Tag Archives: Curtis Granderson

Minnesowhat? It’s Still Early

Beneath this calm cool headline lies a writer who is living and dying with every pitch. Swearing when Nuñez commits an error, screaming about how much of a bum Phil Hughes is and what a bust the Kuroda signing was while simultaneously starting the Derek Jeter for MVP campaign. To be honest it’s stressful, so now I’m going to take a deep breath and look at things with a little more objectivity. Goosfraba….

Last night Curtis Granderson brought some power to the stadium. (Errol Anderson, MCT)

Hello and welcome to SeeYouInOctober’s recap of the Yankees four game series with the Twins. Not much is expected of Minnesota this season with a pitching staff full of mediocre arms and a line up counting on the reassurance of both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Much was made by the YES broadcasting team of their misfortune in the Bronx, but this time they came ready to play. Over the four game stretch the Twins scored 22 runs and split the series with the Yanks. The problem lay primarily with the starting pitching, giving up all but two of the runs, as the Bombers actually outscored the Twins with 23 runs.

Nobody penciled Garcia in the top of the rotation, but this is bad. (Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

Freddy Garcia made his second start of the season with similar results minus the wild pitches. He labored through 5.2 innings while giving up five runs. Did it sting just a little bit more because it was Carl Pavano on the mound of the Twins? Yes. The Bombers only managed three runs against their former teammate and dropped the first game. With CC Sabathia on the mound it looked like it would be more of the same with the Twins scoring three runs in the first three innings, but CC settled in and even gave the Yankees some length they haven’t gotten as he went 7.1 giving up only those three runs. The offense went out and supported their ace with hits coming from up and down the line up including a surprising three RBI from backup catcher Chris Stewart. Stewart now has more RBI than Russell Martin who has struggled mightily at the dish, although that has never been his strength.

Who would have thought that this series could turn into somewhat of a slug fest? I’m not talking a Texas Rangers type slug fest, but both teams averaged more than 5 runs a game. Hiroki Kuroda put up another awful performance to follow up his fantastic home opener. It only took 4.1 innings for the twins to collect 10 hits and six runs. The bullpen continued it’s stellar season and shut them down for the rest of the game allowing the offense to claw their way back to a one-run deficit, but failed to complete the comeback. Jeter hit his team-leading fourth home run and Robinson Cano delivered the Bombers’ first two RBI from the cleanup spot. There was a lot to be happy about with last night’s game after the Yanks salvaged the split of the series and Curtis Granderson went 5-5 at the plate while hitting three homers and driving in four. Phil Hughes had another shaky outing. He only made it through 5.1 giving up six runs although only two were earned thanks to a throwing error from Eduardo Nuñez who played second last night.

The starters are still working out the kinks. With the countdown to Andy Pettitte’s return to the majors bearing down, the heat is on for Garcia or Hughes to show the organization something that says they deserve a spot in the rotation. I’ve felt all along those two would be the odd-men-out with Garcia relegated to mop up duty and Hughes probably ending up on the trading block or returning to the bullpen. The bullpen doesn’t look like it has room for them, but with the innings they are putting in they won’t make it to the all-star break.

Offensively Granderson had a big night and that might kick start his season and Tex hit a home run as he goes through his annual early season slump. A-Rod had a couple hits, which is good because I’m tired of hearing about making “good outs.” It looks like the power hitters are coming around.

No positive and negative report this series. I can’t say anything I haven’t said before. Starters need to get deeper in the game, offense is trending upward, but I’m starting to worry that the rest of the American League is catching up. The Yankees look like a whale with their massive contracts and aging all-stars while Texas and Detroit are on the rise. Has everyone tricked themselves into believing that these Bombers are the same from 2009? Hank Steinbrenner has made it a priority to get under the luxury tax, which increases in 2014 when the new collective bargaining agreement takes effect. In years past they may have pulled off a trade to get rid of players while eating most of their contract, but now they don’t want to pay for guys who aren’t performing. Fans have to hope the older guys hit their stride at Fenway Park this weekend.

