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Tom Ricketts wants Theo Epstein

Sep 12, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT

Carl Crawford Signs with the Boston Red Sox Getty Images

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune has another in what will certainly be a looooong line of stories trying to put Theo Epstein in Chicago as the Cubs next GM.  We saw some of those a couple of weeks ago, and Epstein made it clear that he’s not going to fan those flames while the Red Sox are still playing baseball game. This one, however, is more from the Cubs’ perspective:

Around baseball, there’s a belief Ricketts might hit a home run, possibly even persuading Epstein to leave the Red Sox after nine seasons and two World Series parades. It’s easy to see the downside with an organization that last won it all in 1908, but the perception outside Chicago is different.

“People in baseball talk about it like it’s the Holy Grail right now,’’ one major league executive said. “You have a chance to break a curse that’s longer than the one the Red Sox ended. You can distinguish yourself in ways that aren’t available elsewhere.”

You can’t fault Ricketts for wanting to see if he could land Epstein.  While you have to be wary of monomania in these sorts of things and you can’t fixate on one candidate, it seems pretty shrewd to me to wait Epstein out and see if he won’t bite.  And according to Rogers, “some close to Epstein” think he’s interested.

  1. The Common Man - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    I’m sure Theo can’t wait to leave his extremely high-paying job that he’s ridiculously successful at, in which he has almost complete autonomy thanks to a smart owner, in his hometown, where (I imagine) he can’t even buy his own drinks anymore to go to another city, where no one knows him, where the media atmosphere is just as poisonous, and the team is a perpetual cellar-dweller under relatively new management. Good luck with that.

    • Jonny 5 - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      I thought you had to have left something out. But I don’t think so. Well handled indeed..

      Oh, and goat carcasses, no goat carcasses hanging from anything in Boston.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 12, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      Don’t forget he grew up there as well.

      • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:22 PM

        He didn’t just grow in Boston . . . he practically grew up on Lansdowne Street. If Theo was gonna leave – it would have happened in 2005 when he infamously left his Fenway office donning a gorilla costume in protest of Larry Lucchino’s paternalistic handling of Theo’s contract extension.

  2. bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    The second I read this latest fantasy story for Cubs fans, this song immediately started playing in my head . . .

    BTW, John Henry would just assume pay Theo $25 Million a year than lose him and half of the Red Sox baseball operations staff.

    As for the Cubs, I’m sure Josh Byrnes would listen :-)

    • Jonny 5 - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      That guy….. has a deep voice…. uhhh yeah.

      The 80’s and their “members only” jackets are to blame.

  3. hittfamily - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    I don’t understand the infatuation of Theo Epstein. I say this with all sincerity and respect for Red Sox fans, but I just do not get it.

    Dan Duquette brought over Pedro. Dan Duquette signed Johnny Damon. Dan Duquette traded for Lowe and Varitek. Dan Duquette brought in Wakefield. Dan Duquette brought in Manny. Dan Duquette drafted Youk. Dan Duquette drafted Hanley Ramirez.

    Epstein brought in Ortiz as a platoon guy. He brought in Millar and Schilling. Bam-annointed Best GM in Baseball. He traded Manny for a guy with 1 year left on his contact, and now they have nothing to show for it. He signed John Lackey. He traded David Murphy for Eric Gagne. He signed Daisuke and countless other busts. He oversigns guys like Drew and Wakefield, who are productive, but get old, and still have a rich contract in front of them. He let Victor Martinez go to Detroit and put up monster numbers.

    He doesn’t deserve the blame for Lackey, Crawford, and Daisuke, but nor does he deserve the praise for Beckett, Schilling, and Ortiz. He traded Duquettes pick Hanley for Beckett. He traded Duquettes picks for Schilling. Ortiz, he just got lucky, as no one saw him becoming the monster he is today. If Theo had seen it coming, why was Ortiz a platoon guy his first month in a Red Sox uniform.

