuff. After another inning of that, we let the sponsors pitch to themselves so they could get some hits.

Long story short - its sometimes easy to forget how much better pro athletes are at this stuff than we are. A catcher would struggle if he doesn't know what's coming just as much as batters do.
   39. Esoteric Posted: November 19, 2019 at 08:15 AM (#5902227)
Yes. It's a terrible precedent having journalists that cover an industry frequently taking jobs in said industry. Totally trashes any pretense of objectivity.
The site literally has an entire "front office job postings" section that dominates its front page. It's not hard to see why they've embargoed the story from any writing which can be picked up by a search engine.
   40. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 08:34 AM (#5902231)

I understand the broader complaint* but not the specific allegation. Does Fangraphs never publish content critical of front offices? Is this story different somehow because it involves breaking of MLB rules? Or because "one of their own" is involved?

* Although sports has always been a gray area, where journalists sometimes go to work for teams in the booth, or for the leagues themselves on MLB.com, etc.
   41. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 08:42 AM (#5902235)
They criticize front offices all the time, which makes this particular thing more glaring.

I think it's because they really find the Astros to be admirable because they turned their franchise around in ways that align with their analysis, and to realize their "intelligence" is partially because they just straight up cheated is not a great look.

Even on the podcast episodes (which I really do like), there's still a lot of waffling, which suggests they.. don't really find it incredibly immoral? They made an analogy between the difference between speeding and running a red light, saying it was more ilike the latter.

Thankfully, Jaffe is there doing his thing and doing it well. It's been mentioned offhand by their writers with more of a following (Jaffe and Szymborski, and the fantasy folks). But nothing central.


Anyway, say what you will about them, but oh my god this nonsense is tailor-made for Deadspin. I don't think this scandal needs any objectivity if you're honest about your positionality, and that's what they were good at. "We're subjective, and here's our subjective analysis." It's the way I do my professional writing as well, though it doesn't work for some contexts (at which I struggle).
   42. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2019 at 08:51 AM (#5902237)
Are there former-FG writers on staff in Houston? I can't really keep track of the movements of stathead personalities.
   43. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 08:54 AM (#5902238)
I don't think so. Goldstein they knew back before 2012, but on the podcast they admitted they literally hadn't spoken to him in 5 years and said, I guess it's surprising he would do that but after several years in a culture, it can happen. So that doesn't seem like a close friend.
   44. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:20 AM (#5902242)
Are there former-FG writers on staff in Houston? I can't really keep track of the movements of stathead personalities.


Mike Fast was with Houston for a while, and he used to write for The Hardball Times, which later got rolled into Fangraphs, so... maybe, sort of?
   45. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:22 AM (#5902243)

Even on the podcast episodes (which I really do like), there's still a lot of waffling, which suggests they.. don't really find it incredibly immoral? They made an analogy between the difference between speeding and running a red light, saying it was more ilike the latter.

If it's against the rules (or law), then they cheated at baseball and yes it's immoral. If they didn't, I don't think there's an immoral / moral aspect to it.
   46. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:36 AM (#5902249)
If it's against the rules (or law), then they cheated at baseball and yes it's immoral.


Yes, I agree. It seemed their argument was, "wellllll this doesn't seem to be officially codified so......"

I don't get it though. There might be some anxiety because these would be seen as Bad Nerds, but it's really Bad Finance Bros. No one likes finance bros. Distance yourself. It was not the nerdiness, it was the private equity corner-cutters.
   47. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:39 AM (#5902250)
What's uncomfortable is how much overlap there is between the two camps. The data-driven, max-efficiency mindset is the same. "Yeah but those guys are dickheads and we're not" isn't very convincing.
   48. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:43 AM (#5902251)

If it's against the rules (or law), then they cheated at baseball and yes it's immoral. If they didn't, I don't think there's an immoral / moral aspect to it.


It can't be quite that simple, as there is currently no rule against spiking the opponent's gatorade with horse laxatives, yet surely that would be wrong.
   49. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:44 AM (#5902252)
What's uncomfortable is how much overlap there is between the two camps. The data-driven, max-efficiency mindset is the same.


