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Phillies fans are going to have to wait on Mike Trout

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Phillies fans have never been shy about their affection for local guy Mike Trout

If you follow discussions among the Philadelphia Phillies fan base on social media you know that it is difficult to go more than a couple of days without someone admonishing the team to “bring home” the best player in baseball, Mike Trout.

It takes just a glance at the career of the “Millville Rocket” to understand the desire of fans to see the native of that South Jersey town play his home games in the Phillies red pinstripes.
While the Phillies were setting a franchise record with 102 wins during their last winning season back in 2011, Trout was breaking into Major League Baseball with an extended 40-game cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Angels.
During his official rookie campaign a year later, Trout captured the American League Rookie of the Year honors. He slashed .326/.399/.564 that year with 30 home runs, 65 extra-base hits, 49 stolen bases, and 129 runs scored.
Trout has now played in eight big-league seasons. He has been the AL Most Valuable Player twice and finished runner-up for the honors on three occasions. During his seven full seasons the lowest that he has finished in AL MVP voting has been fourth.
Now 27-years-old, Trout has 240 career homers, 648 RBI, 793 runs scored, and 189 stolen bases with a .307/.416/.573 career slash line. The OPS mark of .990 that he has put together during that period is the best in all of baseball. He is also a seven-time American League All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
Trout now has a 64.3 career WAR mark, tied with Roy Halladay for 144th in baseball all-time. With a typical season in 2019 he would move past a couple of dozen Hall of Famers including Halladay, Willie McCoveyAndre DawsonCraig BiggioErnie BanksDuke Snider, and Roberto Alomar.
Trout has never won a Gold Glove Award and yet is widely considered among the best center fielders in the game. Early in his career, television highlight shows featured him frequently. His everyday excellence in this area of the game simply seems to now be taken for granted.
Trout did not commit a single error last year, the only center fielder in Major League Baseball who can make that claim. In fact, he has not committed an error since April of 2017.
But the affection for Trout extends beyond his phenomenal on-field performance for Philly sports fans. Trout is one of us. He grew up as a fan of Philadelphia sports teams. Trout tailgated at the 2008 World Series. He is one of the biggest fans of the Philadelphia Eagles that you are going to find.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that when responding to questions about the Phillies current free agent search, Trout showed that he fully understands the passion and interest of the fan base by referencing his own situation.
Mike Trout on Free agent search: ‘I didn’t go a day this winter without someone asking, ‘When you coming to Philly.’ I can’t predict the future.’

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Despite the enthusiasm and desire of the Philly fan base, it is no slam-dunk that Trout will ever pull on a Phillies jersey for even one day of his career. He remains under contract with the Angels through the 2020 season. Their owner, Arte Moreno, fully understands what Trout means to his organization and is on record that he is going nowhere during his contract.
Moreno has spent plenty of money before and is fully prepared and capable of doing so again. He lured Albert Pujols away from the Saint Louis Cardinals, where the player had become an icon, with a 10-year, $240 million free agent contract back in 2012. Last off-season, Moreno won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, landing the Japanese star for the price of a $20 million posting fee and $2.315 million signing bonus.
The Angels owner has also already demonstrated his specific appreciation for Trout’s value and talents. He bought out the first few years of the superstar’s free agency eligibility with a six-year, $145.2 million-dollar deal covering the 2015-20 seasons. That contract set Trout up for life, kept him with the Halos for most of his prime years, but also allows him to become a free agent at age 29.
Fabian Ardaya, who covers the Angels for The Athletic, asked Trout about possible contract extension talks with the team. It would appear from his response that there are none happening as of this time.
Mike Trout declined to comment on any potential contract negotiations with the Angels. Said he likes where he’s at, and said he wants to win. Said he feels they haven’t been far off.

