MLB Power Rankings: Blue Jays make great strides and we have a new basement-dweller

Three weeks remain in the regular season, and because staring at the standings for too long can strain the eyes, it’s time to take a look over here at the awards races.

We’re going to spotlight each team’s top individual trophy candidate. That’s not to say they’ll win the award. Shoot, some of these races have been sewn up for weeks. We’re just picking each team’s best bet. So sit back, get your popcorn and enjoy the show as we present this week’s power rankings — featuring a new last-place team — and preview MLB awards season.

Record: 93-49
Last Power Ranking: 1

Best award candidate: Ronald Acuña Jr., NL Most Valuable Player

There have, over the past 150 years of baseball history, been some darn good do-it-all ballplayers: Oscar Charleston, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout, Erik Kratz. I could go on. But only one has ever batted better than .320 with at least 30 homers and 60 steals in a season, and that’s 2023 Acuña. And, honestly, those are piddly numbers compared to his. Acuña is hitting .336 with 35 homers and 64 steals. He could be sitting alone in the 40-70 club by season’s end.

Acuña is out here rocking the baby, smashing 121 mph homers, somehow slicing his 2022 strikeout rate in half, threatening to be the first player with 150 runs scored in a season since Jeff Bagwell in 2000, and, like the Braves, leaving everyone else in the dust. — Stephen Nesbitt

Record: 90-52
Last Power Ranking: T-2

Best award candidate: Gunnar Henderson, AL Rookie of the Year

Bringing in AL Rookie of the Year awards used to be a regular thing in Baltimore. Ron Hansen and Curt Blefary won in the ’60s, Al Bumbry and Eddie Murray in the ’70s and Cal Ripken Jr. and Gregg Olson in the ’80s. But now it’s been almost 35 years since an Oriole won the award. That’s about to change. Henderson hasn’t run away with it as Corbin Carroll has in the NL, but he’s sitting pretty with 24 homers, a .810 OPS and 3.5 fWAR as an everyday left-side-of-the-infielder.

Henderson mostly spun his tires for the first two months of the season, able to draw walks and provide occasional power, but since climbing above the Mendoza line for good on May 30, he’s batted .278 with an .862 OPS. He stings the ball, and he has an advanced approach at the plate. Combine that with plus defense and plus speed and you’ve got yourself a heck of a ballplayer.

By the way, borrowing the spotlight from Henderson for a moment, if the Orioles win the AL East, Brandon Hyde can start making room for the AL Manager of the Year award on his mantle. Unless things fall apart down the stretch, it’s all his. — SN

Record: 87-55
Last Power Ranking: T-2

Best award candidate: Mookie Betts, NL Most Valuable Player

I’m just going to mail this one in. He’s Mookie Betts. He leads the league in slugging as of this writing; the last time he did that, he won the MVP. Ergo post prompter hoc diem, he’s the MVP now. He leads the league in WAR, too. I’m assuming that this is an open-and-shut case.

Also, I do only the NL West and AL West teams for these rankings. So if there’s a team in the Southeast that has players who are also performing at an MVP level, they’re basically Sasquatch to me. Haven’t seen them, can’t believe in them. It’s all Betts from here. — Grant Brisbee

Record: 88-56
Last Power Ranking: 4

Best award candidate: Kevin Cash, AL Manager of the Year

The stars who might have brought hardware home to Tampa in award season will, for one reason or another or another or another or another, not play enough this season to really be in the running. But the truth remains that a team most projected to finish third or fourth in their division had a historically great start to this season, was the best team in baseball for the first half, and still has a chance to win their division in the final weeks despite losing their All-Star shortstop and almost a full rotation of starting pitchers.

Generally, that’s the kind of club whose manager would win this award. Now, Cash won it in 2020 and 2021 so there might be some fatigue here. Plus, Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde and the Rangers’ Bruce Bochy and Seattle’s Scott Servais will all receive votes. But Cash still has a solid shot, and if his Rays pass the Orioles to vault back into first place (and a wild-card bye), he might just win the thing. — SN

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He’s not going to win the AL MVP award, but it’s possible that Kyle Tucker has more value to his current team than any other player. (Bob Levey / Getty Images)

Record: 82-62
Last Power Ranking: T-6

Best award candidate: Kyle Tucker, AL Most Valuable Player

Look, we can get clever here, or we can punt and just assume Jeremy Peña is going to win another Gold Glove, but Tucker deserves more attention. No, a .287/.372/.504 line probably isn’t going to get a lot of first-place votes outside of 1968, but if we’re going to be literalist weirdos, let’s talk about the Astros without Tucker. It’s possible that he has more value to his current team than any other player.

