Tag Archive | "Ben Zobrist"

It’s All About The Bens

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It’s All About The Bens

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

I have had Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist, on my fantasy baseball team for the past 3 years. In general, I have not been disappointed.

Ben-Zobrist

I am not sure how I end up with him each year, but it has turned out that way lately. As with every player, there has been times where he is not performing well. But he has helped my team so I cannot complain too much.

I like Zobrist for his versatility. He can be used in the outfield and both of the middle infield positions, which certainly helps when injuries take out other players and guys need to be moved around to accommodate those deemed day-to-day. This season, in 48 plate appearances the switch hitter has a .292 average and 10 RBIs. And judging by the past couple years, he should be swiping some bags pretty soon. He has one stolen base so far this season, and a career total of 82.

He has been known to start off a little shaky in the spring. Last April and May, his average hovered around .200, but he was still driving in runs. He did, however, end the season strong. From August to September of that same year, the number of runs he raked in significantly improved. He had 11 RBIs in August and increased that to 20 for the month of September. He has been consistent with the amount of home runs per month for the entire season, and ended his year with a total of 20. So, the power is there and with crossing the plate 88 times himself in 2012, Zobrist is a worthy overall player to keep on your fantasy team.

Sometimes I wish fantasy baseball gave points for defensive plays too. In case you missed it, Phillies Ben Revere had a spectacular catch in the outfield on Monday. With incredible speed, he went horizontal for a diving over-the-shoulder gem to catch a deep drive off the bat of Reds, Todd Frazier. And if that athleticism he demonstrated was not amazing enough, he jumped to his feet and gunned it to Freddy Galvis, who then tossed it to Ryan Howard to complete the double play. That was some beautiful baseball. He did it all as if it was nothing, simply just another day at the diamond. But those in the Phillies dugout recognized Revere’s super-human performance and applauded. And starting pitcher, Cliff Lee, was left with a stunned expression.

Revere was traded to the Phillies over the off-season, and has settled there nicely in center field. But he has never been much of a power hitter. Last season with the Twins, he had 32 RBIs and never once hit out of the park, but his average was note-worthy at .294. Right now he is only batting .194 with 2 RBIs, but sit back and enjoy his skills in the outfield and brilliant base running hustle. Just be careful with him on your fantasy team if you are looking for power. But if you need stolen bases, he is your guy. He snagged a total of 40 bases last season, and already has 5 this year so far. The speedy 24 year-old is exciting to watch, and will quickly become a fan favorite in Philadelphia. He is also known to be a genuine down-to-earth guy, which of course does not do anything for fantasy stats, but it is always nice to hear.

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The Rotation Crush; It’ll Be A Thing

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The Rotation Crush; It’ll Be A Thing

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Will Emerson

There are crushes, there are man-crushes, there are bro-mances, heck, I even have my advanced stat man-crush, Ben Zobrist! But I am going to add a new kind of crush to the list. A rotation crush! See, I was pouring over pitching stats, preparing for upcoming fantasy drafts, as I am want to do and came across the Chicago Cubs starting rotation and well, woah, mama! After just a quick glance I realized that, yes, I now had starting rotation  crush!

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Yep, the Cub rotation has me all starry-eyed. I may even plaster my bedroom walls with their pictures, posters and other assorted memorabilia,. Okay, I probably won’t  go to that much of an extreme. Probably. But, that is neither here nor there. The Cub rotation is my kind of rotation. Seems, like it has been a tad bit under the radar, but the Cubbies, in general, are actually well on their way to building themselves back up and into the real of respectability and it starts with their starting pitching. Garza, Jackson, Baker, Samardzija, Villanueva, Wood. Okay it does not sound overly intimidating or like a legitimate law firm, sure. Also, it’s not the Brave rotations of the 90s or the A’s of the early 2000′s. It’s not even the Phillies ace rotation of a couple seasons ago, for that matter. They are probably not going to adorn the cover of Sports Illustrated with a clever and catchy cpation next to them, any time soon, okay. But they are, unbeknownst to many, quite solid. I am not saying any of these picthers are gonna be winning the Cy Young Award in 2013, but in their starting picthing, the Cubs have a solid building block. Peruse these numbers from 2012 (2011 for Scott Baker since he missed all of 2012)