The overlap has killed my interest in cutting edge baseball analytics and places like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus. For all of his cantankerousness, Bill James recognizes when max-efficiency harms other aspects of the game. None of the bad finance bros seem to mind dragging out the games through more pitching changes or eliminating platooning by adding a thirteenth or fourteenth pitcher to the roster.
   50. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:49 AM (#5902253)
If they didn't, I don't think there's an immoral / moral aspect to it.


I also think that the 'unwritten rules' aspect of this is fascinating. Clearly there's no rule or law against a hitter peeking to see where the catcher has set up. It's only enforced by peer pressure (which is fine and natural) and occasionally retributive headhunting (which is problematic). And while it sounds highfalutin to call it "immoral" to peek at the catcher, is still obviously wrong by baseball's private code of ethics, and guys shouldn't do it. If we learned that some outsider dorks came in and mandated a team-wide system of peeking at the catcher, we might rightly be disappointed and upset by it. They shouldn't be celebrating for exploiting a nonsensical unwritten rule, they should be shamed for disrespecting tradition.
   51. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 09:59 AM (#5902255)
The data-driven, max-efficiency mindset is the same.


I think the difference, if there is one, is the nerds (and I'm a huge nerd too, but for education, race, language, and related theory) are mostly focused on winning the game (of being smart) whereas the finance bros are greedy. Like, the nerds want to win, the finance bros want to make money and see if maybe they might win.

HOWEVER, the line is so thin that it's really easy to tip over into this.

The Astros, regardless, have indeed been the team of this past decade, as the Ringer recently decided, because... people are trying to be like them. The backlash is going to be severe, I hope.

Both groups are about finding inefficiencies, with different goals, but if the process is the same, the results will often be the same anyway.
   52. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5902258)
The backlash is going to be severe, I hope.

Me too. MLB has to absolutely pummel them.
   53. Nasty Nate Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:14 AM (#5902262)
Fangraphs has more topical subjects to address, like, uh, Vinnie Velasquez' slider...
   54. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:22 AM (#5902265)
Fangraphs has more topical subjects to address, like, uh, Vinnie Velasquez' slider...


They don't even have to stop that stuff. They've done special assignments many times. I expect (because those folks read the internet) they're just waiting, but it's not a good look, because it confirms my own impression that they really favor the Astros' "move fast, break things" Zuckerberg approach to things.
   55. base ball chick Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:26 AM (#5902266)
snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5902258)
The backlash is going to be severe, I hope.

Me too. MLB has to absolutely pummel them


- as soon as i heard that despicable a$$hole taubman thought of the wife beater as a "distressed asset" i knew there was a lot more bad news to come. winning isn't everything, it is the ONLY thing, no matter the cost

- i do NOT want MLB "to make an example of" the outed Bad Guys. I want them to go on and finbd every single other team doing the same crap and punish them JUST as severely

- it was beyond bullspit that the commissioner chose 3 players to blame the entire stroid use on and they he AND THE FANS didn't give exactly the same thing to every single guy who was actually CAUGHT

manfred better not let the yankees/red sox slide - or wherever the player came from whose bright idea it was to do the electronic cheating

and JUST like the steroid stuff, the manager/coach/executives HAD to be in on this and they got portrayed as Little Abused Angels Just Trying To Keep The National Pasttime Pure - bullstuff

- and, BTW, VERY disappointed in fangraphs for letting this slide on by. and like blastin sez, it sure does seem to imply that they don't really think the astros did anything wrong

   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5902267)
- i do NOT want MLB "to make an example of" the outed Bad Guys. I want them to go on and finbd every single other team doing the same crap and punish them JUST as severely


They need to do both. Make an example of the Astros, AND do a thorough investigation, and punish everyone involved.
   57. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5902268)
We've had absolutely zero discussion about whether to cover or not cover the sign stealing. And both Effectively Wild and FanGraphs audio talked very heavily about the Astros and sign-stealing.

Personally speaking, I stay in the areas in which I have significant insight, which means on-field analysis. There's certainly nothing I could contribute to this story that The Athletic isn't doing better. Analysis of the penalties is something I'm more likely to talk about.

   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:34 AM (#5902271)
We've had absolutely zero discussion about whether to cover or not cover the sign stealing. And both Effectively Wild and FanGraphs audio talked very heavily about the Astros and sign-stealing.