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You can expect that Moreno will make a major push to sign Trout long-term in an attempt to make him an Angel-for-life at some point. As long as there is any chance of that happening, Trout will not be traded. Phillies fans may as well stop hoping for it right now. It just is not going to happen.
It is an entirely different question as to what the Angels should do, as opposed to what they will do. If there are indications that Trout will give them no special consideration in free agency, and if the Angels are not in true contention, then trading him at the 2020 non-waiver deadline would be the smart move. He would likely land them a major package in return.
An even better opportunity would come this summer. Again, if the Angels engage with his agent and learn that he intends to enter free agency, and if the Angels are again not in contention, then dealing Trout this year would land them an even stronger package in return.
But that will not happen. Trust me. You don’t have to like it, you just have to accept it. Moreno will not trade away the best player in baseball, his franchise icon. At least not this year. My bet it that he will not even consider it at next year’s trade deadline.
Trout knows the fan base. Aside from baseball (for now) he is one of us. “I’m an Eagles fan. I know how we are,” he recently said to reporters.

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Why are free agents reluctant to sign with the ? Philadelphia sports fans are no joke.

Mike Trout: “I’m an Eagles fan. I know how we are.”

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The most likely scenario for Phillies fans, by far, is to simply be patient. Enjoy whatever teams the Phillies run out during this 2019 season and then again next year. And when the 2020 season draws to an end, well, then we can talk about Trout. My guess is that 2020 off-season will make what we have gone through with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this winter look like child’s play.

Chase Utley continues to add to his Hall of Fame resume

Chase Utley continues adding to his Hall of Fame resume
In the bottom of the 8th inning on Friday night at Dodgers Stadium, Chase Utley added yet another milestone to his growing Baseball Hall of Fame resume.
Utley drove a 91 mph fastball from Kansas City Royals reliever Neftali Feliz off the base of the center field wall. As Utley hustled to second base with a double, Joc Pederson rounded third and scored a run to put the Dodgers on top by a 3-1 score.
As Pederson crossed the plate, Utley officially reached a milestone. He became the ninth active player in Major League Baseball to reach the 1,000 career RBI mark.
Utley is now 38 years old and appearing in his 15th season in the big leagues. In 13 of those seasons he became a legend with the Philadelphia Phillies.
His first career hit was a grand slam homer at Veteran’s Stadium. The first runner to cross the plate with Utley’s first career RBI on that blast was none other than Jim Thome.
Now as Utley winds down his career in Los Angeles, his career statistics and reputation continue to pile up, adding to what should one day be a relatively easy decision for Hall of Fame voters.

THE UTLEY STATISTICAL CASE

Utley is a six-time National League All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner. He has finished in the top ten of NL Most Valuable Player voting three times.
With 255 career long balls, Utley is now 7th on the all-time MLB list of home runs by players who were primarily second basemen during their career. Six of the seven are in the Hall of Fame.
Utley ranks 6th all-time in National League home runs by a second baseman. He is 3rd in OPS, 7th in RBI, 9th in Doubles, 11th in Runs, and 14th in Hits.
Those are all-time rankings. More than 800 players have appeared in at least one game at second base in their careers. There have been 90 players with at least 1,000 career games at the position.
With a career WAR mark of 64.6 he ranks 94th among all players to ever appear in Major League Baseball. Utley recently passed Hall of Fame legends Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey, Dave Winfield, and the Phillies own Richie Ashburn for career WAR. He is now hot on the heels of a second baseman just elected to the Hall, Craig Biggio.
Though he has never swiped more than 23 bases in any one campaign, Utley is well-known as one of the best base runners of recent years. His 87.57 career Stolen Base Percentage is the second-best mark in MLB history. He was famously nicknamed “The Man” by legendary Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas after just such a play in the 2006 season.