-Erik

Has everyone been fooled? Are the Yankees not as good as predicted? Let us know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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Three Games, Three Concerns

It was a frustrating opening as the Yankees walk out of Tampa winless. (Brian Blanco/EPA)

The opening weekend did not go well for the New York Yankees. It couldn’t have gone much worse. In the first game Joe Girardi was caught micromanaging in the first inning with his ace on the mound walking Sean Rodriguez to pitch to power hitting Carlos Peña with the bases loaded. In the ninth it was Mariano Rivera who blew the save. The second game featured the Yankee debut of Hiroki Kiroda, who looked like he was pitching scared. He nibbled his way to full counts before serving up hits to the Rays line up. The third game featured a resurgent Phil Hughes, who pitched very well, but the line up looked flat and failed to score any runs. IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: It is entirely too early to panic, but there are some things the Yanks need to correct and probably will.

Pitching

All three starters had the same problem as they threw too many pitches and failed to go deep into the game. It always helps for a pitcher to get ahead in the count early so they can waste pitches and throw less dangerous pitches outside the strike zone. That is especially important for the Yankee pitchers because

Welcome to the AL East!

none have the velocity to overpower hitters. CC Sabathia’s best out pitch is his breaking ball. If CC gets you in a 1-2 count he’s giving you the hook and you’re swinging over the top. Kiroda throws a nasty splitter, but we have yet to see it in pinstripes because hitters can be patient and swing less aggressively and less defensively, so a tough pitch to take becomes a ball in the dirt. Phil Hughes has added the change up to his repertoire and it was effective when he was ahead in the count, but he still needs to learn to pitch with better location. When he misses up with the fastball, hitters like Peña will make him pay.

Sabathia usually takes a few starts to hit his stride, Kuroda will improve as the Yankees continue to give him the ball and support him and Hughes is still developing as a pitcher. On a positive note the bullpen, outside of Rivera’s blown save, was lights out with the exception of new lefty Clay Rapada. Tomorrow check in for a weekly column about my gripes with baseball starting with left-handed specialists. As the starters continue to get their feet wet and get deeper into the ballgames they will feel comfortable handing the ball off to those guys.

Defense

Pitching and defense don’t figure to ever be the strength of the Bombers who perennially bring in big bats with big contracts. However, with Alex Rodriguez’s declining power numbers, last season he was a better defensive third baseman than offensive. The same can be said for many of the formerly productive bats of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera. It stands to reason that the Yankees will not be able to slug their way to wins this season, so they will need to be solid defensively. Eduardo Nunez stands to get a lot of playing time at third and even more so at short stop and in his first start of the season he showed the deficiency in his game. His error in the first inning really disrupted Kuroda and led to a two run first for the Rays. Raul Ibañez had a similar goof in yesterday’s 3-0 loss. He got a late jump on a fly ball and turned an out into an RBI triple.

These two don’t figure to be regulars in the defensive alignment, but Nuñez will get a lot of starts and needs to improve. Andruw Jones, who will also see some starts in the outfield is another defensive liability. These veterans can’t really be expected to change their game now, so this is a risk the Yanks have to take. The best surprise defensively has been Nick Swisher who spent the off season slimming down his frame and working on his speed. He made some great catches and seemed to run down balls with relative ease, especially considering his current groin injury. Swish will get healthier and there will be less need to stick Ibañez and Jones in the outfield.

The Tampa Bay Rays

How could you watch that series and not be impressed with the way the Rays played? Their rotation looks to be deep with James Sheilds and David Price at the top forming a premiere one, two punch and last season’s Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Helickson looking as if he is picking up where he left off and Matt Moore hasn’t even made his first start. They have a deep rotation, which makes up for their shaky bullpen. In order to beat this team the Yankee bats are going

Was it just Tex off to his usual slow start, or progressive defense from Joe Madden and the Rays? (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

to have to really work to make them throw pitches and knock them out of the game in the fifth or sixth.