Personally speaking, I stay in the areas in which I have significant insight, which means on-field analysis. There's certainly nothing I could contribute to this story that The Athletic isn't doing better. Analysis of the penalties is something I'm more likely to talk about.


Thanks for checking in Dan. I think you should communicate to your colleagues that they need to write something about this scandal. It looks really odd.
   59. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5902277)
Even on the podcast episodes (which I really do like), there's still a lot of waffling, which suggests they.. don't really find it incredibly immoral? They made an analogy between the difference between speeding and running a red light, saying it was more ilike the latter.
Your broader point about the coziness of analytical writers and front offices is an interesting and worthwhile discussion, but just for the record: I just listened to this Effectively Wild episode on my way to the office, and the context of this discussion was different than you suggest. They analogized to speeding/red light cameras in discussing to what extent we're OK with using cameras and other technology to augment our ability to do things. Basically the point was that we seem to be OK with catching some speeders/teams stealing some signs, but don't want it to be "too easy" with the aid of technology.

Lindbergh then went on to say after discussing the Goldstein email that the more Astros officials are revealed to be involved in this sort of thing, the more it looks like MLB has to "throw the book" at the team, including "Luhnow is gone." I don't know if he meant that Luhnow should be permanently banned or just a long suspension, but I don't think it's fair to say they're waffling. They've covered it heavily at least on EW, and have consistently said that it's wrong and the Astros should be punished - albeit in a very non-excitable tone.
   60. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:46 AM (#5902278)
Thanks Dan.

And also, I'd add, I doubt that it came from On High (so, Meg) to Not Do It. Just that it has been surprising no one decided to do so beyond the podcasts. There have been speculative analytic articles before.

ElRoy, thanks for the details. I admit I was (literally) running and hearing traffic noise on the Queensboro Bridge, so it may well have been harsher than it seemed. But indeed, it seemed calmer than I would have expected or wanted. Lindbergh seemed harsher than his interlocutor, in whom I was more disappointed. Lindbergh has been harsher in all the conversations, it seems.
   61. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:48 AM (#5902281)
What's uncomfortable is how much overlap there is between the two camps. The data-driven, max-efficiency mindset is the same. "Yeah but those guys are dickheads and we're not" isn't very convincing.
I would give the Commissioner broad powers to prevent and punish twerpism, defined as "stop being twerps and compete based on your players' ability to play baseball better than the other players." That should reach a lot of these sorts of problems. And then I'd make the Commissioner someone other than Rob Manfred.
   62. Sunday silence Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:53 AM (#5902283)

They need to do both. Make an example of the Astros, AND do a thorough investigation, and punish everyone involved.


werent you not arguing on the other thread that the concept of smaller penalties and tighter enforcement would exact too a high cost in enforcement?
   63. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5902287)
werent you not arguing on the other thread that the concept of smaller penalties and tighter enforcement would exact too a high cost in enforcement?

This is a major scandal. MLB needs to be seen to act. A thorough investigation is a one time thing, which should be coupled with severe penalties.

What I'm saying is a system where it's a $500K fine if you're caught, and the league needs to be constantly monitoring every park is stupid, and inefficient.

I'm talking about a one time investigation where you offer players immunity to testify, interview everyone, and absolutely crucify the front offices that are guilty. Lifetime bans. Losing multiple high draft picks, etc.

If Luhnow, Goldstein, and Hinch are banned for life, and the Astros forfeit their entire 2020 draft, and Int'l signing pool, the league won't have to do much future enforcement. Teams would be insane to cheat, knowing any player could drop a dime on them.

   64. base ball chick Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5902290)
snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5902267)

- i do NOT want MLB "to make an example of" the outed Bad Guys. I want them to go on and finbd every single other team doing the same crap and punish them JUST as severely



They need to do both. Make an example of the Astros, AND do a thorough investigation, and punish everyone involved


- what i mean is that the astros should not get a heavier punishment for the same crime as other teams because they had better players. so if the marlins or tigers were doing the exact same thing, exact same punishment

this includes some significant punishment for the team owner as well. owners are no longer exactly absentee owners (well, except for atlanta)
   65. Esoteric Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5902291)
- i do NOT want MLB "to make an example of" the outed Bad Guys. I want them to go on and finbd every single other team doing the same crap and punish them JUST as severely
I couldn't agree more with this, just the same way I felt about the steroids era: play no favorites, let them all burn, build it back up from the ground if necessary. (And, as Lisa points out, they didn't do this during the Steroids Era whitewash.)

