Nov 28, 2013, 7:18 AM EDT
Some Major League Baseball franchises are more fortunate than others, that’s just the way it is. That’s life.
Some teams will celebrate this year’s Thanksgiving holiday with a lot more to be thankful for. But each team, even the Mets, have something to appreciate, something to behold for the present and the future.
As a glass half-full kind of guy, here is my attempt at coming up with something for every team, as in the spirit of the holiday, we should all be thankful.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
They found an MVP-caliber first baseman in the 8th round of the 2009 draft and he’s just entering his prime. Whoever scouted the guy deserves a raise, or a promotion, or something because Goldschmidt is a special talent. He hit .302 with 36 home runs and 125 RBI in 2013, his second full season as a pro. What if he gets even better?
Atlanta Braves – Craig Kimbrel
In looking for a Braves player to be thankful for, there are several directions you could go. Freddie Freeman is one of the game’s best young players and their outfield is loaded. Craig Kimbrel, however, has the chance to be special and is arguably the best player at his position. To have a guy like that ready to come in to pitch the ninth on any given night is a true luxury.
Baltimore Orioles – Buck Showalter
Ever since Buck Showalter walked through the door at Camden Yards for the first day as Orioles manager, the team has taken on a completely new identity. He’s built a team that can sustain success from year to year after being terrible for 15 seasons. As long as he’s around they should be in good shape.
Boston Red Sox – Literally everything
Seriously, what don’t Boston fans have to be thankful for? Everything these days comes up Boston and it’s not just the Red Sox who won a World Series a month ago. Next time you hear a Boston sports fan complaining about anything – even having to watch Jordan Crawford play for the Celtics every night – remember this: eight titles in 11 years.
Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field
The Cubs are in the middle of a rebuild that still isn’t showing any signs of promise. Anthony Rizzo can’t hit for average and Jeff Samardzija can’t keep runs off the board. Those are their two young pieces and neither have lived up to the hype. Sure, Alex Wood is good, but it’s all about that park. For as long as Wrigley Field exists, Cubs fans should be thankful for it.
Chicago White Sox – Chris Sale
I would say the Chicago Blackhawks, but that’d be cheating. The truth is, the White Sox are in an unfortunate state. They lost 99 games last season and did so with an aging team. They do, however, have Chris Sale who is one of the game’s best young starting pitchers. Chicago may end up trading him, but White Sox fans should enjoy having the southpaw while it lasts.
Cincinnati Reds – A new manager
I’m not one of the many people who have something against Dusty Baker. I think he is a good manager, just not a great one. But it has to be nice for Reds fans to get a new skipper in the dugout after falling short in the playoffs for several consecutive years. Bryan Price won’t be that significant of a change as he was their pitching coach, but it gives what many of the fans had been calling for: a new voice.
Cleveland Indians – Terry Francona
The timing Cleveland had to look for a manager was quite fortuitous. What if Francona had waited another year? The two-time World Series winner could have interviewed for the Nats job, or the Tigers, or the Reds. All three are as good of managing jobs as managing jobs get. Instead he joined the Indians and took them to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. He’s a great manager and they’re lucky to have him.
Colorado Rockies – Tulo and CarGo
The Rockies still haven’t put it all together, but you can’t blame their two best players. In Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies have two guys who are probably among the ten best position players in the game. Whether they win or not, the Rockies give their fans a reason to tune in every single night.
Detroit Tigers – Miggy and Verlander
The Tigers also have two elite players and each is a transcendent talent. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter of his generation and Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers of his. Both are 30 years old. Tigers fans should have another five years or so watching two likely Hall of Famers play out their primes.
Houston Astros – 1st overall picks
Each of the last two years the Astros have picked first overall, taking shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012 and pitcher Mark Appel in 2013. They also have the top pick for 2014 after losing a ridiculous 111 games this past season. Neither Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper were available for them to pick, but you’d like to think their chances of acquiring a future star are pretty good. By the way, how lucky were the Nationals?
Kansas City Royals – 2014
The Kansas City Royals fell short of making the playoffs this season with 86 wins, and haven’t played a postseason game since 1985. Next year, however, could be the one as they just finished the best season they’ve had since 1989. It will likely take an improvement of at least six or seven wins, but there is more promise in Kansas City than there has been in decades.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Mike Trout
Mike Trout is as special a talent Major League Baseball has seen in a long, long time. He can do everything and do it well, and is extremely entertaining to watch. The Angels could continue to overpay for free agents and see it get them nowhere, but Trout’s future could be exciting and he’s under team control until 2018.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Their ownership group
When the Dodgers put their current team together all of us said they wouldn’t win, that you can’t just throw money at a team and be successful. We were right at first, but then something clicked and now the Dodgers look like a force for years to come. Whatever you say about how they handle their business, their owners clearly want to win very badly and you can’t say that about every franchise. Also, consider how the Frank McCourt era ended in 2012.