UTLEY’S UNDERRATED DEFENSE

Utley has not only been an offensive force at the Keystone position, but he has also been a far greater defensive player than often given credit.
His remarkable play in the 7th inning of the 2008 World Series is one of the two greatest defensive plays in the 134-years of Phillies history. What became known as “Utley’s Deke” kept that Fall Classic game tied late. The Phils would then score themselves, and clinch the crown two innings later.
In three different seasons, Utley led all MLB second basemen in Range Factor/Game. He finished second two other times, and has eight seasons in the Top 10 at the position. His 4.68 career mark is currently sixth among all active players at second base.
His 52 Total Zone runs rank him 22nd all-time at the position. While Utley has never won a Gold Glove Award, the fact remains that any attempt to paint him as one-dimensional is simply ignorant.
JAWS measurements for Hall of Fame worthiness also reveal that Utley has a strong case. The average Hall of Fame second basemen have a 56.9 JAWS mark, 69.4 WAR, and a 7-year peak WAR of 44.5. Utley’s totals are 56.8, 64.6, and 49.1 respectively.

UTLEY WITH THE DYNASTIC PHILLIES

During his peak years, Utley was clearly the top second baseman in the game. He was a key member of five consecutive Phillies division winners, two NL pennant winners, and the 2008 World Series champions.
Two of Utley’s teammates, Ryan Howard in 2006 and Jimmy Rollins in 2007, won NL MVP Awards during that time. Cole Hamels was the MVP of both the 2008 NLCS and World Series. Howard was the 2009 NLCS Most Valuable Player.
But everyone who followed the Phillies will tell you that no player was more valuable to the sustained success of that team over the entire half-dozen or so years in which they were contenders than was Utley.

UTLEY IN THE POSTSEASON

Utley came up big in the postseason as well. He memorably crushed five home runs in the Phillies six-game defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. Utley has 10 career home runs, 27 RBI, and 40 runs scored in his postseason career.
Utley has already made his mark in Philadelphia. He is the single most popular Phillies player of the last three decades. He will continue to be celebrated at Citizens Bank Park for decades. One day not long after his retirement, he will be enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
No, Utley is not Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, or Mike Schmidt. Yes, there are other players for whom an argument can be made belong in the Hall of Fame, but who have not yet been elected. Those statements have nothing at all to do with Utley’s worthiness.
Chase Utley belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Voters will get their first shot at electing him at some point in the early-mid 2020’s. Considering past votes on players such as Utley, I doubt that he makes it on the first ballot.
But at some point, let’s hope those voters get it right. At some point before those 2020’s are out, Phillies (and Dodgers) fans should be able to travel to Cooperstown, New York and admire a plaque describing Utley’s Hall of Fame career.

Nationals / Expos All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Washington Nationals emerged for the 2005 season after the relocation of the original Montreal Expos franchise.
Major League Baseball expanded by four teams and split into a divisional format beginning in 1969. 
The Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) went to the American League. The Expos and San Diego Padres were  assigned to the National League.
The Montreal team was named after the successful World’s Fair “Expo 67” held there in 1967 during the Canadian Centennial celebration.
After a decade of losing, a young core of players emerged in the late 1970’s to turn the team into a contender for the first time. Then from 1979-94 the Expos were consistent winners.
There were 11 winning Expos campaigns and another two .500 seasons during that 16 year stretch. However, Montreal reached the MLB postseason only one time in its history.

EXPOS REACH THE POSTSEASON

A strike in 1981 caused Major League Baseball to split the season into two halves. The teams who finished in first place in each half would then advance to a best-of-five “League Division Series”, a first for baseball.
The defending champion Philadelphia Phillies won the first half, and the Expos won the second half. Montreal then upended the Phils in a dramatic five-game NLDS to move within a step of the franchise’ first World Series.
In the best-of-five NLCS, the Expos took a two games to one lead. The Dodgers tied it up, and the two clubs moved to a decisive Game Five. On a two-out home run by Rick Monday in the top of the 9th, the Dodgers won 2-1 to advance to the World Series.

THE STRIKE OF 1994

In 1993, the Expos re-emerged as a division power. However, the Phillies put together a magical worst-to-first season, holding Montreal off by three games to win the NL East crown.
The following year, the Expos entered the season as favorites, not only in the division, but also to win the World Series.
Montreal won 20 of 22 games beginning on July 18 to take the division lead. With a 74-40 record, the Expos led the Atlanta Braves by six games.
And then it all suddenly ended, not in defeat, but with the longest work stoppage in the history of Major League Baseball. A player strike began on August 12 and would last into the following year, cancelling the rest of the season, including the postseason.