I do think it's interesting to note that Sean Doolittle (closer/relief ace for the Nats, but formerly of the Athletics) has been very vocal about this scandal on Twitter and is adamant that in his entire career with those two teams he never saw a team do the "monitor in the dugout hallway to read signs and signal" thing the Astros were pulling. I say this because 1.) Doolittle is a guy who is very outspoken (from politics to whatnot) and always has come across as a deeply standup guy, so I doubt he'd lie about this and put his cred on the line; 2.) he started with the Billy Beane Athletics, and if there's any team you would think might've pursued such an angle, it's the "chisel away for every marginal advantage" A's.

Rumors (and what value are rumors?) have it that people in baseball were complaining that the Brewers and the Red Sox were doing this too. I mean, if true it certainly didn't help the Sox. So I dunno.
   66. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:08 AM (#5902292)
I don't know that any other teams did the literal live feed/trash can stuff, though.
   67. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5902293)
the player came from whose bright idea it was to do the electronic cheating


I think this came from an exec. Not that they couldn't have come from Boston/Yankees.
   68. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5902294)
- what i mean is that the astros should not get a heavier punishment for the same crime as other teams because they had better players. so if the marlins or tigers were doing the exact same thing, exact same punishment

this includes some significant punishment for the team owner as well. owners are no longer exactly absentee owners (well, except for atlanta)


If they did the exact same thing, they should get the exact same punishment. If they did less egregious things, they should get less punishment.

Since the Astros fired all their pro scouts b/c they wouldn't cheat, I don't think any other team behaved as badly, though.
   69. Greg Pope Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:14 AM (#5902295)
Also, the Astros broke rule #1:

YOU DO NOT PUT THE ILLEGAL PART IN WRITING!


I'd just like to point out that what's in writing doesn't seem to be illegal. The quoted part above just says that they should use electronic means during scouting. Not during the game. Or at least not to do any real time communication.

Just because they certainly did a bunch of illegal stuff with cameras doesn't mean that every single mention of a camera is illegal.
   70. base ball chick Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:27 AM (#5902303)
Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5902293)

the player came from whose bright idea it was to do the electronic cheating



I think this came from an exec. Not that they couldn't have come from Boston/Yankees


- the story goes that some player came from another team that was cheating with the signs and since he wasn't hitting well, came up with the idea for the astros to cheat, too

me, i am now starting to seriously wonder why luhnow got all but ousted by mozeliak in saint looey...

- and i wish there would be some podcast trascriptions. or something i could read because i can't stand podcasts
   71. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:32 AM (#5902306)

If it's against the rules (or law), then they cheated at baseball and yes it's immoral. If they didn't, I don't think there's an immoral / moral aspect to it.


It can't be quite that simple, as there is currently no rule against spiking the opponent's gatorade with horse laxatives, yet surely that would be wrong.

Perhaps you missed the bolded part of my statement. Quite sure that drugging someone is illegal.
   72. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:39 AM (#5902308)

Perhaps you missed the bolded part of my statement. Quite sure that drugging someone is illegal.


So you are saying the law covers all immoral acts? That illegal = immoral, and vice versa?
   73. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 11:54 AM (#5902316)
I think the difference, if there is one, is the nerds (and I'm a huge nerd too, but for education, race, language, and related theory) are mostly focused on winning the game (of being smart) whereas the finance bros are greedy. Like, the nerds want to win, the finance bros want to make money and see if maybe they might win.

Kevin Goldstein was a tech guy, not a finance guy. I think to the extent there's a useful distinction it's between the guys who want to win at all costs and the guys who want to win at all costs while still acting ethically and with integrity. Some folks care about the aesthetics of the game, some don't, some care about the unwritten rules, some don't. I don't think having a finance background has anything to do with it and if you put together a list of people responsible for "twerpism" or whatever you want to call it in baseball I think you'd find a lot of former players (did anyone contribute more to the proliferation of LOOGYism than Tony LaRussa?) and non-finance guys on that list.