Without Tucker, the Astros are screwed. They’re scrambling at the deadline, scrambling to make up ground, just screwed. The Astros have had a lot of injuries to key position players this season. Tucker hasn’t been one of them. He’s smacking extra-base hits, driving in runs and generally doing all sorts of brilliant baseball things. His defensive stats are underwater for some reason, but that’s probably a typo.

He might not be the AL MVP, but he’s the Astros’ delegate. And he’s not feeling self-conscious about being at the banquet. He belongs. — GB

Record: 79-63
Last Power Ranking: T-6

Best award candidate: Craig Counsell, NL Manager of the Year

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote about Brewers manager Craig Counsell recently, and one fact was utterly shocking to me: Counsell has never won Manager of the Year.

What?! How could this be? The thing that makes it so strange is that not only is Counsell managing good teams seemingly every year, but he’s also doing it in a small market with an organization that is doing more with less. He’s creative. He’s thoughtful. You look up every year and wonder just how exactly the Brewers are doing this (OK, it’s pitching. Most of it is pitching. But Counsell clearly knows how to manage).

Maybe it’s the year that Counsell should finally be NL Manager of the Year. — Rustin Dodd

Record: 80-63
Last Power Ranking: 10

Best award candidate: Kevin Gausman, AL Cy Young

If Gausman doesn’t win his first Cy Young this season — he finished sixth and ninth in the past two seasons, respectively — he may have only his left side to blame. Gausman missed two starts in July because of left-side discomfort, so he’s currently two starts and 20 innings behind Cy Young frontrunner Gerrit Cole. Cole has a better ERA, at 2.79 to Gausman’s 3.28, but it’s not hard to make a Cy Young case for Gausman, too.

Gausman leads all MLB starters in FIP (2.83) and strikeouts (217). He’s the horse of a playoff-caliber club, which Cole can’t say this season, and he has objectively better flow than Cole. That’s gotta be worth something. I don’t know if all that’s going to get it done for Gausman, but he’s having a great year, so it was worth trying. — SN

Record: 79-64
Last Power Ranking: 5

Best award candidate: Scott Servais, AL Manager of the Year

Dude’s seen some stuff. He’s seen some 80-win seasons without the postseason, and he’s seen a 94-loss season that made it seem like he was never going to sniff the postseason again. Last year, he led the Mariners to their first postseason appearance since seafaring was invented. At this year’s trade deadline, the Mariners traded away their effective closer, which requires an awful lot of trust in the clubhouse. It helps to have someone who can sell that trust.

I’m just guessing that Servais helped sell that trust, but read between the lines. He must have. He’s had highs and lows, but when the Mariners were four games under .500 to start July, he didn’t steer them into a chasm. One win led to another, which led to another, which led to another, which led to our present-day situation, where the Mariners are relevant. Not saying it’s Servais who did all of it, or even some of it, but he’ll get attention because he was well within his rights to scream at the top of his lungs and walk away. Instead, he’s helped them get better. — GB

Record: 78-64
Last Power Ranking: 8

Best award candidate: Corey Seager, AL Most Valuable Player

Place a big ol’ red button in front of the Rangers’ owner, Ray Davis. Tell him that he can magically undo the Seager contract if he mashes that button. It’s June 14, three months into Seager’s 10-year, $325 million contract. Seager is hitting .223, with a .286 on-base percentage. He’s been hurt, as he tends to be.

Does the Rangers’ ownership group mash that button? Food for thought. But, also, no, trust the process, et cetera et cetera. It was too early to give up on the prize of the offseason and the pillar of the reloading plan. He’d come around, sure enough.

