It’s Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble, everybody. It is a bit of a sportswriting trope, harking all the way back to the turn of the century (no, not that one, the previous turn of the century) when newspaper columnists would all sit down and write about what sports figures should be thankful for that Thanksgiving season. We are not immune to the charms of the Thanksgiving column trope. There’s a lot to be thankful for!
So, as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, here’s something for every team to be thankful for. Whether your team is a champion or a cellar dweller, there’s something to hold in gratitude.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Vladdy Jr.
We’ve all been transfixed by Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani the last couple of years, and for good reason, but let’s not forget that the Blue Jays have a young superstar who almost won his own MVP in 2021, has a smile that can light up the sky, has a swing that will send fireworks from the heavens and, oh yes, is the son of a Hall of Famer who is also one of the most fun players in recent baseball vintage. Don’t take Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for granted, folks.
Orioles: The fun is just beginning.
Look, success is not a linear concept. You take a few steps forward and then one or two back. You break through, and then you struggle to take the next jump. Your young players don’t quite pan out exactly the way you wanted. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine from now on. But one thing is clearly true: Last year was proof that the worst is behind Orioles fans. This is a competitive team with a plethora of young talent that isn’t going anywhere for a long time. You made it, Orioles. You deserve this.
Rays: The talent just always keeps coming.
Remember when the Rays were blasted for trading this player, or that player? Remember when the Rays were “too analytical” and “too clever for their own good?” Well, guess what? They made the playoffs again this year, for the fourth straight season. They have a lot of questions to answer this offseason. Guess what? They’ll probably answer them. They always do.
Red Sox: Fenway is immortal.
You always know things aren’t great in Boston when the “be thankful” thing ends up being “Fenway,” but seriously: There is nothing in the world like Fenway. You’re going to see pictures of snow over Fenway this offseason, and it will remind you of what you’re missing … and while 2022 was tough, we’ve learned that this team bounces back very quickly.
Yankees: They won 99 games last year and came one round away from their first World Series in 13 years.
Yankees fans were so frustrated at the end of the playoffs, and so nervous about Aaron Judge, that you sort of need to say this out loud occasionally to remind them.
Guardians: That building can get loud again.
Those of us who remember how full and wild Cleveland and its stadium were in their perpetually-sold-out '90s incarnation took much joy in the wall of sound that place produced in their ALDS against the Yankees. Those fans are still there, and still great. Not every franchise can say that.
Royals: A transition that seems leading in the right direction.
The Royals made a lot of changes this offseason, and while it’s certainly up in the air how they will turn out, it sure looks like they point in the direction of a franchise that has taken a good hard look at itself and is ready to try something new. When things aren’t working, really, that’s all a fan can ask for.
Tigers: The page has been turned.
Almost everything that could have possibly gone wrong went wrong for the Tigers last year. This team is going to go through some rough spots at times in 2023, sure, but there is reason to believe things will be better. Riley Greene’s emergence in the second half is a good place to start.
Twins: The team, and the front office, don’t quit.
A lot of teams, particularly ones in a small market like Minnesota, would pack up their bags and start over when they lost 89 games, like the Twins did in 2021. That’s not what the Twins did, even signing maybe the best free agent on the market, in Carlos Correa (who opted out and is a free agent again). It didn’t get them in the playoffs, and now that player is gone, but it speaks to motivation: This team will not sit idle.
White Sox: There’s still so much young talent here.
Last season was such a disappointment that you can almost forget that the White Sox, in addition to their solid rotation, have so many excellent hitters under 30: Tim Anderson (29), Yoán Moncada (27), Luis Robert (25), Eloy Jiménez (26), Andrew Vaughn (24). There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t want that.
Astros: They just won the World Series.
No need to complicate this one.
Athletics: There are some pieces that might be part of the next good A’s team.
Yeah, it’s been a difficult couple of years, but: Watching Shea Langeliers progress into a potential All-Star should be fun. Cristian Pache may come around. Yankees fans could rue the day they included Ken Waldichuk in the Frankie Montas deal.
Mariners: They made the playoffs!
After a 21-year postseason drought, they did it. They even made it out of a round! And the best part: It’s no fluke. This is just beginning.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: So much young talent. So much!
Remember, you would have considered the Braves to be stacked with young talent before they had the top two vote-getters in the NL Rookie of the Year voting this year. How many more of these guys are there?
Marlins: Your first Cy Young winner!
Sandy Alcantara is now the first Marlins pitcher with a Cy Young trophy on his shelf. And it sure wouldn’t surprise anyone if the 27-year-old added another at some point.
Mets: The vibes are back.
The Mets didn’t quite end their season the way they hoped, and the way many (including me) thought they would. But the LOLMets days are long behind them. This team is smart, stacked with resources and very committed to win. They had the best record in New York City last year. It may stay that way for a while.
Phillies: They went to the World Series!
What an incredible run that was. You didn’t imagine it. It really happened.
Brewers: There are so many pitchers here.
You’ve heard the same Corbin Burnes rumors the rest of us have. If he doesn’t get traded, this staff is stacked. But if he does … this staff is still stacked! Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are rotation mainstays, and Devin Williams anchors a bullpen that, ultimately, was pretty solid post-Josh Hader trade. Thanks to their pitching, the Brewers are going nowhere.
Cubs: They stopped allowing runs.
Maybe the Cubs will be active in the free-agent market, but even if they’re not, there are reasons for excitement. Thanks to the likes of Marcus Stroman and Adrian Sampson, they had a 3.30 team ERA after the All-Star break, which ranked fifth in the Majors. Additionally, there’s a group of prospects (led by outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong) who are going to be arriving very soon. With that talent and a chance to add via free agency, this dip shouldn’t last forever. It shouldn’t even last long.
Pirates: There’s so much young talent in the system.
Sure, you’ve heard that before. But there really is a lot. Five in the MLB Pipeline Top 100 (Henry Davis, Termarr Johnson, Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, and Endy Rodriguez), some of whom are going to be in Pittsburgh next year. The future looks bright. Seriously.
D-backs: Corbin Carroll is your signature star.
They haven’t really had one since trading away Paul Goldschmidt, and Carroll looks to be one.
Dodgers: They’re the Dodgers!
The postseason was a bummer … again. But every team in baseball would swap places with the Dodgers in a second.
Giants: A smart front office is about to make some noise.
You know how smart they were two years ago when they found talent in the most unlikely places? Now they feel like they have something to prove.
Padres: They beat the Dodgers!
Sure, there are three MVP candidates on this team next year. But it’s OK to revel in that Dodgers NLDS win, you all earned it.
Rockies: Coors is going to be a beautiful place to watch Kris Bryant hit 40 homers.
Incredibly, Bryant did not hit a single homer at Coors Field during his injury-shortened 2022 campaign. But they will come. In bunches. Soon.