GOODBYE, CANADA

The Expos franchise would never recover. They dropped to 5th place in 1995, recovered to win 88 games and finish in 2nd place in 1996, but then plummeted to five straight losing seasons.
An inability to get funding for a new ballpark led to rumors of a move constantly swirling, and then to MLB purchasing the club in 2002. Those relocation nightmares actually became a reality for Montreal baseball fans when the move to Washington was announced.
In their final year north of the border the club finished a dismal 67-95 and in last place. The first season in D.C. resulted in a .500 finish, but the losing continued with six straight seasons below the .500 mark.
Finally, the new Washington Nationals began to contend with a 98-64 record in 2012, winning the first division title in franchise history.
With a new group of young stars, the Nationals have now become perennial contenders in the National League. The 2016 season resulted in their third NL East crown in the last five years.
One thing continues to elude the franchise in Washington. The club remains one of eight current Major League Baseball teams to never have even reached the World Series.

NOT MAKING THE CUT

Selecting a 25-Man roster for the franchise was a difficult proposition. They have had an abundance of strong, interesting outfielders and first basemen in their history.
Aside from their obvious Hall of Famer, selecting a backup catcher was a tough chore. There are a handful of decent options.
There were a number of players who you won’t find, but who contributed mightily to the history of the organization.
Included among these are shortstops Chris SpeierOrlando Cabrera and Tim Foli. Catchers Brian Schneider and Darrin Fletcher are not selected.
Outfielders Warren CromartieRondell White, and Jayson Werth fell short. So did infielders Larry Parrish and Andres Galarraga. I opted for versatility and projection in the infield.
Since I forced myself to carry at least two relievers, getting down to the 7th-9th best starting pitchers leads to difficult decisions. That was again the situation here.
On the mound, not making the cut were arms such as Steve RenkoBill StonemanBill GullicksonScott SandersonCharlie LeaJeff FasseroChad CorderoUgueth Urbina, and John Wetteland.
So who did make the cut? The Nationals / Expos All-Time 25-Man Roster includes 11 pitchers (two true relievers), two catchers, six infielders, and six outfielders.

Tim Raines Deserves Hall of Fame

Voting for the next class of inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame will take place over the next couple of months.
One of the leading contenders for enshrinement in 2017 will be former Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines. One of baseball’s biggest stars during the 1980s, Raines is in his final year of eligibility to be considered by the regular voters.
When you examine Raines’ career, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine why he is not already enshrined at Cooperstown.

RAINES CALLED SIX CITIES HOME

Raines played in parts of 23 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1979 through 2002. He became a starter for the first time in 1981. Raines played with the Expos through the 1990 season after which he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
He then played with the ChiSox through 1995 after which he was dealt to the New York Yankees. Raines would win the World Series with the Yanks in both 1996 and 1998.
Raines would hang on for a few more seasons, making stops with the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, and Florida Marlins.
He also made a brief return to Montreal in 2001, and finally retired after playing in 98 games at age 42 during the 2002 season in Florida.

A TOP PLAYER OF THE 1980’S

Raines led Major League Baseball in stolen bases every year from 1981 through 1984. He swiped 70 or more bags in every one of those seasons, and then on through the 1986 campaign.
He led all of baseball in runs scored in both 1983 and 1987, and scored 90 or more runs on eight occasions.
Raines led the National League in doubles in 1984, and won an NL batting title in 1986 when he also led the league in on-base percentage.
The 1981 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, he won the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year honors that season.

Raines was an NL All-Star each year from 1981-87. He received NL MVP votes seven times, finishing 5th in the voting for the 1983 season.
He won a Silver Slugger Award in 1986, and was the Most Valuable Player of the 1987 MLB All-Star Game.

