We had Major League Baseball in 2020, and that’s something we can all be thankful for in a year that was awful on so many levels. There were times it felt like we wouldn’t even have baseball to provide a bit of distraction from the pain and fear.
Maybe that’s why we appreciated games, highlights, debates, trades, prospects, etc., more than ever before. We finished with a postseason that was as good as any and a fitting World Series champion in the Dodgers.
So, yeah, Happy Thanksgiving!
Didn’t Ken Burns have Thanksgiving in mind when he digitized and reformatted "Baseball"? Anyway, here’s something for fans of all 30 teams to be thankful for:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: To watch them play in 2020 was to feel their energy and passion and all that talent. Best of all, that was just a start. Things are going to get even better.
Orioles: They were entertaining as heck to watch in 2020, as a bunch of young players proved themselves. Now, with a tidal wave of young talent on the way, Baltimore may have itself a great baseball summer.
Rays: The Rays might have been MLB’s most entertaining team in 2020, from coming from behind to win 20 times in the regular season to going the distance to win postseason series against the Yankees and Astros. Forecast for '21: more of the same.
Red Sox: Manager Alex Cora’s return to the dugout won’t fix everything for the Red Sox, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Great managers have the ability to get more from a group than seems possible.
Yankees: You mean other than 22 postseason appearances in the past 26 seasons? This is how you become the team every other club measures itself against, and that will be true again in 2021.
Indians: Manager Terry Francona looks good, sounds good and says he’s excited about returning to the dugout in 2021 after medical issues sidelined him for much of '20. That’s good news for an entire sport, and especially for Cleveland fans.
Royals: Salvador Perez was the heart and soul of Royals teams that went to the World Series in back-to-back years (2014 and '15). Now, he’s the larger-than-life teammate helping Kansas City construct another contender.
Tigers: Combine the arrival of one of MLB’s most successful managers in A.J. Hinch with some of the game’s most exciting young talent, and the Tigers are right on the verge of a huge turnaround.
Twins: These are the good times: back-to-back AL Central titles, home runs flying, a 16-8 record this past September and a 24-7 mark at Target Field in 2020.
White Sox: They weren't just back in the postseason in 2020. They were back in the postseason with a wildly entertaining team that played with a swagger typified by shortstop Tim Anderson.
A’s: Sean Murphy was named the A’s starting catcher this past spring, even though he’d played only 20 big league games. He went on to surpass every expectation as Oakland made its third straight postseason appearance.
Angels: Lists like this are supposed to begin and end with Mike Trout, one of the best of all time. But this offseason, there’s a new general manager, Perry Minasian, who is eminently qualified to surround Trout with the talent he needs to become a postseason force.
Astros: The Astros dramatically bounced back from a losing regular season (29-31) to get within a game of a third World Series appearance in four years. Along the way, a new generation of pitching emerged that could keep them in the mix.
Mariners: AL Rookie of the Year Award winner Kyle Lewis was as good as advertised and was the face of a team that was fun to watch and set the stage for another big leap forward in 2021.
Rangers: Globe Life Field was every bit as beautiful as the Rangers had hoped. When fans return, it’ll be a bucket-list item for many.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: First baseman Freddie Freeman is the type of player who comes along every generation or so that produces at a Hall of Fame level on the field and is a great teammate who leaves his mark in the clubhouse and community long after he’s gone.
Marlins: No one listened this past spring when manager Don Mattingly told anyone who’d listen that his team would surprise people in 2020. The Marlins did more than that, reaching the postseason for the first time since '03.
Mets: No fanbase has had more fun than this one since new owner Steve Cohen took over. J.T. Realmuto? Done! Trevor Bauer? Of course! George Springer? You bet. This has already been fun whether any of these free agents actually come to New York.
Nationals: Juan Soto celebrated his 22nd birthday last month, which might be the most amazing number of 2020. Also this one: 313. That’s the number of MLB games that Soto has played. At 21, he led the NL with a .351 batting average and an 1.185 OPS this season. His growth is going to be one of the coolest stories of the decade or so.
Phillies: Bryce Harper became the player the Phillies hoped he’d be in 2020, posting a .420 on-base percentage and .962 OPS. When the Phils return to the postseason, fans around the country will have a chance to see that what is considered routine for Harper is extraordinary for almost anyone else.
Brewers: The Brewers reached the postseason for a third straight year, a franchise first. With a young pitching staff and outfielder Christian Yelich potentially headed for a huge bounce-back season, there’s more good stuff to come.
Cardinals: We made the mistake of writing off Adam Wainwright a couple of years ago. And then, a couple of years before that. All he did in his age-38 season in 2020 was pitch one of his best seasons and continue to build on an already remarkable legacy. He’s a free agent again, but it seems incomprehensible that he would pitch anyplace else.
Cubs: Not many teams lose a legendary, successful executive and have someone as prepared as Jed Hoyer to step in. Now, he gets an opportunity to shape the Cubs after nine years as Theo Epstein’s top assistant. He’s one of the game’s brightest minds.
Pirates: These darn kids, sometimes they’re as good as advertised. That’s how it was last season with Ke'Bryan Hayes, who made his MLB debut on Sept. 1 and had a 1.124 OPS in 24 games.
Reds: Right-hander Luis Castillo threw an electrifying two-hitter against the Cardinals on Sept. 11 in one of the Reds' most important games as they went on to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013. Moments like that made 2020 special and went a long way toward creating hope for more in '21.
D-backs: David Peralta has been such a good player for so long that his remarkable journey has been forgotten: that he washed out as a pitcher with the Cardinals and reinvented himself as an outfielder in independent ball.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw never has to answer that question again about being a postseason disappointment. Oh, and the Dodgers just won the World Series.
Giants: Mike Yastrzemski got the opportunity he’d been hoping for after the Giants acquired him in 2019. In 161 games over two seasons, he has 31 homers, seven triples, a .357 on-base percentage and an .892 OPS. He checks a very big box in the reconstruction of the Giants.
Padres: So many bright and shining lights. Manny Machado. Fernando Tatis Jr. Dinelson Lamet. That the Padres returned to the postseason appears to be a preview of what the next few seasons will be like.
Rockies: Shortstop Trevor Story has inched his way into the “best shortstop” conversation with the Dodgers' Corey Seager, the Indians' Francisco Lindor and others. Story ranked among the NL leaders in a long list of offensive categories, including stolen bases (first), hits (tied for fourth) and total bases (eighth).