    Beckett was a young arm with great stuff who the Marlins were actively shopping. It doesn’t take a genius to want him on your team. Giving up the best SS in baseball was a hell of a price to pay. That trade was a push at best, not some genius move. Realistically, I con not think of any move he has made that makes me feel like he is a top tier GM. Ellsbury, Papelbon, and Pedroia are the only things on Theo’s resume in my mind. We wont know the AGonz move for a while. So far, so good, but he had to lgive up Beltre adn 5 minor leaguers to get him, 3 of them top tier. He is given 200 million to field a playoff team, when 3 of his 4 competitors won’t spend that much combined.

    • The Common Man - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      I’m not a Red Sox fan, so I won’t claim to speak for them. However, I believe the argument goes something like, “Scoreboard.”

      • hittfamily - Sep 12, 2011 at 4:13 PM

        I’ve seen the scoreboard. They won the Series in 04 and 07 with Duquettes players. This is another year that they fail to win the division, 4 years in a row, and are in serious jeopardy of not making the playoffs for the second time in 2 years. They are maxed out on money, so no upgrades next year. Duquette deserves at least half the credit of Beckett, seeing the player used to trade for him was Duquette’s. Duquette drafted Lester. Theo is responsible for the rest of the rotation. How are they performing this year?

        He has had a carousel of overpaid short stops after dumping Duquette’s potential HOF shortstop. He has an open checkbook for any player in baseball, and routinely signs failures. He is lucky that when his failures don’t work, he gets another check to sign someone else. They haven’t groomed a decent homegrown player since Papelbon made his debut in 2005. Theo did not sign Paps to a long term deal this offseason, when he could have been signed much cheaper than he could be signed for today. Theo will have to open up the wallet much wider to resign Paps now, or let 2-7 Daniel Bard assume closer duties.

        The Sox starting pitching has been terrible all season. His response was to trade for an oft injured Eric Bedard, who is currently hurt, which should surprise no one. Meanwhile, he missed out on Fister and Jimenez. The good news for the Theo is that he may not have a team to worry about by the end of the month.

        Scoreboard.

      • The Common Man - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:13 PM

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying that Sox fans are not likely to be influenced by it, given that a) they didn’t like Duquette and b) the Sox won with Epstein at the helm. It’s the same with baseball GMs as it is with Presidential politics. The guy in charge gets both the blame and the credit for what happens on his watch, regardless of whether he did anything to influence it.

        That said, Epstein has done an excellent job of pouring money into the farm system, so that they can acquire guys like Gonzalez, despite consistently drafting at the end of the first round or sometimes without a first round pick.

      • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:15 PM

        Duke was fired in March 2002.

        Lester was drafted in the entry draft in June 2002.

        Lester is more a product of Epstein’s player development system than he was the draftee of the interim GM (Mike Port).

      • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:20 PM

        Feel free to retract this statement at any time . . .

        “They haven’t groomed a decent homegrown player since Papelbon made his debut in 2005.”

        I know you’ve said you don’t waste time researching and all before you post – but uhm . . . you may want to take note of a few of players the Red Sox have drafted, developed and debuted under Theo since Papelbon’s debut: Pedroia, Ellsbury, Bucholz. That doesn’t include Bard or Masterson.

      • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:25 PM

        BTW, that potential HOF SS . . . was converted to 1B soon thereafter and fizzled out rather rapidly.

        There’s not even a question that Theo made the right move, especially considering the widely known fact that Nomar was having a negative impact on the clubhouse because of his desire for an extension.

      • hittfamily - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:50 PM

        All the players you just mentioned were first round picks. A Gm can hardly take credit for 1st round pick being good. Papelbon was a 4th round pick. He was groomed by his system, not like the others who were virtually major league ready coming out of high school.

        I am a Rays fan, but I firmly believe the Rays GM and his scouting department to be far superior to that of the Sox. Many believe they are good because of high draft picks, but it is far from the case. Only Longo and Price are their 1st overall picks that are top tier players. Upton is average. Niemann was a 1st round pick. Hamilton and Delmon Young are long gone.