RAINES AMONG ALL-TIME EXPOS

The Montreal Expos became an expansion team in the National League for the 1969 season, the first franchise outside of the United States. The club existed north of the border through the 2004 campaign after which the team was relocated to Washington, becoming today’s Nationals.
Raines is second in all-time career WAR in Expos/Nationals franchise history. Hall of Famer Gary Carter leads that category, just ahead of Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. In 2013, Raines was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
He is the Expos’ all-time career leader in runs, singles, triples, walks, stolen bases, and runs created. Raines holds the club single-season records for plate appearances and runs. He shares the single-season triples record.
The trio of Raines, Carter, and Dawson played together from 1981 through the 1984 season. In 1981 they led the Expos to their only postseason appearance. That year, Montreal defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in a dramatic five games in the first-ever NLDS. They were eliminated in a tough five-game NLCS by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

SOME RAINES STATISTICAL HIGHLIGHTS

A speed player, Raines’ final career numbers reveal 808 stolen bases and a career .294/.385/.425 slash line with 1,571 runs scored, 430 doubles, and 113 triples.
Per the Daily Ace Report (subscribe here), Raines had four seasons in which he produced 70+ steals and 50+ extra-base hits, more than any player in baseball history.
In 1983 he became the first player in the 20th century and one of only three all-time to record a 90+ steals and 50+ extra-base hits season.
He has a career 69.1 WAR figure, ranking as the 108th highest player of all-time. He is 73rd all-time among position players.

POST-PLAYING CAREER AND CONTROVERSY

Raines served as a minor league manager and a big league coach after retiring. He was the White Sox first base coach when the club won the 2005 World Series.
The lone controversy in Raines’ career involves his use of cocaine during the 1980s. That was the recreational drug of choice for many players in those days.
Raines was one of many players to testify in the Pittsburgh drug trials of 1985. The trials were a catalyst for a major MLB drug scandal at that time that included other high-profile players including Keith HernandezDave Parker, and Vida Blue.

RAINES AND THE HALL OF FAME

Raines was first eligible for the Hall of Fame voting in 2008 when he received just 24.3 percent of the vote. His case has been taken up by sabermetricians in recent years, and his vote share has steadily risen.
Last year, Raines finished fourth in the voting for Hall of Fame induction behind the two men who were ultimately enshrined, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, and former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell.
Raines received 69.8 percent of the voter support. This was just a bit short of the 75 percent required for enshrinement. He is considered a favorite this time along with Bagwell, who received 71.6 percent. One of the game’s great closers, Trevor Hoffman, who received 67.3 percent of last year’s vote, is also a favorite this time around.
Tim Raines was a difference-making player for the entirety of the 1980s. He is on the Montreal Expos’ symbolic “Mount Rushmore” as an all-time player. In my opinion, it is time for the voters to honor him with a bust in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hall Welcomes the Hawk


On September 11th, 1976, the Montreal Expos were winding down the final weeks of both that ’76 season in Major League Baseball and their final season at Jarry Park. The following season they would move into the new Olympic Stadium, built for the Summer Olympics which the city had hosted that summer.

On that particular night, however, the team was on the road in Pittsburgh, and the 4-3 loss suffered at the hands of the perennial N.L. East power Pirates was the Expos 90th of the season. The night would be lost in memory but for one small tidbit. Starting in right field for the Expos on this night would be a rookie prospect by the name of Andre Dawson.

Dawson had been an 11th round draft pick of the Expos just a year earlier, the 250th player selected overall in that draft. Dawson would go 0-2 in that night’s game and would be lifted for pinch-hitter Jose Morales in the top of the 7th inning as the Expos rallied from a 4-1 deficit to cut the lead to 4-3. It would be one of the only times that Andre Dawson would be removed from any kind of Montreal rally for the next decade.

Dawson thus began to get his feet wet in the Majors that September with 85 mostly uneventful at-bats for a last place team. His batting average was just .235, and he hit no homeruns. In 1977, however, it was a different story. Dawson was a starter right from spring training, and ended up as the National League Rookie of the Year after posting a .282 average with 19 homeruns and 21 stolen bases.