Seager is the current front-runner for the MVP, unless there’s some sort of mythical creature who does what Seager does while also pitching. But that’s science fiction. Here, in the real world, Seager looks like an MVP. — GB

Record: 78-64
Last Power Ranking: 9

Best award candidate: Bryce Harper, NL Comeback Player of the Year

The criteria for Comeback Player of the Year is a little nebulous — according to the league’s website, it’s for a player “who has re-emerged on the field during the season.” Maybe Harper didn’t miss enough time to be a prime candidate, which is precisely the point. Harper swung away through a torn UCL last season and postseason, had Tommy John surgery and was back at the start of May. Salvador Perez won AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2020 post-Tommy John, but he had missed the entire previous season. Harper missed a month.

Harper has had a remarkable season, considering the circumstances. His power was missing in the first half, but since the All-Star break he has 12 homers and a .955 OPS. He’s picked up a new position with ease. And he even shaved his trademark beard to pull out of a slump. It, too, is coming back. — SN

Record: 77-67
Last Power Ranking: 11

Best award candidate: Justin Steele, NL Cy Young

Have you heard the story of how Jon Lester helped Steele grow into a Cy Young contender? You haven’t? OK, first, read it. Now that you have, well … I guess you know most of what I’m going to say here.

But Steele really has been one of the best starters in the National League this year. He leads all major league starters in ERA. He has 16 wins this year and one loss in his past 16 starts. He is the obvious choice to start Game 1 of a potential postseason series. And with a strong finish, he really does have a chance to win the NL Cy Young award. — RD

Record: 75-69
Last Power Ranking: 14

Best award candidate: Corbin Carroll, NL Rookie of the Year

Carroll is a freak. He’s going to be worth all of the WAR. He’s going to sneak into your home and steal your WAR while you sleep. He’s an elite speedster with patience and power in the majors at the same age that most kids are getting drafted out of college for the first time. 

He’s the Rookie of the Year. He’s the second-year player of the year. He’s the third-year player of the year. It’s hard to imagine a brighter future than his. — GB

Record: 75-68
Last Power Ranking: 13

Best award candidate: Sonny Gray, AL Cy Young

Let’s just lay out the statistical Cy Young case for Gray: He entered the weekend ranked second behind Kevin Gausman in FanGraphs’ WAR, second behind Gausman in FIP, second in ERA behind Gerrit Cole, and 10th in innings pitched. He’s been the most valuable player on the Twins by more than a win, and he is one of the biggest reasons they are going to win the AL Central. Cole is currently the betting favorite to win his first Cy Young — and voters may well pull an Oscars move and be moved by Cole’s “Career achievement” narrative. Cole would (will?) be a worthy winner, but Gray should get some ballot consideration. — RD

Record: 73-70
Last Power Ranking: 12

Best award candidate: Logan Webb, NL Cy Young

Webb leads the Giants in innings pitched with 193. It’s a career-high. He also leads the majors in innings pitched. He has the lowest walk rate in the league, even though his stuff is always darting hither and thither. He has the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league, too. If you trust Baseball-Reference’s WAR, he’s essentially in a 10-way tie or so for the top tier of Cy Young consideration. But in a much more specific way, he’s second in the NL in WAR.

However, he plays for the Giants, who feature a lineup that hits like absolute ding-dongs whenever Webb is on the mound. He has the lowest run support in the league, and it’s not especially close, which helps explain why he’s just 10-12.

If we’re in a post-ERA, post-W/L-record world, why not Webb? He took the ball every fifth day for a team that had only two traditional starting pitchers for most of the season, and he led the world in innings pitched. Seems pretty important. To the point where if the award were “Most Valuable Pitcher,” you know Webb would get votes. — GB

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Luis Arraez’s .349 batting average is 13 points clear of the next-highest qualified hitters: Freddie Freeman, Corey Seager and Ronald Acuña Jr. (Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

Record: 74-69
Last Power Ranking: 17

Best award candidate: Luis Arraez, King of the Mountains

In the Tour de France, the rider wearing the yellow jersey is the race leader. Then there’s the red polka-dot jersey for the best climber, the rider who grinds through grueling mountain stages and pulls away on impossible inclines to be the first to summit. They call that rider King of the Mountains. And that, to me, is like the batting title in baseball.

