No shortage of rich subplots across divisions
During this Thanksgiving Weekend, we continue to express our gratitude for a variety of reasons. Just ask those who traditionally hug one of the six divisions in Major League Baseball tighter than the others.
National League East
If you're a partisan of this division, you likely heard the news about Giancarlo Stanton signing a 13-year contract worth $325 million to remain with the Marlins, and then you probably thought of gathering in South Beach for a parade the size of the one they have in New York every November.
The Marlins' days of fire sales are over. As a result, courtesy of more intradivisional than interdivision games, NL East fans will have more chances than their counterparts to see The Great Giancarlo prove he is the most prolific slugger of his time. In case you don't know, Stanton often rips pitches through and beyond the furthest black hole.
Now consider this: The Mets are returning to their Miracle Mets roots by gathering a bunch of young arms with talent. They'll challenge the already impressive pitching staffs of the Braves and the Nationals for divisional superiority. That's much to be thankful for, along with the thrill of watching the battle between all of those pitchers and Stanton.
As soon as Joe Maddon decided to leave the Rays for the Cubs in late October, loyalists of this division were feeling stuffed and satisfied long before their first serving of turkey and all of the fixings. I mean, here were the Cubs, already with rising young talent and a renovated Wrigley Field on the way, and they were hiring a guy with considerable managerial skills and an affection for various zoo animals, among other quirky things.
Not only will Maddon help the Cubs win, he'll make them entertaining.
Fans of this division also are thankful that these aren't the post-Barry Bonds Pirates anymore. Instead of consistent goofiness that produced a couple of decades of losing seasons, they are flashing signs of consistent goodness, with the extraordinary Andrew McCutchen leading the way.
The more that any Major League team spends money, the more it says about the financial strength of baseball. You can't spend what you don't have (see what I just typed about the small-market Marlins), and the Dodgers spend a bundle -- not only on players, but on the expansion of their front office. They recently added Andrew Friedman, formerly the mastermind of the Rays' success, and Farhan Zaidi, a longtime member of the A's brain trust.
The Dodgers want to win, and they want to win badly. The same goes for their legendary foes up north by the San Francisco Bay. All the Giants have done is win the World Series three times in the last five seasons. That means one of baseball's top rivalries lives. Big time. Enough to force the Padres, the D-backs and the Rockies to step up their game.
To the delight of NL West diehards.
American League East
Speaking of top rivalries in baseball, the Yankees and the Red Sox have been known to play a few meaningful games through the decades.
Here come a few more.
For one, at the start of this holiday season, something was music to the ears of AL East fans, and it wasn't "Jingle Bells." It was the Red Sox trying to jump from last place to a World Series championship -- again. They did so in 2013 after they finished as the worst team in the division year before, and nobody was worse in the AL East last season than the Red Sox.
Well, the Red Sox just spent nearly $185 million to acquire All-Stars Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Yankees, your move.
You know it's coming.
When you combine "the Yankees versus the Red Sox, Part Infinity" with Buck Showalter making the Orioles relevant on a consistent basis for the first time in years, and with the Blue Jays and the Rays not exactly lacking talent (especially in light of Toronto's acquisition of Josh Donaldson on Friday), you can hear the "thanks you's" echoing from Canada to Tampa Bay. Donaldson fits nicely with the Blue Jays around the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin.
The Royals aren't a fluke. That's enough right there for members of the AL Central Nation to rejoice.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Dayton Moore will remain in Kansas City as general manager to add to what he already has built in recent years, which is a youthful contender. Manager Ned Yost also isn't going anywhere, and he just took the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. In fact, 1985 was the last time they even made the playoffs.
The Tigers only have teased in recent years in the playoffs, but they are entertaining tease. They'll remain that way as long as they have Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, which they do.
Then there is Paul Molitor as the new manager of the Twins. If you're a disciple of this division, how can you not be thankful for this Hall of Famer in this role, especially since he is a Minnesota native?
Neither the Angels nor the A's are shifting into reverse any time soon when it comes to their pursuit of October glory. The Angels remain vibrant through spending loads of money. In contrast, the A's prefer Moneyball, which is why this made sense: They just traded Donaldson to the Blue Jays for a player of now (third baseman Brett Lawrie) and several players of the future (right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman, left-handed pitcher Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto).
It keeps the division interesting, and AL West fans are grateful for that, along with Seattle's refusal to concede to the others. After the small-market Mariners beat the big boys to highly pursued free agent Robinson Cano last year with a 10-year contract worth $240 million, they just kept All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager and his Gold Glove with a seven-year contract worth $100 million.
Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, indeed.
That is directed toward the Mariners, those who love the AL West, baseball fans overall and everybody else.