Matt Garza:              3.59 xFIP, 3.60 SIERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.33 K/9

Jeff Samardzija:      3.38 xFIP, 3.40 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.27 K/9

Edwin Jackson:       3.79 xFIP, 3.75 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.97 K/9

Scott Baker:              3.61 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.22 K/9

Carlos Villanueva: 4.09 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.76 K/9

Travis Wood:           4.62 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.87 K/9

Well, I think you can quickly see why my inaugural rotation crush is for the 2013 Cubs. The advanced stas are very consistently above average for the most part. Sure, Wood is a bit of an outlier, but Travis Wood is just a pitcher I like. One of those pitchers I just like for no statistical or gut reason whatsoever. I have a similar unexplained affinity for Chris Volstad, but I am veering a bit off course, here. Back to the rotation crush. My guess is that Wood ends up coming out of the bullpen for the Cubbies, anyway, but who knows what could happen in Spring Training? Alright, focus. Roatation crush. Looking at these advanced stats, you have to feel the Cubs are going to be in a lot of their games and will not need to tax their bullpen all that much. Each one of these pitchers (okay, with the exception of Villanueva) have been high on my list for quite some time and are now all in one glorious rotation in Chicago! Again, though, let’s not start throwing these guys Cy Young votes just yet. While I can barely contain my excitement about this rotation, there are certainly some question marks hovering above it.

First off, you have Scott Baker. Now, I have liked Scotty Baker for awhile and I do like the move to the National League. The change of scenery should certainly do him well, even if he is moving to a more hitter friendly park. The concern though is that he did miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Missing a season of baseball, for any reason, especially an injury and super especially (yes I said super especially, deal with it) for an arm or shoulder injury, will make things somewhat difficult. At some point Baker should be at, or at least close to, his former self, but there is no telling when that may be. Word is he will be ready for the start of the regular season and early projections make it seem like most baseball prognosticators think he will be up on the bump looking like he has not skipped a beat. There is no guarantee on what Baker will provide, but it is definitely worth whatever small risk there is, for the Cubbies. But Baker, of course, is not the only question mark in this rotation.

“The Shark” , Jeff Samardzija had a very, very good season in 2012. There were a few bumps along the way, *cough* June *cough*, but he still finished the season with some very respectable numbers. Plus, you have to love a 44.6 ground ball rate coupled with a K/9 over nine! Trust me, you have to! That’s not a ton of fly balls, which is great if, like “the Shark”, you pitch a lot of games at Wrigley Field. The one main concern/question around Samardzija, is whether or not he can duplicate his 2012 numbers in 2013. Looking at the numbers, themselves, nothing really points to a regression in 2013. In fact, if anything, they point to a bit of an improvement. So what’s the problem? Well, if you buy into this sort of thing, it could be his inning total from 2012. His innings thrown in 2012 were the most he has thrown in any season of professional baseball. In fact, it almost double his 2011 innnings thrown, back when he was coming out of the bullpen. But hey, the numbers point to some improvement, so maybe the innnings thing will counter act the expected improvement and he will duplicate those 2012 numbers, in 2013. Did that make sense? No? Yeah, it seemed to make more sense in my head. Personally, I think Shark will be fine in 2013, but I could see that increased innings thing being a mild concern to some. Of course numbers and projections are great, but they are not the end all, be all. They cannot always tell the whole story, per se.