The talk of the weekend was Joe Madden’s unorthodox defensive alignments. As I watched formerly sure fire singles gobbled up by the second baseman deep in the hole, I thought, “Is this the future of baseball?” Hitters and pitchers are creatures of habit. It will be difficult for guys like Teixiera to learn to go the other way at this stage in his career. Last season his batting average really suffered when the shift was first put on and now it seems like the only way he can get out of the batters’ box is by smacking a double off the fence or just hitting it completely out of the park. I believe by next season we will see these defensive shifts throughout the league and we will usher in a new era of pitchers. How will the hitters adjust? Fortunately Madden his on the cutting edge and the Bombers don’t figure to face much more of that this season.

Always look on the bright side

It was one series and now the Yankees will face the Baltimore Oriels. Despite their perfect start to the weekend I expect the Yankees to come out hungry and take two of three to begin to right the ship. Why didn’t I write about the hitters in this post? It is a small sample size. Even the greatest hitters get more outs than hits, so the averages will balance out. It is concerning that Cano, Granderson, A-Rod and Tex all failed to drive in a single run. This line up is built for those guys to get clutch hits. Outside of Grandy and Gardner there won’t be much small ball.

-Erik

What is most concerning about the slow start? Let us know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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The 2011 Season: Wasn’t it Granderson?

A lot of dingers = a lot of value? (Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

The debate will forever rage on as to how we can truly define what makes a player most valuable. Whether you believe it is the best statistical year, the player who meant the most to his team or the best player on the best team, each year the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decides which player will receive the coveted honors. This year the award went to Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and while some may argue whether or not the award should go to a pitcher, it was well deserved after an incredible season that included a trip to the ALCS. At the conclusion of the regular season SeeYouInOctober publicly gave its support to Verlander in our postseason wrap. (http://seeyouinoctober.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/mlb-postseason-wrap-al-mvp/)

We really weren’t far off on our picks getting four of the first five right only flip flopping Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. The Grandyman finished fourth in the voting after a breakout power season with 41 home runs and 119 RBI. For me as a fan and observer when I watched Granderson play he never felt like an MVP. With his high strikeout totals and low average it never felt that other teams were afraid of him and didn’t really game plan against him as shown by the zero intentional walks given to the lefty. However, what really doomed Grandy’s bid was his extremely pedestrian September. The fall months are where legends are born and heroes answer the bell and Curtis was no where to be found. Cano, who finished sixth in the voting had a terrific season finishing with only one less RBI than Granderson, but failed to excite the voters with the long ball falling just shy of 30 on the season.

Granderson’s candidacy fell under the category of best player on the best team. Jose Bautista of Toronto had more home runs and a far better average showing plate discipline for the first time his career. However, what makes Granderson’s candidacy difficult to defend is partly based on the team he plays for. When playing for a team full of all-stars how can you say which one truly shines the brightest? This is also true of the Red Sox who placed Jacoby Ellsbury on the ballot in second place and it is possible he could have won the award if he hadn’t split votes with Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. Each voter must decide who holds the greatest value and for the Yankees they chose between Granderson, Cano, Mark Texiera, CC Sabathia and, perhaps the most surprising name to appear on a ballot, David Robertson.

Playing for the Yankees (and other high profile clubs) is like acting in the new movie New Year’s Eve. The upcoming chick flick is so packed with stars that notable names like Halle Berry and Jon Bon Jovi are buried beneath the weight of the other actors. Who can you really say carries the movie? Robert Deniro is the most respected name on the playbill, but will probably play a smaller role with young fresh faces dominating romantic comedies. On the Yankees everyone is listed below Derek Jeter. First a player has to step out of that shadow and then their performance must far exceed expectations. While Granderson had a great season, in the end it was Cano who turned in the most consistent performance. As Sabathia also struggled down the stretch it was Cano who gave the meaningful monologue and tried to inspire the rest of the cast to overcome the obstacles.

Everybody has an important role to play on the team, but no one role is really more important. Yankee players will lose the argument of who brings the greatest value practically every time. If one player is removed the structure still stands tall. Just because the players didn’t take home the hardware doesn’t mean that they didn’t all pull together to put on a solid production.