        Hellickson 4th round
        Wade Davis 3rd round
        Desmond Jennings 10th round
        James Shields 18th round
        John Jaso 12th round
        Jake Mcgee 5th round
        Matt Moore 8th round

        These are potential all stars every year, who are not a product of their high picks. They are a product of a GM who makes good decisions and hires a superior scouting department. Theo may as well stop drafting after the second round.

      • hittfamily - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:51 PM

        coming out of high school…..

        edit button

        coming out of college

    • bigharold - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:57 PM

      Beckett was traded for when he was on the lamb in his gorilla suit, .. it wasn’t his trade. And, besides giving up Ramirez, they had to take Mike Lowell as a salary dump. In all fairness though, Lowell worked out pretty well for them. Also, you are forgetting that in all the time Epstein has been the RS GM SS has been a black hole.

      I could see why Epstein would entertain the thought of going to the Cubs. They have resources and if he gets them a WS he’ll be a baseball God. On the other hand, if he gets fired in 5 or 6 years because they are no better, then all the things you pointed out are magnified and it will be suggested that he was just lucky, in the right place at the right time, and that really Duquette was more responsible for the 2004 WS. Which I think has some merit.

      If he’s as smart as people say he is then he’ll stay right where he is with the RS. He’ll never become a baseball God but he’ll be one to the Nation. And, unless his goal was actually to become a baseball God than why risk everything?

      Buck Showalter went about it in an overbearing boorish way but he had a point about Epstein, and for that matter Cashman, lets see how smart either of these two guys are with Tampa Bay’s financial constraints. Neither of these guys can truly be evaluated as a baseball GM when they are running the two richest clubs in MLB. Epstein really doesn’t help his case moving to the Cubs who are pretty rich in their own right. If it was truly his wish to run the RS than he’d be smart to keep doing just that. Besides, as a Yankee fan I like the fact that SS has been a black hole for them I want to see it continue. Just kidding, .. sort of.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        Neither of these guys can truly be evaluated as a baseball GM when they are running the two richest clubs in MLB.

        Yes they can. You can look at trades. You can look at drafts. You can look at picking up FA’s when it’s not the highest bid that gets them.

      • baccards - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        Niehter can they be evaluated as baseball GMs until they work in the NL.. until then they can only be considered designatedhitterball GMs and evaluated as such

    • bobwsc - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM

      they should cut ties with Lucchino and promote Theo to president, giving him responsibility for baseball and business operations. Theo gets out of the weeds, has final say over everything, gets to promote his top henchmen, and that blowhard Lucchino is off meddling somewhere else – probably in the MLB front office, getting ready to succeed another blowhard old man in Selig.

      • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:31 PM

        That would be an option if Lucchino wasn’t an owner – and the point man for the ginormous increase in revenue streams the Red Sox have created since Fenway Sports took ownership.

    • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:03 PM

      You make some good points about Duquette. There is doubt his organizations excelled at evaluating and acquiring talent. The thing is, The Duke didn’t do well at budgeting and allocating salary and he had a thing for hiring old school managers that didn’t always mesh well with players. And unfortunately for Duquette he came off as condescending and dismissive.

      So yes, Duke made big splashes with Manny, Damon, Pedro, etc . . . but I’m not sure he had a plan beyond that.

      Theo has a meticulous method to how baseball operations are run. The way he budgets and allocates salary helps the Red Sox avoid getting stuck with inflexible contracts with players who underperform. He has been equally successful to Duquette, if not better, at drafting and developing talent. While Youk was developed by the Duke, he benefited from being in Theo’s player development system. Scouts often said that while Youk knew the strikezone, he figured to be a good 2B option and not much more.

      But let’s get down to the intangibles that Theo brings to the table.