Arraez will not win MVP this season, but barring a late collapse he’ll be the Tony Gwynn National League Batting Champion. His .349 batting average is 13 points clear of the next-highest qualified MLB hitters: Freddie Freeman, Corey Seager and Ronald Acuña Jr.

The fact that Jesús Luzardo and Eury Pérez warrant brief mention in the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year conversations is great for the Fish, but this blurb belongs to the King of the Mountains. If you made a chart marking every hitter’s batting average throughout the season, you’d see Arraez’s line rising and falling yet always far above the rest. — SN

Record: 73-70
Last Power Ranking: 15

Best award candidate: Triston Casas, AL Rookie of the Year

Casas can’t stack up alongside Gunnar Henderson in the speed and defense categories — which, to be fair, are pretty significant when considering a player’s overall value — but he’s hammering the baseball just like him. After a three-run dinger Sunday against Henderson’s Orioles, Casas is batting .263/.365/.494 with 24 homers and an .859 OPS. He’s settled into the runner-up spot in Rookie of the Year odds, ahead of teammate Masataka Yoshida and Cleveland’s Tanner Bibee, and he’ll likely stay there. But the Red Sox have been looking for a mashing first baseman who can be an on-base machine for years, and they’ve found one in Casas. With his eye and his power, he looks like he’ll have a home in Boston for many years to come. — SN

Record: 74-71
Last Power Ranking: 16

Best award candidate: Matt McLain, NL Rookie of the Year

Which Reds rookie has been the best? Or the most valuable? Is there a right answer? (Reds fans, I’m looking at you — these are not rhetorical questions. Feel free to take it to the comments.) On a purely statistical level, the nod goes to McLain, who has been the third most valuable rookie position player in the National League, according to FanGraphs WAR, despite playing just 90 games. Power. On-base percentage. Defensive metrics that lean toward slightly above average. It’s a really nice package of skills, a do-it-all combo that has the Reds on the cusp of a wild card. — RD

Record: 71-72
Last Power Ranking: 18

Best award candidate: Gerrit Cole, AL Cy Young

On Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, before Oswaldo Cabrera tied it in extras to break up the Brewers’ no-hit bid, before Giancarlo Stanton re-tied it, before Kyle Higashioka walked off, and before Jasson Domínguez was ruled out for the season (and some of next), Cole shoved.



Yankees’ Domínguez suffers torn UCL

As the Yankees have ridden the rollercoaster this season, clobbered by injuries and underperformance, Cole has taken the ball every fifth day and given them a chance to win. His seven shutout innings Sunday — three hits, no walks, nine strikeouts —  whittled his season ERA to 2.79 in 187 innings. The Twins’ Sonny Gray has a 2.98 ERA in 163 innings; the Mariners’ Luis Castillo has a 3.08 ERA in 175 1/3 innings; and the Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman has a 3.28 ERA in 167 1/3 innings. Cole’s first Cy Young is in sight. He has three or four more starts to finish the job. — SN

Record: 67-77
Last Power Ranking: 20

Best award candidate: Blake Snell, NL Cy Young

Snell leads the NL in WAR, as long as you’re checking Baseball-Reference. If you’re checking FanGraphs, though, you’ll see him down with Mitch Keller, Kodai Senga and Aaron Nola on the second tier of candidates. This is because FanGraphs thinks Snell is a little lucky. His FIP is more than a full run over his ERA. He’s walking more than five batters per nine innings. He leads the league in LOB% (left-on-base percentage) by a bunch, which suggests a lot of two-out escapes.

Still, leads the NL in WAR. He almost certainly won’t get a chance to lead the Padres to the World Series, but he’s a Cy Young contender from here. — GB

Record: 68-76
Last Power Ranking: 19

Best award candidate: Terry Francona, AL Manager of the Year

OK, Francona doesn’t really have a case for the award this year. We know. The Guardians couldn’t hang in a dismal AL Central. The club has had better years. I’m sure Francona would be the first to say that the team underachieved versus what was expected.

But the Manager of the Year awards have always been a little strange. How do you judge managing? Why are they always given to the manager whose team was perceived to have over-achieved the most? Maybe the outside expectations — which we reporters contribute to — were just really, really bad? Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day.