Any baseball fan who follows stats, especially advanced stats, knows that while these stats can be helpful and show patterns, point to regressions, etcetera, etcetera, and should help us predict future performance, this is not always the case. When you look at this Cub rotation and see those xFIP and SIERA numbers, it looks all fine and dandy, peachy keen. For whatever reason though, we know it is highly unlikely that each of these pitchers will have an ERA matching, or even close to, their xFIPs or SIERAs. At the very least you have to like your odds if you are Theo Epstein and company over there in the Cubs front office. I know I sure do! When you have a fifth starter with the potential to strike out close to nine batters per nine innings, well everything else should be cream cheese. So congratulations to the 2013 Chicago Cubs starting picthers for becoming my very first rotation crush! You should feel greatly honored. Well, enough out of me, I have to go track down a life-sized Jeff Samardzija cardboard cutout.

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SP_291079_BORC_rays_11

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Ben Zobrist: A Love Story!

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Will Emerson

It’s no secret amongst my baseball loving colleagues that I have had what you might call an advanced stat man crush on Ben Zobrist for several seasons now. And quite frankly can you blame me? Okay well, maybe don’t answer that question, I suppose. The point of the matter is Zobrist is an advanced stat stud and in my mind could be one of the most underrated fantasy, maybe even real life, baseball players around. Now sure, you could easily argue that his real life value is greater than his fantasy value and that is a valid argument. But that don’t sway the man crush. As you may know, Zobs has recently started getting playing time at shortstop for Joe Maddon, which only enhances his real life, and more importantly, fantasy value. Already eligible at the somewhat shallow second baseman position, the addition of shortstop eligibility makes him a world class fantasy asset allowing flexibility on whatever fantasy roster he may be on. But what many fantasy owners may not even realize is the added shortstop eligibility alone is not what should be making them take notice and commence salivating. Oh no, no. If any salivating should occur, it should be at how well he stacks up against the shortstop field this season. But first off, just for kicks, let’s take a look at his value at the cornerstone.

As a two-bagger, he is ranked in the top ten fantasy wise, which is decent . I mean, that’s better than two-thirds of second baseman out there. Among second basemen this season he is tied for 5th in runs scored, 10th in RBIs and tied for 4th in homers. Now as you may or may not know, I am not so down with the counting stats, but that’s not a bad showing for Zorilla. He certainly will drop a little in the ranks because of his average hovering in the .260s, which has actually been a ton better since his slow start to the season (.203 average through May) in that department. But here’s why I really love Zorilla; his advanced stat goodness. Amongst second baseman this year with at least 200 plate appearances he is second in OBP (.373), 3rd in SLG (.460) and OPS (.833). Oh and  his ISO of .199 is also third amongst those same second baseman and his .365 wOBA? That also ranks 3rd. The only second basemen with better numbers in these categories would be Robinson Cano and Aaron Hill. Well with the exception of OBP, where he only trails the immortal Skip Schumaker. So overall he’s already pretty valuable at a week fantasy position, but I know what you are all wondering, ” but Will, how does he stack up against other shortstops this season?” Why I thought you’d never ask!

You see with Troy Tulowitzki missing a good chunk of the season, shortstop has been a tad bit weak. A good spot for a fantasy team to pick up runs, steals maybe some batting average, with not a ton of pop or all-around help, for the most part. Enter the Mighty Zorilla! Zobs  very well has the potential to be the best fantasy shortstop down the stretch. At the very least he is probably the most underrated. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at these numbers stacked up against the other shortstops with at least 200 plate appearances this season:

RUNS:
Derek Jeter (NYY)- 74
Elvis Andrus (TEX)- 70
Jimmy Rollins (PHI)- 70
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 67

HOME RUNS:
Ian Desmond (WAS)- 17
J.J. Hardy (BAL)- 16
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 14
Danny Espinosa (WAS)-14
Jed Lowrie (HOU)- 14
Jimmy Rollins- 14

RBIs:
Starlin Castro (CHC)- 61
Ian Desmond (WAS)- 53
Mike Aviles (BOS)- 52
Alexei Ramirez (CWS)- 52
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)- 51
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 49
Elvis Andrus (TEX)- 49
Jhonny Peralta (DET)- 49
JJ Hardy (BAL)- 49

Okay not necessarily eye-popping numbers I suppose, and yes, again, this is wihout Troy Tulowitzki thrown in there, but you may notice the mighty Zorilla is the only one in the top six in all three of these categories, which is none too shabby. Of course it should also be noted that Hanley Ramirez is not included, but looks to be headed towards being shortstop eligible once again next season and would top Zobs in homers and RBIs. But if you’re in a league with some cooler, hipper, non-counting stats, and by gum you should be, than you may want a bit more here, right? I mean, quite honestly who could blame you? Go on, tell me? No one? That’s right! So let me throw you some numbers that will show you why Zobs is gonna be a fantasy shortstop gem and a half for the rest of this season and into next.