      -Theo established a player development structure which didn’t previously exist. It sets bench marks of skill – by which a player is evaluated and promoted by achieving.
      – The acquisition of Schilling was a coup. Schilling will tell you he had ZERO interest in going to the Red Sox – if not for Theo’s approach and relentless courting.
      – The 2004 Red Sox were floundering in August despite high expectations coming off of 2003 and the Schilling acquisition. It had become a badly kept secret that Nomar was having a negative effect on the team – yet no one in Boston could conceive of the Sox trading Nomar . . . except Theo. The Sox deal Nomar and go 44-19 over the final 2 months of the season (including an insane 20-2 stretch).
      – Theo brings in Mueller, Millar, Roberts, Cabrera, Arroyo and completely rebuilt the bullpen adding Foulke, Timlin, Williamson, Leskanic, Mendoza and Myers. That kind of BP revamp would have never happened under Duke.
      – David Ortiz wasn’t luck. That was a quality evaluation that the Red Sox had done. Even Terry Ryan eventually admitted to wishing he could have kept Ortiz, but the Twins had other options and to this day never allocate a whole lot of salary to the DH position. I suppose Saltalamacchia is just luck as well.
      – Theo let Pedro walk, not wanting to pay an undersized power pitcher in his 30’s with a growing injury record – which was at first very unpopular at first – especially after Pedro had a nice 2005 season . . . but something tells me the Wilpon’s would have done it differently if given another chance.
      – He hired Francona with whom, by all accounts, he has an excellent working relationship. In fact, it remains the envy of many an organization.
      – This year’s team which has only stumbled because untimely injury – contains Salty, A-Gon, Pedey, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Reddick, Lester, Bard and Papelbon – all of which were either drafted & developed under Theo or acquired because of players that were drafted & developed under Theo.

      For all those reasons, and one more – he is one of us – he is revered in Boston. Theo is a very smart person. He knows he’s living the dream and it really could get any better if he went anywhere else.

  4. bloodysock - Sep 12, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    And after Theo wins a WS with the Cubs, he’ll head over to Cleveland and complete the trifecta.

    • bigleagues - Sep 12, 2011 at 5:08 PM

      Bloodysock,

      If he gets Tuna disease – that’s really the only way I see him leaving, short of the organization falling apart under his watch.

      And although Parcell’s owes his greatest career achievements to the Giants, he wasn’t a native New Yorker.

  5. ballparkprints - Sep 13, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    This sounds like tampering? If Theo does land in Chicago will they give him the time and money that it will take to make them a winner? Have watch a lot of Cub game this season, they a very bad team.

  6. voodoochili - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    bigleagues wrote: “BTW, that potential HOF SS . . . was converted to 1B soon thereafter and fizzled out rather rapidly.
    There’s not even a question that Theo made the right move, especially considering the widely known fact that Nomar was having a negative impact on the clubhouse because of his desire for an extension.”

    Um, he was referring to Hanley Ramirez. Remember him?

    As has been mentioned, the Ramirez-for-Beckett trade was done in the interim between Theo’s gorilla-suit tantrum and his rehiring after the New Year.

    The trade has probably been about a push for both teams. Lowell worked out better than expected, but Anibal Sánchez also shows signs of being a very good pitcher for a very bad Marlins team. But, in any case, Theo had nothing to do with the trade, so he can’t be credited for it.

    When you look objectively at what Theo has done, it’s not much. The 2004 and 2007 teams were built largely by those who came before him, either directly, or by giving him the talent to trade for the missing pieces. The Ortiz signing and the Schilling trade were his two coups. And, to be fair, the highly-criticized decision to let Pedro Martinez sign with the Mets after 2004 did give him the draft pick to land Clay Bucholz.

    But, it’s also hard to give too much credit to any GM when his team allows him to spend so freely. The Yankees and Brian Cashman are always dismissed as “buying” wins. Why isn’t this same dismissal applied to Theo? Since the “magical” year of 2004, the Sox have been in the top four in MLB team salaries every single year. If we want to talk about brilliant GMs, let’s look at what Andrew Friedman for the Rays on ONE QUARTER the amount of money the Sox are spending.

    Let’s look at some of Theo’s lowlights:

    Paying $50 million just for the privilege of negotiating a contract with Scott Boras for Daisuke Matsuzaka, whereby they got to promptly hand over another $50 million in salary.