The broader point is this: If there’s anyone who deserves a Manager of the Year award, it’s Francona, who might finally be saying goodbye after a Hall of Fame managerial career. — RD



Terry Francona has been one of MLB’s most influential managers. What if this is it?

Record: 67-77
Last Power Ranking: 21

Best award candidate: Shohei Ohtani, AL Most Valuable Player

Last season, Aaron Judge hit one billionty home runs. It was in all the papers. But before he hit the one-billionty mark, there was talk that Ohtani still had a shot at the AL MVP. There was a frustrated Yankees fan on Twitter who replied to one of my tweets with something to the effect of, “So, what, is Ohtani just going to win every MVP as long as he’s a good pitcher and a good hitter at the same time?”

The answer is “probably.” Probably yes. Now, I would have voted for Judge last year because it was an extenuating circumstance. A billionty home runs is a thousand times more than a millionty home runs, which is a LOT of home runs, so he took it fair and square. But assuming Ohtani is pitching really well and hitting really well, yeah, that’s the most valuable player imaginable. I guess he could be a GM making brilliant trades at the same time.

The question gets thornier when he’s a pitcher only for four-plus months of the season. There are adjustments to make. But the answer is still probably. I’ll even upgrade it to a probably yes for you. If you make the silly “he’s not on a contending team” argument, ask Angels fans if Ohtani made their baseball experience better this year. That has value. — GB

Record: 65-77
Last Power Ranking: 23

Best award candidate: Kodai Senga, NL Rookie of the Year

Who’d have guessed that, in a rotation expected to include future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and trusted veterans José Quintana and Carlos Carrasco, it’d be Senga, the 30-year-old rookie from Japan, who’d wind up with down-ballot Cy Young votes. That’s where this is headed, though, even if Senga can’t contend with Corbin Carroll in the Rookie of the Year race. Senga has a 3.07 ERA and a .627 opponent OPS across 26 starts. Since the start of July: 2.53 ERA, .586 opponent OPS.

If you don’t care to flip on a Mets game this month, that’s a reasonable position to take. But do yourself a favor and check out a Senga start. He has the kitchen sink at his disposal: heater, cutter, forkball, sweeper, slider, curve. It all comes into play, but pay special attention to the cutter and the ghost fork. They’re absolutely delightful. — SN

Record: 66-77
Last Power Ranking: 22

Best award candidate: Kerry Carpenter, AL Rookie of the Year

You may remember Carpenter from such memes as: “This Tigers rookie has a LinkedIn page.”

What you may have missed is that this Tigers rookie entered the weekend with 20 homers and a 140 wRC+ in 98 games. The latter is actually better than Corbin Carroll, the odds-on favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Carpenter, a 19th-round pick in 2019, doesn’t have Carroll’s speed or defense.

But he is showing that he can rake. That may be good enough to finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson. — RD

Record: 66-77
Last Power Ranking: 24

Best award candidate: Ke’Bryan Hayes, NL Most Valuable Player

Hayes really should win the award for: “Most Valuable Player Whose OPS Is Around League Average.” He’s a favorite to win his first Gold Glove Award. Maybe he should win two Gold Gloves. This year! His WAR, according to Baseball Reference, is 3.5. He’s been that good with the glove. Ke’Bryan Hayes: Decent enough hitter. Really good baseball player. — RD

Record: 63-80
Last Power Ranking: 26

Best award candidate: Adam Wainwright, Cy Yuk Award

The sound you hear is The Athletic’s Jayson Stark filling out the papers for a lawsuit over copyright infringement. The Cy Yuk, after all, is his thing. And Wainwright, one of the most consistent and durable starters of his generation, probably doesn’t deserve such slander, even after the dreadful year he’s had. All the same, the Cardinals don’t have any real MVP candidates. They don’t have any real Cy Young candidates, either. Jordan Walker has had a nice season, but he’s not going to win NL Rookie of the Year. So here we are. Do your worst, Stark. — RD



Stark’s MLB midseason awards: MVP and LVP, Cy Young and Cy Yuk, top rookies, and more

Record: 64-79
Last Power Ranking: 25

Best award candidate: CJ Abrams, second-half Lou Brock Award

When we talk about the “second half” of the baseball season, we’re typically talking about everything post-All Star break. But let’s, for a moment, take it literally. We’re going back to the 81-game mark, the season’s midpoint. Abrams, the Nationals shortstop, was batting .230/.276/.385 with seven homers and nine steals. And he had made one person’s prediction look very, very stupid: me, the guy who went on a limb saying Abrams would steal more than 40 bases this season. Whoops.