That sexy .373 OBP Zobs is putting on the table? That is higher than every single shortstop with at least 200 plate appearances this season, and this is including Hanley Ramirez. Also, only Ian Desmond and Tulo have higher slugging percentages than Zorilla and only Tulo has a higher OPS. Oh and in case you were curious, Jed Lowrie and Ian Desmond are the only shortstops with a higher ISO and the only other shortstop with an ISO even over .175 is Tulo, who is tied with Zobs with an ISO of .199.

So while other shortstops can always pop out of the woodwork, I would say Zobs could very well end up being a top five fantasy shortstop for 2013. Now sure, wOBA, ISO, OBP and OPS do not always necessarily translate into fantasy awesomeness, but you have to like the potential, especially where you will probably be able to draft Zobs. Fact of the matter is, I’m guessing he still falls behind some of your more well known commodities when draft day rolls around, so you can probably still grab him a bit on the cheaper side. With the potential to be a top five fantasy shortstop next season, he could very well fall behind at least eight or nine shortstops, second baseman as well for that matter, come draft day. So jump on the Ben Zobrist man crush bandwagon while you can my friends!

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Kipnis Shakes Things Up At Second Base

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Kipnis Shakes Things Up At Second Base

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Bryan Geary

Last season was a banner year for second basemen in terms of fantasy baseball. The usual suspects (Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler, Phillips) all had excellent years, while guys like Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick, and Ryan Roberts also put up big years. Coming into 2012, second base was a position fantasy owners felt like they could count on for big production in the middle infield. Unfortunately, injuries and ineffectiveness have made second base one of the more spotty positions thus far. Right now, the ESPN Player Rater has second-year player Jason Kipnis easily leading the way.

Kipnis, a 2009 second-round pick, was raking in his big league debut last year before ceding to a hamstring injury in August. There were certainly high expectations for him coming into 2012, though he seemed to be overshadowed by Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley, who has been a disappointment thus far. Kipnis, however, has been a big time power speed threat, posting 11 home runs and 17 steals so far. And while his 25 home run pace may be a surprise, it is the speed that has really grabbed my attention. As a minor leaguer, he never surpassed 12 steals, so where has this speed burst come from? Kipnis has always drawn rave reviews for his baseball IQ and baserunning instincts, and he is showing why in his first full season, having only been caught once all year. Simply put, Kipnis is getting better fast.

Nothing unusual jumps out at you about the season Kipnis is having, either. His BABIP, strikeout and walk percentages, ISO, and batted ball stats are all very similar to what he has done previously. In other words, what Kipnis is doing seems very sustainable. His splits, both home/away and platoon, are really the only ugly mark on an otherwise excellent season. While players typically benefit from playing at home, Kipnis is thriving on the road this year, hitting .326/.376/.556  as opposed to a paltry .227/.287/.320 at Progressive Field. That may be a freak thing, but his platoon splits are cause for a least slight concern. Kipnis has mashed righties to the tune of a .304/.352/.484 line with 9 home runs. Against lefties, his triple slash is an ugly .218/.289/.337 with just 2 home runs. It is not uncommon for young players to have trouble with same side pitchers, and this is not to say Kipnis will not figure it out. However, it is something to keep an eye on.

The bottom line is that Kipnis is a top 5 second basemen at this point. And as far as this season, with Pedroia’s lingering hand injury, the only second basemen I would rank ahead of him are Cano and Kinsler. Other than that, I do not see better options than Kipnis. It is surely too late to buy low on him, but in keeper leagues, especially if you are out of the race this year, Kipnis is a guy you can build around.