    Trading away pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson to rent Victor Martinez. Martinez hit .313 for the Sox with an OPS of .865. So what do they do? They let him walk as a free agent in order to bring in the supremely mediocre Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who seems to be inexplicably absent from all discussion of the Red Sox’ pitching rotations implosion this year).

    After winning game 4 for the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series sweep, Derek Lowe is let go as a free agent. Lowe would go on to win 94 games over the following years, including leading the NL in wins in 2006. In his place, the Red Sox would pay Matt Clement $26 million to pitch in 44 games with a 5.09 ERA and a scratch WAR.
    Trading Bronson Arroyo for marginal journeyman Wily Mo Peña. Peña looked like an all-star compared to what follows, as he would be traded for Chris Carter, who had 26 plate appearances, who was then traded for Billy Wagner, who pitched in 13.2 innings before leaving as a free agent. Arroyo has since average 13 wins per year for the Reds including 17 wins in 2010.

    After three straight losing seasons and a coming off an 8-13 year with a 6.36 ERA, the Sox inexplicably sign Joel Piniero to a $17 million three-year contract. Piniero pitches half a season of crappy baseball for Boston before being traded to St. Louis for Sean Danielson, who never reached the majors and is now out of baseball.

    After being one of the heros and sparkplugs of 2004, gold-glove shortstop Orlando Cabera is shown the door and signs with the Angels as a free agent. In the following three years in LA, he would bat .281, win another gold glove, and finish 15th in the MVP voting. In his place, the Sox sign Edgar Renteria for $9 million per year. Renteria goes on to have the worst year of his career and commits 30 errors. To add insult to injury, rather than giving him one year to adjust and chalking it up as a down year, Theo gives up on him and ships him to Atlanta. Renteria immediately recovers his form and is an All Star in 2006. Renteria was traded for a player who never played for them who was ultimately traded for Coco Crisp, who was traded for Ramon Ramirez, who was traded for a minor-league pitcher, who was traded for catcher Michael McKenry, who was traded to Pittsburgh for cash. You can bet the cash wasn’t anywhere near $9 million. This is an example of how Theo Epstein could give lessons to congress and Enron on how to flush money down the toilet.

    Signed Scott Boras poster boy and injury magnet J.D. Drew for $14 million per year. Drew has not been entirely terrible for Boston, but $14 per year should buy anyone a lot more. And it’s not like Drew didn’t have the history to predict what one would get with him.

    As all Sox fans know, the shortstop position was a black hole ever since the departure of Nomar. As mentioned above, Cabrera and Renteria were never given long-term chances to be the solution, and star prospect Hanley Ramirez was traded away. Theo eyed Julio Lugo and promptly gave him a $36 million contract. In his two-plus years in Fenway, he hit .251 with no power, few runs, and had a negative WAR. He was so bad that the Sox traded him to St. Louis for Chris Duncan, who was given his outright release by the Sox just one month later. And, the Sox had to pay 96 percent of his salary on Lugo’s remaining year that he played out in Baltimore after also being dumped by the Cardinals.

    Finally, there’s Carl Crawford. Rather than going after Cliff Lee due to Theo’s overconfidence in his pitching rotation (how did that work out?), Theo spent the same money on a second-tier outfielder. Surely, Crawford was a solid player in Tampa and no one predicted his 2011 collapse. But, he was never a premier player and hardly earned Cliff Lee money. Crawford was a good player, but always had sub-par power and played average defense. He was never in the super-star range that justifies over $20 million per year.

    Time will tell how the Gonzalez trade works out, but it looks like a win for Boston so far…

    • bigleagues - Sep 29, 2011 at 7:41 PM

      Voodoo Chili:

      Who was referring to HanRam? Big Harold? He never makes any reference to Hanley.

      And besides, Epstein had nothing to do with trading Hanley Ramirez. The trade was done by the GM-by-committee (Hoyer & Byrnes) after TE had walked out on Lucchino during negotiations for a contract extension. So why ever bring it up? I certainly didn’t attempt to credit Theo with that deal – positively or negatively.

      Every other point you make I have addressed and squashed multiple times. Most of what you say isn’t even based in fact.