-Erik

Should Granderson or Cano have won the MVP? Let us know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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Here Lies the Yankees 2011 Season

I was honored to have the opportunity to eulogize my Granny at her funeral on Wednesday. With that practice fresh in my mind I feel confident enough to now write the eulogy of something that was taken from us too soon. Baseball.

Wait A-Rod struck out in a clutch situation? (Corey Sipkin/News)

When it comes to baseball if it doesn’t include the Yankees I don’t care much. One year in my life that I can remember, 2008, there was no postseason. Many years there wasn’t a World Series or even a League Championship Series and 2011 is one of those years. The Detroit Tigers took this year’s divisional series in five games winning the final match up under the lights in the Bronx. Ivan Nova lasted all of two innings before leaving with arm stiffness after having given up two runs on back to back home runs by Delmon Young and Don Kelly. Skipper Joe Girardi was forced to make pitching changes on the fly and the bullpen held the Tigers’ hitters to just one run over seven innings. Despite the numbers, Girardi was soundly criticized for his decision to pull pitchers like Phil Hughes when he was rested and pitching well. The only possible mistake was bringing in CC Sabathia who gave up the only run.

Before the ALDS defeat the season had to be considered a success. Derek Jeter recorded his 3,000 hit and rebounded from a dismal start to the season finishing at .297 on the year with 61 RBI and 84 runs scored in 131 games. Mariano Rivera also reached a milestone as he became the all time saves leader with number 602. The closer also had a typically stellar season with a 1.91 ERA while saving 44 games out of a possible 49. These two Yankee legends continued their hall of fame careers and provided highlights for the Bombers as they collected an American League best 97 wins. The victories came on some unlikely arms like that of Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and, on the other end of the spectrum, rookie Ivan Nova. What the Yankees relied on all year was their shutdown bullpen and high powered offense.

Fortunately for the Bombers many of the big arms in the pen, such as David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, will all be in pinstripes again next

A tip of the cap and a fond farewell for the rotund ace?

season. The biggest pitching concern of the off season is the one man who wasn’t a concern during the season. The ace CC Sabathia has an opt out clause in his contract that many believe he will exercise. Just a quick side note is it possible to to put an option in a contract saying a player has to exercise? Seriously by the time the ALCS rolled around CC was rolling around on his gut again. Sabathia is obviously priority number one for GM Brian Cashman and the front office. Without an ace this rotation looks like a collection of third and fourth starters from the AL West.  The only other possible free agent starting pitcher on the free agent market will be CJ Wilson, but the only thing he has in common with Sabathia is the fact that they both go by initials starting with C.

Offensively, many of the Bombers are under contract including Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Texiera. That leaves out one major question: Robinson Cano. The all-star second baseman is a free agent and will draw a high price tag on the open market with Scott Boris representing him. I expect the Yankees will resign him no matter the cost. Fan favorite Nick Swisher is also a free agent. Unfortunately I don’t know if the Swishalicious one will not return as the Yankees will try to shed some contracts to make room for another starting pitcher. Bret Gardner is also up for arbitration. This season his base stealing abilities and clutch hitting in the ALDS proved their worth. For an everyday starting left fielder with his production, Gardner is  a bargain and will return next season. However, the Yankees will not bring back Jorge Posada. Jesus Montero will either fill the void left by Posada or will be traded for a starting pitcher, but Posada is too big of a name to carry on the bench of a team with an already astronomically high payroll.

Unfortunately for the Yankees the biggest name on the free agent market are power hitting, National League first basemen. With a gold-golver like Texiera under contract there is no need for another first baseman, however, as always, rumors swirl about the October air like leaves off of barren trees. The idea would be trade Montero for a pitcher and bring in either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder as the designated hitter. A move like this would seemingly handcuff Cashman from making any other signings.