Then came the second half. The actual second half.

Since July 1 (Game No. 82), Abrams is batting .266/.320/.437 with nine homers and 32 (32!) steals in 33 tries. Acuña who? That’s right. Abrams is not only raking, with a .757 second-half OPS, he just swiped three bags over the weekend to cross the 40-steal mark. Look at him go. Abrams won’t take home the Lou Brock Award, given to the NL’s base-stealing champ, but his second half at least warrants mentioning. — SN

Record: 55-88
Last Power Ranking: 27

Best award candidate: Luis Robert Jr., AL Most Valuable Player

There’s a quote about Robert that I’ll never forget. It came in 2017 — which is amazingly six years ago — when the outfielder burst onto the scene as one of the top international prospects. In a story at, reporter Jesse Sanchez quoted an anonymous AL international scouting director who said that Robert was “the best player on the planet, and that’s no exaggeration.”

It’s taken a while, but everything has finally come together this season. He’s stayed healthy. He’s clubbed 35 homers and recorded more than 70 extra-base hits. He entered Sunday with the fourth most fWAR (5.1) in the American League among position players. He’s likely to finish in the top five in MVP voting, somewhere behind Shohei Ohtani, Julio Rodríguez and Corey Seager. He may not be the best player on the planet. But for one season, he’s been one of them — and that’s no exaggeration. — RD

Record: 51-91
Last Power Ranking: 28

Best award candidate: Nolan Jones, NL Rookie of the Year

Corbin Carroll is going to win the award, but Jones would have had a claim in most years. He’s hitting for power, stealing bases and playing fantastic defense all around the outfield. He’s good.

It’s funny, then, that for about a decade, the Guardians were seemingly unworried about their outfield production, starting drifters they found on Craigslist, only to have an outfielder like Jones slip through their fingers. He’s been worth more this season than almost any of the Guardians’ outfielders over the last seven years, and the Rockies will take it.

It’s funny to some of us, at least. Maybe not Guardians fans. — GB

Record: 44-99
Last Power Ranking: 30

Best award candidate: Sean Newcomb, AL Comeback Player of the Year

OK, so he’s pitched just 12 innings this year. Here’s the thing, though: The Comeback Player of the Year Award is going to go to a player who was good two years ago, was hurt last year and was good again this year. It’s an inherently boring award because it’s always the same thing.

Newcomb was the future of the Braves in 2018. He was an anchor of the Braves’ bullpen in 2019, a high-leverage reliever with the ability to give them more than one inning. Then he was hurt in 2020, lost in 2021, miserable in 2022 and on the minor-league-free-agent circuit before this season. That’s a pitcher with All-Star dreams to a fungible minor leaguer in 1,500 sunrises or so. In between, there was rehab. So much rehab. Grueling, thankless days of getting back into major-league shape.

Now he’s back, and he’s dealing for the A’s. Let him cook. Let him cook for a long time. — GB

Record: 44-100
Last Power Ranking: 29

Best award candidate: Bobby Witt Jr., AL Most Valuable Player

OK, the real question is how many down-ballot AL MVP votes Witt might get, and the answer might be “not many.” Witt entered the weekend with 4.9 WAR, according to FanGraphs, good enough for sixth in the American League, behind only Shohei Ohtani, Corey Seager, Julio Rodríguez, Luis Robert Jr. and Marcus Semien. There is not much narrative case for an MVP candidate on a team that may lose 110 games, but Witt’s combination of power, speed and defense is so rare that voters may look past his on-base percentage and reward him with a slew of votes in the bottom half of the ballot. The last Royal to get MVP votes was catcher Salvador Perez, who finished seventh in 2021. Witt should end up around the same place. — RD

(Top photo of Kevin Gausman: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)

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