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: A fanbase that isn’t going anywhere.
While this was supposed to be the Blue Jays’ heyday, it hasn’t really panned out that way (yet). Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Kevin Gausman are still here, and this team did just make the playoffs. The Blue Jays are still a force to be reckoned with, with one of the most loyal fanbases in the sport forever behind them -- and pushing them forward.
Orioles: You just won 100 games!
It was 101 games, actually! For all the frustrations of that ALDS against the eventual World Series champion Rangers, let’s not take our eyes off the prize here: The Orioles just had their best season in 45 years. They have the Rookie of the Year, a catcher who is already one of the sport’s preeminent leaders, and a 2024 Rookie of the Year favorite in Jackson Holliday. And they’re all surrounded by more talent. Postseason wins are coming. These are the good old days.
Rays: You’re living in the best of times.
It’s strange that 2023 could be considered a disappointment, considering the Rays had the second-most wins in their franchise’s history. That the Rays would just miss out on the AL East title they once thought was theirs and then fall short in the postseason, made Rays fans feel shortchanged, but this is still a team that has had its three best seasons ever in the last four years, including a World Series appearance. There are questions they have to answer, but they are starting from an excellent place.
Red Sox: A new leadership group in charge.
The Red Sox haven’t quite been as bad as their fans have sometimes felt the last few years, but there’s no doubt the Sox haven’t met their fans’ standards. They have Craig Breslow in charge now, a guy who double majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale. So he’s got that goin’ for him.
Yankees: Aaron Judge is still Aaron Judge.
It remains to be seen how Judge evolves as he gets deeper into his thirties, but for a team that has so many questions moving forward and not a lot of obvious answers, Judge is a constant … and capable of changing every game he’s in with one swing. And as fun a guy to root for as you’ll find.
Guardians: José Ramírez, a guy you can count on.
The Guardians have a new manager, and perhaps a new direction, but they still have their perpetual MVP candidate, a player the rest of baseball has never quite appreciated but is quietly building himself a Hall of Fame résumé.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr. remains a player to build around.
The Royals have a nice farm system and did some interesting things last year, but the key for them moving forward was the big step forward taken by Witt, who cleaned up his defense and put together another terrific offensive season that earned him some MVP votes. There are talks of an extension, and the Royals best get it done: This is a player they’ll want around for a long time.
Tigers: The young players are coming along.
Riley Greene, when he wasn’t injured, proved himself as the sort of regular the Tigers will have in the middle of their lineup for years to come, but the leap taken by Spencer Torkelson (31 homers!) may have been just as important.
Twins: The skid is over!
The Twins won a playoff game! Not just that: A series! You can want a little bit more from a postseason run while still appreciating what just happened. All those “the Twins have lost THIS MANY postseason games in a row” stories … you’ll never have to hear about that again.
White Sox: A new direction.
It’s going to be a tumultuous year or two for the White Sox and their fans, one suspects, but it’s now clear that the last era, the one that was supposed to be the peak era, just didn’t work out. It’s clearly time for a reset.
Angels: Mike Trout is still here.
Shohei Ohtani might not be, though hey, you never know. But Mike Trout is still the best player this franchise has ever seen, and he should be healthy by the beginning of the season. You still get to watch him every day.
Astros: Jose Altuve is Jose Altuve again.
He turns 34 in May, and while it has at times felt like a decline is coming, Altuve has returned to his spot as one of the best, most fun-to-watch players in baseball. He’s probably going to be a Hall of Famer someday. It’s incredible what he’s been able to do, and what he’s still able to do.
A’s: There’s more young talent here than many realize.
You know, there are a lot of teams in baseball who would love to have four twenty-somethings who hit like Brent Rooker, Ryan Noda, Shea Langeliers and, especially, Zack Gelof, who quietly played at an All-Star level down the stretch. You can build around that.
Look, we do not know when the Mariners will reach their first World Series, but it sure feels like Julio Rodríguez is going to be the guy who leads them there.
Rangers: You just won the World Series.
Seriously. You just won the World Series.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Almost everybody who was here in 2023 will still be here in '24.
Braves fans were bummed with how their postseason turned out, but let’s not get it twisted: This team is stacked and, more to the point, still stacked. This Braves core is not going anywhere. They’re going to be good again in 2024, and for many years to come.
Marlins: Signs of clear, obvious progress.
There was some front office transition in Miami this offseason, but you still have to feel good about how 2023 turned out: A playoff appearance, young players stepping up, a Manager of the Year Award. There are things to cheer in Miami, and there haven’t always been.
Mets: The retooling is off to a good start.
Obviously, 2023 didn’t go the way the Mets, the fans and their owner wanted it to. But they did what you’d like to see from a team that had such a setback: They cut their losses, brought in some exciting young talent when they traded off Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and are well-positioned to take some big steps forward over the next few years.
Nationals: Late, this team showed what it might soon be.
If you wanted proof of concept that the Nats could be building something over the next few years, you got it down the stretch when they played basically .500 ball after the All-Star break. It might not be happening immediately, but you can certainly believe it’ll be happening soon.
Phillies: The best postseason show any of us saw.
The Phillies and their fans were devastated by their loss in the NLCS, particularly when it looked so set up for them. But no one will soon forget what Citizens Bank Park looked like in October … and could look like for many Octobers to come.
Brewers: This is still the best run in franchise history.
It’s certainly up in the air what’s going to happen in Milwaukee this offseason -- it is a year of transition. But this is a franchise that has made the playoffs only nine times in its history … and five of those have come in the last six years.
Cardinals: 2023 is over.
2023 was a letdown from the get-go for the Cardinals, and now it’s finally over. They seem determined not to let a season like that happen again. Their fans can hope this was just a blip, never to be repeated.
Cubs: One of the most respected managers in baseball is here.
Even if you loved David Ross, Cubs fans have to be ecstatic to have Craig Counsell. Not only is he a great manager, he’s a sign of a franchise that’s serious about winning: You don’t bring in Counsell if you’re not.
Pirates: There’s young talent everywhere, and more is coming.
They may be a year or two away, but one of the most fun parts of being a sports fan is watching young players filter their way onto the roster. They just had Ke’Bryan Hayes win a Gold Glove. Oneil Cruz should be healthy for 2024. Henry Davis had a solid debut. Oh, and Bryan Reynolds is now locked up for a while. Pirates fans, it’s about to be that time.
Reds: Elly De La Cruz is just going to get better.
All told, the Elly Experience was a rush of excitement that settled into a more average offensive experience in 2023. But all that talent, it’s just wafting off him. Imagine what’s going to happen when he figures everything out.
D-backs: They made the World Series!
Even your most avid D-backs fan didn’t see a World Series appearance in their immediate future. Corbin Carroll certainly looks like a guy who will make sure it isn’t their last.
Dodgers: Even when everything goes wrong, they still win the division.
The season kept going sideways on the Dodgers in 2023, and they nevertheless found a way to win the NL West again. There are questions for 2024. And yet they’re still the favorites.
Giants: They are primed to make a move.
We’ve said that before about the Giants, obviously. But with the dugout transition to Bob Melvin, it’s clear that the Giants are ready to floor it. Get ready, some big things are about to happen.
Padres: You still have All-Stars everywhere.
Blake Snell is a free agent, Juan Soto could be on the trade market and they’re coming off a deeply frustrating season. They still have Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado. You know how many teams would love to have those guys? All of them.
Rockies: That stadium remains an absolute blast of a place to watch a game.
The Rockies are rebuilding, but Coors Field remains arguably the best place in MLB to watch a game.