Heating Up

Ben Zobrist was nothing short of awful over the first two months of the season, hitting a combined .203/.342/.397. This led to many frustrated owners, but with the climate at second base, there were not many other quality options. If you have not noticed, Zobrist is out of that early season funk. He has absolutely crushed the ball in June, hitting .319/.430/.500 in 20 games with 3 home runs. Especially for those in leagues that count OBP, he is back among the fantasy elite, with a 16.5% walk rate that leads all second basemen and ranks 5th in all of baseball. There may still be time to buy low on Zobrist, so do so if you can.

King of the Hill

Everyone remembers Aaron Hill‘s crazy good 2009 season in which he had 36 home runs and 108 RBI, but two poor follow up seasons led to his departure from Toronto as well as elite fantasy status. It turns out that a change of scenery may have been exactly what Hill has needed. Since being traded to Arizona (a hitter’s haven), Hill is hitting .303/.372/.494, which is nothing short of studly. He has a massive platoon split this year — .360/.408/.655 home versus .210/.299/.311 away — but as long as he continues to play half of his games at Chase Field, does it matter that much? Hill currently ranks 6th on the player rater and a hot June (5 of his 10 home runs) is only helping.

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Open Mic: Critique This Draft Part 2

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Open Mic: Critique This Draft Part 2

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Mic Check, 6 - 4 - 3

Consider this a 2nd open invitation to critique a fantasy baseball draft.  Flay it open, rip into it, and do not hold back.  But…before you do any flaying, ripping, or holding, consider the rules of etiquette.

  • Avoid the low-hanging fruit.  No references to anyone’s mom or a basement.
  • Try to omit words like “idiot”, “moron”, and “clueless”.  You will only receive the “I know you are but what I am” classic retort.  Welcome to the baseball kindergarten playground.  My Tonka truck is over there in the corner of the sand box.  Leave it alone.
  • Just assume that I’m aware of my mental health state, and I’m considered competent to drive a Segway on the sidewalks in my neighborhood.

When I wrote the original “Open Mic” piece, I was in the middle of a slow draft on Twitter for a 5×5 fantasy league.  Now seems like a good time to revisit that draft and bare my baseball soul for all to see.  Here is the end result for all 25 rounds along with a defense for some (if not all) of the picks.

  1. Robinson Cano (2B) – 104 runs, 28 hr, 118 rbi, 8 steals, .882 ops
  2. Jered Weaver (P) – 18 wins, 2.41 era, 0 saves, 198 strikeouts, 1.010 whip
  3. Clayton Kershaw (P) – 21 wins, 2.28 era, 0 saves, 248 strikeouts, 0.977 whip
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) – 87 runs, 25 hr, 92 rbi, 17 steals, .792 ops
  5. Alex Gordon (OF) – 101 runs, 23 hr, 87 rbi, 17 steals, .879 ops
  6. Shin-Soo Choo (OF) – 37 runs, 8 hr, 36 rbi, 12 steals, .733 ops
  7. Ben Zobrist (OF) – 99 runs, 20 hr, 91 rbi, 19 steals, .822 ops
  8. Aramis Ramirez (3B) – 80 runs, 26 hr, 93 rbi, 1 steal, .871 ops
  9. David Freese (CI) – 41 runs, 10 hr, 55 rbi, 1 steal, .791 ops
  10. Josh Beckett (P) – 13 wins, 2.89 era, 0 saves, 175 strikeouts, 1.026 whip
  11. Jose Valverde (P) – 2 wins, 2.24 era, 49 saves, 69 strikeouts, 1.189 whip
  12. Ricky Romero (P) – 15 wins, 2.92 era, 0 saves, 178 strikeouts, 1.138 whip
  13. Alex Avila (C) – 63 runs, 19 hr, 82 rbi, 3 steals, .895 ops
  14. Ryan Vogelsong (P) – 13 wins, 2.71 era, 0 saves, 139 strikeouts, 1.252 whip
  15. Nick Swisher (1B) – 81 runs, 23 hr, 85 rbi, 2 steals, .822 ops
  16. Jhonny Peralta (MI) – 68 runs, 21 hr, 86 rbi, 0 steals, .824 ops
  17. Jaime Garcia (P) – 13 wins, 3.56 era, 0 saves, 156 strikeouts, 1.320 whip
  18. Vance Worley (P) – 11 wins, 3.01 era, 0 saves, 119 strikeouts, 1.230 whip
  19. Allen Craig (OF) – 33 runs, 11 hr, 40 rbi, 5 steals, .917 ops
  20. Josh Willingham (OF) – 69 runs, 29 hr, 98 rbi, 4 steals, .810 ops
  21. Jason Motte (P) – 5 wins, 2.25 era, 9 saves, 63 strikeouts, 0.956 whip
  22. Jair Jurrjens (P) – 13 wins, 2.96 era, 0 saves, 90 strikeouts, 1.224 whip
  23. Matt Joyce (OF) – 69 runs, 19 hr, 75 rbi, 13 steals, .825 ops
  24. Russell Martin (UTIL) – 57 runs, 18 hr, 65 rbi, 8 steals, .732 ops
  25. Melky Cabrera (UTIL) – 102 runs, 18 hr, 87 rbi, 20 steals, .809 ops