But I think there's a difference between saying "We want to win and we're willing to break some unwritten rules to do so" and saying "We want to win and we're willing to hire all the wife beaters* and break the actual rules to do so." To the extent I have an issue, it's with the latter group, not the former.

* There's a separate discussion that could be had about whether it's ok to sign former abusers and such. Not looking to open that can of worms here.
   74. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5902319)
or something i could read because i can't stand podcasts


To paraphrase early Seinfeld, "I have a podcast."

   75. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5902320)
But I think there's a difference between saying "We want to win and we're willing to break some unwritten rules to do so" and saying "We want to win and we're willing to hire all the wife beaters* and break the actual rules to do so." To the extent I have an issue, it's with the latter group, not the former.


Fair enough, and that's where i fall on what's okay, too.
   76. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5902322)

So you are saying the law covers all immoral acts? That illegal = immoral, and vice versa?

No, but we're talking about sign stealing, something that pretty much all teams do in some form or another. I don't think it makes sense to moralize in that context -- if you asked 100 people within the game where they draw the line, you'd probably get 100 different answers.

If people broke the rules or the law, throw the book at them. Otherwise, if they did something that you don't want teams doing in the future, update the rules and punish future violators.
   77. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:08 PM (#5902324)
The overlap has killed my interest in cutting edge baseball analytics and places like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus. For all of his cantankerousness, Bill James recognizes when max-efficiency harms other aspects of the game. None of the bad finance bros seem to mind dragging out the games through more pitching changes or eliminating platooning by adding a thirteenth or fourteenth pitcher to the roster.

This doesn't reflect my feelings and I think I'll detail why, though I imagine you've already thought of it in these terms.
There are two distinct perspectives here - what's best for the sport and what's best for a given team - that often run at cross purposes. When we see James' thoughts on this, it's in the former capacity and not as a (former) employee of the Red Sox. I sometimes agree with his ideas, sometimes don't, but generally am amenable to the effort. When a team bends strategies in ways that make the game worse to watch (for me) but are within the rules - more power to 'em. Their job is to win*. It's MLB's job to create the environment whereby those efforts are pleasing.

* again, within the rules, though I'll even asterisk that in a moment. And also, their job is really to maximize some function that creates happiness for ownership, involving some combination of championships, playoff appearances, wins, attendance, revenues, profits, and so on. As a rule, this can be reduces to maximize wins, subject to budgets, along some timeline.
   78. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5902326)
Kevin Goldstein was a tech guy, not a finance guy.


I thought that he was originally a management consultant. So, not finance, but same thing.
   79. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:17 PM (#5902327)
Within the rules: I do think that the question of "how big of a transgression is this?" is an interesting one. Sign stealing is clearly legal in baseball. Sign stealing, in the way the Astros "allegedly" (c'mon now) did it, clearly is not.

I'm definitely way less incensed about this as some others here are (waiting to hear more before I come up with my desired set of penalties) and would likely lump myself in with those who are more upset with Houston for accumulated "bad" behaviors, even as we disagree as to which specific things that they did were bad and to what degree. At the same time, when we look at individual things they did that I take issue with, they aren't necessarily alone in them: they used cameras to steal signs? Milwaukee may have as well. They seem to turn a blind idea to having domestic abusers in their organization? They aren't alone here either. But, you don't punish Houston for being, collectively, a bunch of ######## (apologies to the assuredly many people in their org who are upstanding, reasonable people), you punish them for specific acts.
   80. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:19 PM (#5902329)
management consultant


Yes, it's not finance that should be the subject of my ire, but every vague thing under this title.
   81. DCA Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:20 PM (#5902330)
as soon as i heard that despicable a$$hole taubman thought of the wife beater as a "distressed asset"

Here's what I don't get. He wasn't.

Osuna was traded for Ken Giles + 2 minor leaguers (decent ones). At the time of trade, Perez and Paulino were the Astros #7 and #9 prospects (per BA).

Ken Giles is just as good as Osuna (2.48 ERA / 2.83 FIP for Giles since the trade, 2.46/3.09 for Osuna). Granted, Osuna has one more year of control (2021) but given that the Astros threw in a pair of top 10 prospects it's not like they got him for a bargain price.
   82. Blastin Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5902331)
But, you don't punish Houston for being, collectively, a bunch of ######## (apologies to the assuredly many people in their org who are upstanding, reasonable people), you punish them for specific acts.


