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We're Not All Dying From Swine Flu After All
May 7, 2009 - John Whittaker
Blog Note: I'll now let you know via Twitter when I've posted a new blog. Feel free to go to www.twitter.com/jwhit2523 to become a follower. Every time I post an update, or sometimes just want to post something quick, it'll pop up there.
The other day, I walked into the Foote Avenue Quality Markets and, right in the doorway, is a table with disinfectant wipes and a sign with instructions to wipe down your cart to prevent the spread of the flu.
Fantasy Baseball Corner
So, how are you Manny Ramirez owners dealing with his 50-game drug suspension?
I almost feel sorry for Laura Ferraro, the owner in my money league who loses Manny's production for three months.
So far this season, Diva has lost 80 percent of her starting rotation (Justin Dutchscherer, Chien-Ming Wang, Chris Carpenter and Hiroki Kuroda), seen Conor Jackson hit .187 for the first month, been saddled with B.J. Upton's .159 average and 3 RBIs, seen Mike Aviles channel the spirit of Angel Berroa, the patron saint of promising Kansas City shortstops who fall off a cliff, and now lost Ramirez.
Chances are, if you're in an auction league, you paid upwards of $30 for Ramirez, and now you're missing your best or second-best outfielder for a third of a season.
Here are a few ways the Whitless Wonder suggests dealing with this suspension (and no, there is no Eric Karabell Master of the Obvious knowledge here).
1. The Waiver Wire. Let me tell you, the pickings are pretty slim if you go this route. In my 12-team money league, the only outfielders I'd say deserve to be on a team right now are Franklin Gutierriez of Seattle and Joe Thurston of St. Louis. If you have a ton of power, Thurston might be worth a pickup since he's also eligible at second and third base, hits for a decent average and might end up stealing some bases. Gutierriez is decent, but hasn't shown a lot of power yet this year and is in a crowded outfield. But, he's hitting .301, is driving in some runs and seems to be figuring out how to hit in the major leagues. It shouldn't be long before Endy Chavez is on the bench where he belongs. Cody Ross, Brian Giles, Scott Hairston and Austin Kearns are still available in my league, but, um, they can't carry Manny Ramirez' man-zone protector (also known as a jock or cup).
2. The Buy-Low Trade. If you happen to have starting pitching or (even better) bullpen depth, this might be an avenue. I'd suggest making an offer on B.J. Upton (.150, 14 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI and 7 steals), Matt Holliday (.228, 10, 3, 17, 0) or Magglio Ordonez (.232, 10, 2, 12, 0). Those guys are too talented not to go on a hot streak that could help make up for Manny's loss, at least for a while. The hard part is gauging what someone might want. If I had one of those guys on my team, I'd be looking for a decent middle infielder (a Howie Kendrick or Mark DeRosa, perhaps), a starting pitcher with upside who could be a potential keeper (say Joba Chamberlain for those not in a Yankees fan-dominated league, Max Scherzer, Jered Weaver or Rick Porcello) or a disabled pitcher that you can stash on your DL now and who might pay off big later as an ace (Brandon Webb, Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santant, Daisuke Matsuzaka). If you have a surplus and you see an owner who doesn't have a closer or who doesn't have two good catchers, you've also found a good trading partner. I'd look to deal Mike Napoli (no way he keeps this up) or Jared Saltalamacchia (Taylor Teagarden is breathing down his throat) if you're looking for an outfielder. Some owner will snatch them up. And yes, those are my two starting catchers right now. I'll now go play in rush-hour traffic.
3. The Big Deal. These guys will cost you - probably at least two players, and one of them will have to be a stud. But, if you're going to replace Manny's value with only one player, it might be worth it. Target Jason Bay (carrying Boston's offense and showing no signs of slowing down), Curtis Granderson (surprising pop so far, and the average has to come up to at least .290 soon), Ryan Ludwick (former top prospect who is really hitting the ball well and plays in a weak division), or Andre Ethier (figures to pick up some of Ramirez' slack). But, again, be prepared to pay, because smart owners won't trade those guys for nothing.
Early on, even here at the newspaper, we were hearing all about the unpredictability of the swine flu or any new virus. Part of that, though, was caused by the information we were receiving.
When the situation began in mid-March, Mexican officials reported seeing higher-than-usual occurences of flu cases. When that phenomenon made its way to California by mid-April, it kicked off a seemingly serious chain reaction that reached all the way to Bemus Point. By late April, Canada, Spain, Israel and New Zealand were reporting cases. If only the wide variety of locales reporting cases, the swine flu seemed to be spreading like wildfire. Then, as quickly as it hit, the swine flu was gone.
In the end, only about 2,000 people ended up catching the swine flu, and the only deaths were those who had pre-existing health conditions. On May 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the flu outbreak didn't seem to be as bad as it first seemed, and everybody started to breathe a bit easier.
Did we overreact?
Egypt slaughtered hundreds of thousands of pigs to prevent the spread of the swine flu. "The outbreak of this flu, which has killed dozens, will make our case stronger to outlaw pork from the kingdom," lawmaker Sheikh Adel Al-Moawada, who heads the Egyptian parliamentary foreign affairs and security committee, was quoted by local media as saying in a CNSNews.com article.
People didn't want to buy pork at the grocery store even though there was no proof that eating pork gave anyone the swine flu. Pork producers wanted to rename the swine flu because it was hurting their business. Some countries wanted to rename it the North American flu, because the name is more important than actually curing the disease, apparently.
High school sporting events in several southern states were cancelled, even though basketball games go on all the time during the "regular" flu season. Travel was banned in some areas, though, once again, there no such action is ever taken in the middle of December, when a trip to the Chautauqua Mall can end up in a full-blown case of the flu.
Why aren't there Clorox wipes and disinfectant out during the regular flu season? According to county Health Department news releases I get every year, the regular, good old, everybody's had it flu kills 10,000 people a year.
Aren't we just as at-risk from December through March, when it's cold and crappy and everybody's coughing and sneezing and wheezing and nobody's covering their mouth? How many people wash their hands before or after going to the grocery store when it's flu season? Hell, how many people cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze?
And, what happens the next time? Are we crying wolf? Will we be as vigilant with the next health scare to hit after the fast fizzle of the swine flu? Will we all follow the directions we're given, or will we say, "Nothing happened with the swine flu. It'll be fine." If a disease can be controlled by washing your hands and taking general cleanliness procedures, how serious is it? There was a hillarious South Park episode where the citizens of South Park were stricken with SARS and cured by eating chicken soup. Is that where we're headed?
And, is the swine flu "pandemic" all part of the problem with a 24-hour news cycle, where a nation can talk itself into a recession and a public health panic at the same time? How much of what happens is a self-fulfilling prophecy, fed by 24-hour news stations that have to fill programming hours and the Internet, one of the all-time great tools to spread half-truths and innuendo.
My head hurts. Maybe I'll go take a couple of aspirin.
Or, maybe, it's just the start of the Great Headache Pandemic of 2009. Want to bet I can shut the country down if this catches on? Think about it. Nobody can go to work, because work causes headaches. Don't go out in the sun, because bright light can be a real pain. Don't watch TV or read. Forget about going to the movies - we don't want the pandemic to spread.
I read about it on the Internet, so it's got to be true! If I see it on TV, I'm never doing any of those things ever again.
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