In my own defense, I am just a huge Robinson Cano fan and think he could actually improve on last year.  On the other hand, I am putting a lot of faith in guys like Choo and Freese who lost significant time last season due to injury.  I admit to trying a catch a flyer (or three), but I believe I am taking chances on the right kinds of players.

Post-mortem:

  • I am already on record as stating that Cano is a stretch at the #1 pick.  However, I went with my philosophy that creating a substantial differential by stocking up on players at positions I deem shallow will help me success in the long term.  I consider Cano and Zobrist to be 2 of the top 8 guys at 2B.  Since snagging both also impacts the pool of available middle infielders (MI), I believe I may have given myself an advantage.
  • In theoretically giving myself an advantage, did I give up too much by not taking a top 3 guy at 1B.  Probably.  Possibly.  Dunno.  Though he is currently listed as an outfielder by Yahoo, Alex Gordan will be the man 1B for my team.  I truly expect him to be a top 10 guy at 1B, and I do not believe that the distinction between top 3 and top 10 at that position is enough to worry me.
  • I am to blame for starting a bit of an early run on starting pitchers, but Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander were both drafted early.  Actually, Halladay went at the end of the first round, and Verlander went in the middle of round 2.  The next two on my list were Kershaw and Weaver, so I took both.  Honestly, I do not regret the move at all, because the pitching staff could very well be the strength of this team.
  • Combining closers Valverde and Motte may be a bit of a gamble, but I tend to favor closers on teams that I believe will win a lot of games.  Drew Storen was a very tempting choice over Motte, but I just do not know what to expect from the Nationals this year.

Stealing Late:

  • There are several definitions of a “steal” in fantasy drafts.  My definition is picking up a player 2 or more rounds later than you expected OR drafting a player so late that you celebrate with a “man giggle”.  (NOTE: It is technically possible for both men and women to “man giggle”, but it is way funnier when a woman does it.)  Maybe I am wrong about Worley, but I was sure shocked to see him still on the board for my 18th pick.  He only started 21 games in 2011 and threw 131 2/3 innings.  If he gets another 8-10 starts, he projects to be a top 30 starter.  The fact that he was still available in the 18th round may only be slightly less surprising than Jurrjens being available in the 22nd round.
  • Melky Cabrera in the 25th round?  At that point most people are looking for a guy who maybe excels in one stat category or had a really off year.  Not this time.  Cabrera is coming off a season in which he posted a .809 ops, and his move to San Francisco does not scare me off at all.   His power numbers might suffer a little, but he may simply fill the stat sheet everywhere else.

That is it.  Have at it, but try to be kind.  If not for me, then do it for the children’s sake.

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