It feels like they're trying to jail Capone for tax evasion.
   83. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:23 PM (#5902334)
(current belief: fine the astros, take away some draft picks.)
--
blastin/82: heh.
   84. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:34 PM (#5902337)
I thought that he was originally a management consultant. So, not finance, but same thing.

His Linkedin says he was "NA System Administration Manager" at an IT consulting firm and then "Senior Technologist" at Spyglass (company responsible for the Mosaic web browser) and then a variety of other clearly tech positions ("Online Manager", "Director of Technology Services", "Vice President, Technology") at other companies including STATS Inc.

Whatever you want to call him, he wasn't a finance guy.
   85. PreservedFish Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:50 PM (#5902347)
I may be wrong. I sort of remember one of the BP guys getting hired and learning that he had started his career with McKinsey or BCG or Bain.
   86. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:54 PM (#5902351)
- and i wish there would be some podcast trascriptions. or something i could read because i can't stand podcasts
Just curious - what do you find so off-putting about podcasts?
   87. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:56 PM (#5902354)
But, you don't punish Houston for being, collectively, a bunch of ######## (apologies to the assuredly many people in their org who are upstanding, reasonable people), you punish them for specific acts.

You do, actually. Whether a person has a clean record or a long rap sheet has a lot to do with their eventual sentence in a criminal court, why shouldn't it in MLB?
   88. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:57 PM (#5902355)
Just curious - what do you find so off-putting about podcasts?

Not bbc, but why would I spend 60 minutes listening to something I could read in 15?
   89. base ball chick Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:57 PM (#5902357)
81. DCA Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:20 PM (#5902330)

as soon as i heard that despicable a$$hole taubman thought of the wife beater as a "distressed asset"


Here's what I don't get. He wasn't.

Osuna was traded for Ken Giles + 2 minor leaguers (decent ones). At the time of trade, Perez and Paulino were the Astros #7 and #9 prospects (per BA).

Ken Giles is just as good as Osuna (2.48 ERA / 2.83 FIP for Giles since the trade, 2.46/3.09 for Osuna). Granted, Osuna has one more year of control (2021) but given that the Astros threw in a pair of top 10 prospects it's not like they got him for a bargain price


- the description of "distressed asset" sure ain't mine - i didn't even know what that meant until i looked it up - it's what someone said someone said taubman and gang thought of osuna

- it was OBVIOUS that the manager and pitching coach didn't want giles on the team. one man's trash is another man's treasure, so they say

good for giles for being able to succeed with thre jays because he sure as heck wasn't gonna with the astros. the jays wanted to get shut of osuna, who, obviously, the astros valued more than giles.

and the astros got no problem with some player beating the **** out of some stupid interfering female. (remember they were gonna draft that guy who is on the sex offender list for raping/molesting some little girl - until it got out - not that they had nooooooo idea he was a kiddie raper.)

so they think the jays are selling something valuable for very little and they didn't think giles was worth much - at least with the astros. and apparently they didn't think real too much of paulino or perez (and so far, i agree with them)

they were definitely right about the fans not caring if he beat up some bydch - and who knows what his own teammates think
   90. JJ1986 Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:00 PM (#5902359)
Not bbc, but why would I spend 60 minutes listening to something I could read in 15?
You can listen and do other stuff at the same time. It's hard to read while driving or working out or doing things around the house.
   91. base ball chick Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:02 PM (#5902360)
What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2019 at 12:54 PM (#5902351)

- and i wish there would be some podcast trascriptions. or something i could read because i can't stand podcasts

Just curious - what do you find so off-putting about podcasts


- i personally just can't pay attention to some droning voice. i can't sit and stare at a blank screen for more than a few minutes without either losing interest or my mind wandering. if i put it on while i'm doing something else, after a few minutes, i'm not listening any more and then my mind will wander back in 5 or 10 or 15 or whatever minutes and i got no idea what they are talking about or what was said

- the ONLY thing i can listen to and do something else at the same time is listen to a ball game and even then, my attention wanders. i need a visual to keep my attention
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5902362)
You can listen and do other stuff at the same time. It's hard to read while driving or working out or doing things around the house.