      I love how just 6 months ago CC was regarded as one of the best all-around players in the game and were praising his signing – and now after 1 up and down season the same people are completely panning it. That having been said there has been plenty of speculation by members of the press that Theo was against the Crawford signing – and that it was ownership who had pushed for it. Whatever the case may be, don’t be the least bit surprised if Crawford returns to form next year.

      For someone who quoting WAR in one paragraph to support your argument, you certainly didn’t your due diligence on JD Drew. He has been one of the top all around RF’s in the game (until this year because of injury) during the duration of his contract. Among all qualifying RF’s from 2007-2010 (4 seasons) he was 4th in total UZR, 7th in fWAR, 6th in wRC+ and 6th in wOBA.

      For 2007-2010 Fangraphs calculates his monetary value as $56.6 Million. JD Drew was paid $14 million per year (4*14=56). Thus, until he got injured JD Drew was one of the top 6 RF’s in MLB and was paid exactly what he was worth.

      Furthermore, Magglio Ordonez (who is a similar age, and just ahead of Drew in ’07-’10 WAR among RF) earned nearly $10M more ($65.765M) over the same time period.

      So your argument that $14 million should buy you more is specious.

      The Red Sox, under Theo, have never and will never give a 32-year-old Pitcher (as good as Lee is) a 6-year deal – let alone for the money Lee got.

      Throughout the history of baseball, no matter how talented and accomplished a SP is, he begins to hit the wall between ages 34-36. Certainly SP’s may remain productive for a number of years after age 35 – but not $25+ Million per year productive. We’ll see how happy the Phillies fans are with the Lee contract when he’s 37 years old and earning 27.5 mil.

      The rest of the Theo transaction you have mentioned are so inconsequential to the big picture of what he has accomplished in Boston, they don’t even merit discussing. The bottom line is we are talking about the most successful GM in Red Sox history – even after yesterday happened.

      The Sox played like crap in September – and despite an endless spate of injuries that started in May, they should have still at least won the Wild Card. That they were able to win 90 Games in the Al East with all the injuries they had – especially to the Starting Rotation is already being overlooked because of what happened yesterday.

      Having said all of that . . . and including all that I have mentioned above previous to this post . . . the following is something I posted a couple of weeks ago when the ridiculous “I Blame Theo” movement surfaced:

      http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/09/23/theo-epstein-says-he-and-terry-francona-are-on-the-same-page#comments

      That having been said – Duquette’s contributions to the roster aside – do the 2004 Red Sox win the World Series:

      – If Theo doesn’t pull the trigger on moving Nomar out of town (and thus ridding the clubhouse of his constant begativity)?

      – Without Curt Schilling (who Schilling and the Trio all credit with being 100% Theo’s work in convincing and acquiring)?

      – Without David Ortiz – who Epstein identified and acquired the year before (saying that he viewed Ortiz as someone who is potentially a special player that really hadn’t been given a fair shot to succeed – even when everyone else was scratching the heads and criticizing the Sox for bringing on another glorified softball player)?

      – Without Kevin Millar who was practically on a plane to Japan (and already had signed a contract) when Epstein talked him into staying and signing with the Red Sox (and had to negotiate with the Japanese team over the settling the contract)?

      – Without acquiring Orlando Cabrera and Dave “Friggin” Roberts?

      – Without signing Bronson Arroyo after having been waived?

      – Without building a bullpen that included his signings of Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Curtis Leskanic, Scott Williamson, and Ramiro Mendoza?

      – Without hiring the right Manager (Francona) to work within the system that Theo envisioned and put into place?

      In fact, while Duquette made a couple of easy calls in acquiring Manny, and Pedro, developed Nomar under his watch and made a truly great (but no-brainer even in hindsight) trade for Lowe and Varitek – it was, in fact, Theo who made all of the tough calls that equipped the 2004 team with the right personnel to win a World Series. In fact, while there were “Duquette” players on that team – there can be no doubt that it was Theo Epstein who was responsible for making the decisions needed to assemble the World Series Champion.

      In summary – you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

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