Those Expos of ’77 improved by 20 wins over the previous year, and Dawson’s bat and centerfield play was only one of the reasons for the fans of the franchise to finally feel as if a winner might soon be coming to MLB’s only Canadian franchise. The franchise also had a 23-year old catcher named Gary Carter and 23-year old outfielder Ellis Valentine on board to build around.

This group of players would lead the team to it’s initial glory years, finishing with the franchise’ first-ever winning record by posting 95 victories in 1979 in what was the first of five consecutive winning seasons. That run was highlighted by the 1981 season in which the Expos made the playoffs for the only time in their history before losing the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Andre Dawson was one of the main reasons that the Expos experienced so much success into the early 1980’s. He regularly would hit .300 and was a consistent power/speed combination offensively while his strong glove and arm developed to the point that he led the NL in putouts for three straight years from 1981-83 and became a regular Gold Glove winner.

After a decade of mostly success in Montreal, Dawson became a free agent following the 1986 season. His knees had taken a pounding on the Olympic Stadium turf, forcing a move from centerfield to right field and taking a physical toll on him. One of the key requirements as he sorted through his free agent suitors was getting to play his home games on grass. For this reason he campaigned to sign with the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs general manager at the time was Dallas Green, who believed that Dawson was on the decline and did not want to sign him. Dawson and his agent presented Green with a contract offer that included a blank salary which the team could fill in itself at any figure that it deemed appropriate. Green took the challenge and filled the contract in at $500,000 with another $250,000 in incentives, a healthy pay cut from Dawson’s final Montreal season.

At 32 years of age and with his knees mostly shot, Dawson’s days as a centerfielder and speed threat were mostly over. But he had slid over to right field where his strong arm and excellent range allowed him to remain a Gold Glover. At the plate, Dawson exploded with the Cubs as one of the greatest power hitters in the game, and would end up being rewarded with a 5-year contract extension to stay in the Windy City.

In his very first season at Wrigley Field, Andre Dawson showed the Cubbies and Green that he was worth a full contract by putting up a season for the ages that resulted in his winning the National League Most Valuable Player award. He bashed 49 homeruns and knocked in 137 runs for a team that Phillies fans might find interesting included a 24-year old, 2nd year pitcher named Jamie Moyer.

In 1989, Dawson battled injuries to help lead the Cubs into the NLCS where they were beaten by the San Francisco Giants. He continued to put up consistently strong years for the Cubs, including a 1991 season in which he bashed 31 homers and drove in 14 runs. He would wind his career down with two seasons each playing for the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins, with his final game coming with the Fish on September 29th, 1996.

During his 20-year MLB career Andre Dawson had been an 8-time All-Star, including the winner of the 1987 Home Run Derby. He was a 4-time winner of the Silver Slugger for hitting excellence at his position. It wasn’t nearly all about offense for the all-around Dawson, however. He was also an 8-time Gold Glove Award winner. All of this to go along with the ’77 NL Rookie of the Year and ’87 NL MVP awards.

Finally, Andre Dawson was one of only 3 players in MLB history to finish his career in the 400/300 Club (at least 400 homeruns and 300 stolen bases) with the others being Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. After waiting the requisite five years, Dawson received just over 45% of a needed 75% vote in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

In 2003, Dawson, who was nicknamed ‘The Hawk’ during his playing career, received his only World Series ring as a member of the Florida Marlins front office, and he currently serves that team as a special assistant to the team president. He had his #10 retired by the Expos before the franchise moved to Washington. It was announced just yesterday that he was finally elected to full enshrinement as a player in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I watched Andre Dawson all throughout the 1980’s and into the early 90’s as one of the most dominant all-around players in the game during that pre-steroid era. In the first half of his career he had it all: power, speed, arm, defense. Later in his career he remained a consistent middle-of-the-order power threat. He won major awards, including an MVP for a last place team. In my opinion, Andre Dawson’s election to the Hall is a long overdue honor.