I don't drive much, and don't work out. I also hate headphones and ear buds of all kinds, so if I listened it would be on my PC.
   93. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5902363)
Not bbc, but why would I spend 60 minutes listening to something I could read in 15?

I listen to podcasts when I can't read -- while running / at the gym, walking to work, folding laundry, cooking, etc.

Some are great, some aren't. I like interviews/conversations where you can actually hear people's fully formed thoughts, not quotes that have been edited/filtered through a reporter or shortened to Tweet length. Podcasts where it's just one person talking are very hit-or-miss for me, depends on the subject matter and the storytelling ability of the narrator.

I also hate headphones and ear buds of all kinds, so if I listened it would be on my PC.

You can listen on your phone/tablet without headphones if you're at home. But sure, they may not be for you.
   94. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:15 PM (#5902368)
You can listen on your phone/tablet without headphones if you're at home. But sure, they may not be for you.

I'd rather watch a youtube video in that case. Like bbc, if I'm not watching and listening, I'm going to drift.
   95. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:16 PM (#5902369)
Your broader point about the coziness of analytical writers and front offices is an interesting and worthwhile discussion, but just for the record: I just listened to this Effectively Wild episode on my way to the office, and the context of this discussion was different than you suggest.

It can certainly be tricky and it took me years until I found a balance that I felt comfortable with. Being a writer-slash-data provider has some trickiness to it. In the end, what I went with (and what ESPN was comfortable with) was that I could sell data, but I couldn't offer any kind of advisory opinion relating to the data or anything else.
   96. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:22 PM (#5902371)
And also, I'd add, I doubt that it came from On High (so, Meg) to Not Do It. Just that it has been surprising no one decided to do so beyond the podcasts.

It is surprising! I actually didn't even realize we hadn't done anything on it until this thread; I actually went back and checked.

The FanGraphs side has, if I counted correctly, 10 full-time employees. Three we'd probably call generalists (Jay, Craig Edwards, me). And two of us have very active projects this time of year (I'm finishing up my seasonal Elegies and getting ZiPS ready for the winter rollouts and Jay is thick into Hall of Fame stuff). So I can see how it wouldn't have come up naturally (and as snapper suggests, I'm going to bring it up).
   97. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:23 PM (#5902372)
Being a writer-slash-data provider has some trickiness to it. In the end, what I went with (and what ESPN was comfortable with) was that I could sell data, but I couldn't offer any kind of advisory opinion relating to the data or anything else.
That seems reasonable on its face. Has it caused any issues operationally (that you can discuss in broad terms)?
   98. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:24 PM (#5902374)
I'm finishing up my seasonal Elegies
By the way, since you're here - this is my first year as a FG subscriber and I'm really enjoying these so far. Very ambitious project and I'm sure quite time-consuming, but well done and thank you.
   99. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:40 PM (#5902377)
That seems reasonable on its face. Has it caused any issues operationally (that you can discuss in broad terms)?

Modern front offices tend to have a very practical view of this sort of thing; the Padres, for example, got interested in Dave Cameron *while* he was ripping them a new one.

I've found teams/agents are way more concerned with discretion than temperament. Nobody cares about what I say as long as it's not repeating the stuff said in confidence. I think the last NDA I signed was in ~2005 because while I'm fairly sure everyone in the industry knows I'm a sarcastic, cantankerous loudmouth, clients know that I don't go around blabbing specifics of what I did for who and when.

The first few times that a team and an agent requested the same data, I did feel a bit uneasy. But I got through that after thinking about it and coming to the conclusion that choosing which party to sell data to is in fact what would create the conflict of interest.
   100. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: November 19, 2019 at 01:42 PM (#5902378)
By the way, since you're here - this is my first year as a FG subscriber and I'm really enjoying these so far. Very ambitious project and I'm sure quite time-consuming, but well done and thank you.

I'm glad you're enjoying them! It's the kind of project I never really got to do at ESPN because ESPN favored more general things that covered lots of teams simultaneously. I considered last year a trial run and people seemed to really be interested in them; it gives some generalized content about teams that is hard to get on a national scope this time of year.
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