Unwrapping Christmas gifts for all 30 clubs
Here they are, stacks of presents, selected with care, yours to enjoy, mine to share. Something for you, Buck Showalter, sure you made the list. You, too, Bruce Bochy, as future Hall of Famers are our most special guests.
We've shopped for weeks and checked it all twice, and so as I stuff my pockets with cookies, silverware and the keys to someone's BMW, Merry Christmas to all, and sorry there wasn't more pitching to go around.
Something for everyone:
Angels: Tough one here since this new guy, general manager Billy Eppler, has shopped for himself and filled pretty much every need. Sure, one more hitter would be nice, but isn't that what every team says? There's just one perfect guy for the Angels: a happy, healthy and productive Albert Pujols in 2016. If that happens, everything else just might fall into place.
Astros: What do you give a team that has talent, youth, energy and confidence? Another Carlos Correa or Dallas Keuchel? No, don't get greedy. You have yours. How about a repeat of a magical 2015 season with, oh, an extra six outs at the end of a potential deciding American League Division Series Game 4? New closer Ken Giles is the gift that could keep on giving.
Athletics: How about something made of steel and brick with 42,000 seats and a view of the Bay? Hold on a little longer, boys. Santa is working as fast as he can to deliver your new ballpark. Keep the faith.
Blue Jays: Another postseason bat toss by Jose Bautista after a summer of packed ballparks and a reigniting of baseball passion in Toronto would be nice. Merry Christmas, Blue Jays fans. Look around you. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. Kevin Pillar and Marcus Stroman. Enjoy.
Braves: Shortstop Dansby Swanson in the 2017 Opening Day lineup in a brand-new sold-out ballpark, ushering in another bright and shiny era of Atlanta baseball, is the perfect gift for the Braves.
Brewers: Patience. That's all new general manager David Stearns needs. He's bright and curious and innovative. Stearns played a significant hand in the Astros' miracle and will do the same thing in this new gig.
Cardinals: What do you give the franchise that has great ownership, a tradition of winning, a tremendous general manager and some of the best fans on the planet? You give them more of the same, a sixth straight trip to the postseason and another run at a 20th National League championship.
Cubs: Do you have to ask? Seventy-one years is long enough to wait for a World Series. All those years, all those false starts. This is what you've been waiting for, Cubs fans.
D-backs: What do you get when you put one of the best pitchers on the planet (Zack Greinke) in a clubhouse with one of the best position players (Paul Goldschmidt)? You have hardball heaven. That's the story of the 2016 D-backs.
Dodgers: Vin Scully's 67th season at the microphone is a gift for all of us. If this is his last rodeo, may we savor every last second of it. May he stay forever young.
Giants: An even-numbered year.
Indians: A fast start. No more sluggish April. No more scrambling to get back into contention.
Mariners: Postseason for King Felix. Few players deserve it more than Felix Hernandez, who has performed with brilliance for 11 seasons. All he hasn't gotten is a playoff run.
Marlins: Good health for Giancarlo Stanton. That's it. Give him an entire season to show off his greatness. That's a gift for Stanton, but it's a special one for all of us as well.
Mets: Status quo. That is, more of Thor and the Dark Night -- Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. More of Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. And one more encore for Bartolo Colon. These are the good days at Citi Field. Keep it rolling, boys.
Nationals: One season when the hype and the expectation matches the results. This is an enormously talented team that just added Daniel Murphy. There are no glaring weaknesses. Onward.
Orioles: Chris Davis, signed, sealed and delivered. His career was resurrected in Baltimore and ought to continue there. Here's hoping the two sides find some middle ground to keep the unsigned first baseman where he belongs.
Padres: Andy Green was an early gift. Maybe you haven't heard of the Padres' new manager. You will. He's smart and charismatic and may eventually be as good as any manager in the game, a mixture of Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon. Green's team is a nice mix of veterans and kids, and there are questions. One of them, though, has been answered.
Phillies: Let there be dozens of great decisions at the Draft. Let there be huge, smashing breakthrough seasons for Mark Appel and Vincent Velasquez. The Phils have accumulated enough interesting pieces to speed up the reconstruction project. With Andy MacPhail in charge, the future is bright.
Pirates: Jameson Taillon in the big leagues. He has earned that much. Taillon was the second overall pick of the 2010 Draft, and once upon a time was ranked right there with Gerrit Cole in the Pirates organization. His timetable has been delayed by Tommy John surgery and hernia surgery. Taillon is healthy now, back to throwing 98 mph and on the fast track to the big leagues. On a team looking for a fourth straight playoff appearance, he might end up being one of the keys.
Rangers: Josh Hamilton back to his normal dominant self. He has missed 185 games the past two seasons and hasn't been a great player since 2011. The Rangers have no idea what Hamilton is still capable of. He's also 34 years old. Here's to one more great run, to smiles all around.
Rays: Sometime in the next few weeks, the Rays hope to be given permission by local politicians to search for a new stadium site around St. Petersburg. For a franchise that has been as well-run as any in the game the past decade, this would be the final piece to the puzzle. They simply can't consistently contend without it.
Red Sox: A happy, productive final ride for Big Papi. David Ortiz has been one of the faces of the game and of New England. Few players have ever represented their franchises better. Ortiz says the 2016 season, his 20th, will be his last. Here's to soaking up every last second of it.
Reds: Faith for fans. Trust, too. These reconstruction projects don't happen overnight, but the Reds are going to put a young, exciting team on the field. Best of all, these young players will have a chance to improve and quickly. This is the path the Cubs and Astros followed back to prominence. It works.
Rockies: Let's put Jon Gray and Eddie Butler and Tyler Chatwood in the Majors. Let's hurry along the others, too. Let's draft more of them, from colleges and high schools. Let's teach them how to pitch in altitude and to realize that games at Coors Field aren't like games at other places. Let's reward all those fans who've come out in huge numbers.
Royals: Alex Gordon's name on a new contract with the Royals. He has been one of the faces of the franchises and one of the reasons Kansas City has won two straight AL championships. He would look out of place anywhere else.
Tigers: Another October ride for Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, for J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez. These guys deserve it, not just for the way they play, but for what they represent in Detroit and around baseball.
Twins: Byron Buxton being what he was supposed to be. He has long been seen as one of baseball's next great things. Buxton may be that too if he can just stay healthy and have a chance to succeed and fail and succeed again, all the things young players always do on the way to a long career. This is his time.
White Sox: To appreciate Todd Frazier as much as Reds fans did. He's going to love a clubhouse with Adam LaRoche and Chris Sale and David Robertson. Frazier does more than just make the White Sox better. He makes them more interesting as well and could be the addition that pushes them back into contention.
Yankees: CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira being healthy and productive. On a team going through a transition of sorts as young players are worked into the mix, these guys could carry the Yanks back to the postseason. They've had great careers and been respected men in the game. Here's to one more October.