Good Times, Bad Times (Theodorakis/News)

The big question right now is: Who is the goat? Every season someone gets the brunt of the blame for the team’s failure, so who will it be this year? Fan favorites are AJ Burnett and A-Rod. Media favorite is Joe Girardi. Burnett is under contract for two more years and A-Rod is signed through the next millennium. Both guys would come with a heavy price, but have incredible upsides. I think Rodriguez gets a pass for this year because of the injuries, but Burnett may not be so lucky. With only two years on his deal and the stuff to be a potential ace, Burnett is a tantalizing reclamation project for any team. I would like to keep Burnett because I believe the highs are much greater than the lows. If there is a trade to be made for A-Rod I would like to see Cashman have the guts to pull the trigger. The contract is a bad one with six more years of declining production. Eduardo Nunez has played his way onto the team and looks t0 be a promising talent. In the end I think the biggest change next season will be the loss of Swisher, but there is a lot of time before the stove really heats up and it will be a wild ride.

-Erik

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MLB Postseason Wrap- AL MVP

You could say Justin Verlander has the Cy Young/MVP in a choke hold. (AP)

AL MVP was a very contentious race this season. SeeYouInOctober’s editorial staff voted and here is where the ballots fell.

1- Justin Verlander

This tigers team without him, well they’re a good team, but they are not winning that division as hands down as they did. With him, no doubt they controlled the Central. You are only as good as your next starting pitcher and their staff was really nothing without him. A total of 20 pitchers have won the MVP and the last time someone did it was Dennis Eckersley in 1992 (and he was a relief pitcher) so the argument that pitchers shouldn’t win MVP’s is nonsensical and flat wrong.

Verlander pitched four complete games including a no hitter. He posted 24 wins to only five losses with a league leading 2.40 ERA. He had 250 strikeouts in 251 innings pitched, both league leading. For you sabermetric nuts Verlander’s WAR was an astounding 8.6.

This wasn’t just a stellar season that garners an easy Cy Young award. This was a season in which Verlander pitched on a different level than anybody else.

Plus Mitch Albom thinks he should be MVP and he wrote Tuesdays With Morrie.

2- Jacoby Ellsbury

 It’s a shame the Red Sox missed the postseason. It is impossible to pick a player on a team that collapsed so badly as MVP. He couldn’t have been that valuable because they could have missed the playoffs without him. However, Ellsbury did everything humanly possible to drag the Sox into October. He has entered historic levels with a batting average over .300 (.321), 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases. Not many players can, or have, put together seasons like that.

What should have been his signature performance, the three home run day in the doubleheader with the Yankees last Sunday, capped by the game winning three run home run that kept the Sox flickering playoff hopes alive, is now just a nice day at the plate for a third place team.

3- Jose Bautista

Joey Bats certainly put up impressive numbers. He turned himself into a more complete hitter this season hitting .302 and getting on base at a .447 clip. He also led the league in home runs (43) and put up over 100 RBIs. Unfortunately the Blue Jays are a few years from competition, so it is just a great season for a not-so-great team.

4- Robinson Cano

Cano’s season doesn’t really stick out. .302 BA, 28 HR, 118 RBI. Only the RBI are a career high. Cano also showed even more importance this season dropping to the four spot and excelling all season in A-Rod’s absence. All in all a pretty ho-hum season don’t-ya-know. Plus, it’d be tough not to have one candidate from the best team in the AL.

5- Miguel Cabrera

 If he didn’t have the off the field issues he would be the AL’s answer to Albert Pujols. Cabrera still continues to rake putting up an AL best .344 batting average and .448 OBP to go along with another 30 home run, 100 RBI season, his fifth in a row.

Honorable Mention

Michael Young

If the Rangers asked Michael Young to become a groundskeeper next season he would probably do it without a fuss and still manage to hit .300 on the season. This season the Rangers pushed him into the DH role and Young took it in stride like that’s exactly where he wanted to be put. Young put up a great season from the dish hitting .338 with 106 RBIs despite only 11 home runs. Skipper Ron Washington obviously had faith in him batting him fourth in the lineup most of the season despite having power guys like Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton on the squad. Young might not be as flashy (i.e. he doesn’t hit home runs) but Young was certainly worthy of being called most valuable.

