Considering it's late November, and I didn't think I'd be following much baseball this deep into the off-season, I'm pretty thrilled with the moves the Mets have made. Tuesday they traded Guillermo Mota for Johnny Estrada, solidifying the catcher position the day after they shored up second base.
I've thought highly of Estrada ever since he came up with the Phillies. I don't know if he was talked up a lot by the Philadelphia media, or I just heard a lot about him because he was a young guy coming up on a rival team in the NL East, but I remember thinking that the Braves made a great move trading for him. And I know that Estrada is better than anyone else available on the free agent market - and I think, for the Mets, that includes Jorge Posada. When you combine offense and defense, and their ages (Estrada is five years younger), I think the Mets got the best catcher available (even if his availability comes as a surprise) this off-season.
There are questions. Estrada is coming off post-season surgery on his knee, and had a bone spur removed from his elbow. So I guess there's some recovery involved. There's also the matter of Estrada playing for his 5th team in 7 years in the majors. He's been traded away from every team - which either means four other teams didn't want him, or four other teams really wanted him badly. I don't remember hearing much about Estrada as a clubhouse problem, so let's hope it's the latter. (From what I'm reading really quickly online, it seems Estrada's first - and only - season in Milwaukee was a disappointment, to fans and to him. He's owned up to how badly he played. So maybe it was a 'get value for him now, since fans are down on him' type deal.) The Breweres are rumored to be seeking Jason Kendall...they really have no catcher now that they've dealt Estrada.
I think this is a great deal for the Mets. You can't beat unloading an erratic (and cheating) reliever, and getting lots of value in return.
They say you win with what you have up the middle, and now the Mets have Estrada, Luis Castillo, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran up the middle. The one gaping hole there is the pitcher's mound - and that's Omar Minaya's next challenge.
AND ON THE FOOTBALL FRONT
Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I love the fall, I love getting together with the family, and I love eating. I also love watching the football with everyone. So when I saw the NFL schedule this year, I especially couldn't wait for Thanksgiving, to watch the Jets upset the Cowboys on national television, as they showed the world what they were made of!
Needless to say, that excitement has worn off. Lots. I was disappointed the Jets won last week. And I'm hoping the Cowboys embarrass them on Thursday...this coming from a guy who hates the Cowboys. You know where I stand on this - the whole Chad Pennington thing has just left a really sour taste in my mouth.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that last year's playoff appearance was one of the worst things that could have happened to the Jets, specifically, to Eric Mangini. He was given last year, they could have been awful, and he could have built things up his way. But they surprised everyone, he was the Boy Wonder, Man-Genius, and that created pressure. So this year, there was no question that Pennington was going to be the starting quarterback, and the playoffs were the expectation, especially with the addition of Thomas Jones, and it didn't work out. People didn't play well, and it was magnified even worse because of the expectations caused by last year.
Maybe Chad Pennington shouldn't have been the starter from the beginning this year. Maybe then I would have been more willing to root for Kellen Clemens. But after leading the Jets to the playoffs last year, Mangini had to go with Pennington. He had no shot to start building with his own quarterback - he would have been killed. Then he was killed for going to Pennington too late. I still don't agree with the decision, but at least Mangini has things on his terms now. The problem is, if the Jets don't rebound and win next year - he probably won't get a fourth year on his terms. So now the Jets are playing out the string - with some really tough games left on the schedule. And 'the string' starts Thursday. I suspect the performance against Pittsburgh will be the exception, rather than the rule.
I'll make a special Thanksgiving pick Wednesday, then I'm heading to New York for the Thanksgiving weekend, and I'll be back next week.