Dishonorable Mention

Curtis Granderson

Perhaps you are wondering why the Yankees center fielder isn’t on the top 5. Well the fact is he doesn’t belong there. His power numbers are great (41 home runs, 119 RBIs) but the MVP shouldn’t just be the guy on the best team with the most home runs. Granderson also struck out 169 times, had a batting average of .262 and he just never really passed the ‘eye test’ as MVP. Take that as you will, but if you don’t look like an MVP you’re probably not an MVP.

Obviously teams felt the same way. Granderson received zero intentional walks this season, one of only two regulars not to. Not exactly normal for a guy hitting 40 home runs in a season. To put that in perspective Cano led the team with 11.

Granderson had a great power year but when you have holes in your swing like Granderson does and you just aren’t the guy most teams fear you just aren’t MVP.

Think we got it wrong? Let us know who you think deserves the honors via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or by leaving a comment.

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Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

There is a lot to smile as "Cashman's Castoffs" continue to play well.

Tonight the so called Evil Empire begins a three game set with divisional foes the Toronto Blue Jays. To wrap up the excruciating 162 game schedule the Yanks will play 14 games over the final 12 days of the season including five with the Tampa Bay Rays and the final weekend series with the Red Sox, who have dominated us in 2011. This will be a true test of just how good this year’s Bombers are. There are many critics of this squad focusing on the patchwork pitching staff and aging veteran core, but they hold a 4.5 game lead (5 in the loss column) over the struggling Sox and the best record in the American League.

Brian Cashman looks like a genius bringing in castoffs like Chavez and Jones who have proven to be viable options off the bench and the aforementioned pitching staff. Halfway through the month of September the Yankees seem to be surviving just fine. Even AJ Burnett got a win! The offense has scored nearly 5 runs a game while only giving up 4 over the past 14 games and with a bullpen that includes David Robertson, who is having a career year, and Mariano Rivera, who has converted 41 of 46 save opportunities including a perfect six for six this month on his way to 600, a one run lead is sufficient. When Joe Torre was manager he believed in “shortening the game,” by having a shutdown bullpen. If the Yanks have the lead going into the seventh, game over. If we don’t that’s where we rely on clutch hitting from our sluggers.

One such slugger, Curtis Granderson, who was the leading candidate for the AL MVP conversation, has stumbled down the stretch. Hitting a meager .170 in the past month the “Grandyman” is making it difficult for voters to not give the award to Justin Verlander, who is already a lock for the Cy Young Award. Mark Texiera and Brett Gardner are also struggling hitting .216 and .160 respectively over the same span. This is especially troubling for Gardner because of his value on the base path. With stolen bases being such a part of the Yankees’ game this year, they hope Gardy can turn this around as small ball becomes increasingly more important.

With an injury to Russel Martin and Francisco Cervelli out indefinitely after suffering from concussion like symptoms, Yankee fans have seen a rotating door of backstops. Jesus Montero made his debut at catcher, highlighted by gunning down the Angels’ Callaspo as he attempted to steal second base. Perhaps the most bizarre or familiar sight was when Jorge caught. The struggling veteran can hardly crack the lineup, but suddenly found himself needed. Now Martin seems to be well enough to play and Austin Romine, a 22-year-old, look to create some consistency with the pitching staff.

A bright spot has been the improved play (or is it continued greatness?) of Derek Jeter. The captain has turned his year around and cemented his place at the

Fans no longer cringe when the Captain comes to the plate.

top of the order with his average at .295 while hitting .307 in the past month with a .358 on base percentage. He has silenced the critics and proved that his career numbers and consistent play are far more accurate than the abysmal start he had.

This final stretch will separate contenders from pretenders. The Yanks will play two divisional rivals in the fight for their playoff lives. The Red Sox are playing themselves right out of the post season and the Rays are coming on strong at the right time. As they battle each other the Bombers look like the team to beat in the AL. With a target painted brightly on our backs, we must look for consistent pitching and for our big hitters to come out of their slumps leading into October.

Finally feeling optimistic, check out the hashtag series #survivingseptember by following us on twitter.com/seeuinoctober.

-Erik

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