Miami Marlins – Fernandez and Stanton
Similar to the Rockies, the Marlins are a bad team – even worse than Colorado – but have two young stars that many teams and fanbases would love to have. Jose Fernandez recently won the NL Rookie of the Year and Giancarlo Stanton already has 117 career homers and he just turned 24. Would you rather be the Astros or the Marlins? That one’s pretty easy.
Milwaukee Brewers – Jean Segura
The Brewers were awful in 2013 with a record of 74-88 and, to make matters worse, their farm system is practically barren. Add into the equation the unprecedented mess created by Ryan Braun – who, by the way, lied to these very fans – and it is a really bad time to root for the Brew Crew. If there is one bright spot to point out, however, it would be shortstop Jean Segura who is a solid young player. He also helped fans feel better about seeing Zack Greinke traded from the team.
Minnesota Twins – Top prospects
Minnesota lost 96 games last year and will now move Joe Mauer to first base because of injuries. There have been better days for Twins fans. They do, however, happen to have two of the game’s best young prospects. In MLB.com’s list of the top 100 MLB prospects from Jonathan Mayo, OF Byron Buxton ranks first overall and 3B Miguel Sano is slotted third. Pitching may be a different story, but that’s some serious young talent.
New York Mets – Modern medicine
Ooh, this one’s tough. Do you go with Zack Wheeler or David Wright? What about Travis d’Arnaud? Each are players with bright futures, certainly Wright is a great guy to have. But with Matt Harvey recovering from Tommy John surgery, it’s tough to look on the bright side. The best thing for the Mets right now is probably the fact Tommy John surgery has been perfected to the point that it has. Chances are Harvey will return in 2015 and be a good pitcher again. We’ll see.
New York Yankees – 27 World Series titles
The Yankees are the most successful professional franchise in American sports. That’s really all that needs to be said.
Oakland Athletics – The Giants
An idea has been floated around, both by fans and in the courts, to move the Oakland Athletics 40 miles south to the city of San Jose. The Giants, who play in the middle of both cities, have blocked the move. If the A’s did pack their bags for San Jose, perhaps it would be good for the franchise itself and their owner. But for local Oakland fans, they would technically lose their team.
Philadelphia Phillies – Cole Hamels
This is another tough one. Just when you thought the Phillies were going to start over, they doubled down on 2014 with a roster that is old and probably over-the-hill. They do have Cole Hamels though who recovered to have a decent 2013 season. As long as Hamels pitches like the guy we’re used to seeing, they have an ace to build around whenever those changes come.
Pittsburgh Pirates – The 2013 playoffs
It may have taken them 20 years to get back in the postseason, but man 2013 was fun. Hopefully it doesn’t take them as long to get back. They have some nice young players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole though, so they’ll probably be back soon.
San Diego Padres – San Diego
The Padres have been bad for three years now after winning 90 games in 2010, and have posted losing seasons in five of the last six years. On top of that, Bud Black is back for another year after overseeing that unfortunate run. They are also nearly completely devoid of young talent to build around. But hey, San Diego is a really nice place to live.
San Francisco Giants – Buster Posey
I would say they should be thankful for two recent World Series titles, and I’m sure Giants fans are. But now it’s about the future after they lost 86 games in 2013 and it all revolves around Posey. The 26-year-old has started his career as well as any player in recent memory and it will be fun to see what he has in store for the next decade or so.
Seattle Mariners – King Felix
It seems every year the Mariners enter the season with a considerable amount of hope. They’ve taken players who were stars in college with high draft picks and every time one of them reaches the majors baseball fans take note. All of their prospects seem to fall short of expectations, though. So to have Felix Hernandez be as good and as consistent is he is is something to be thankful for. He is one of the game’s two or three best pitchers and he’s only 27.
St. Louis Cardinals – Michael Wacha
It is sports irony in its most purest form how the Cardinals took Michael Wacha with the compensation pick from letting Albert Pujols, just perfect. Now the 6-foot-6 starter is a household name for baseball fans and a big part of the team’s future. After riding the success of big aces Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright for so many years, they may have found their eventual successor.
Tampa Bay Rays – Rays’ front office
The Rays spend very little money, yet continue to trot out excellent baseball teams year after year. It has a lot to do with Joe Maddon and his ability as a manager, but their front office and scouting department in particular deserve a lot of credit. Each year they seem to lose guys to free agency and each year they have a young prospect to replace them. Tampa fans may not actually go to the games, but they have plenty to be thankful for.
Texas Rangers – Prince Fielder
Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you celebrate that includes presents came early for the Rangers this year as they brought in five-time All-Star Prince Fielder in a trade with the Tigers. Fielder has his faults and an outrageous contract, but he’s still an elite offensive player and gives Rangers fans hope. Texas has been in neutral in recent years with their roster going stale, this could be the spark they need.
Toronto Blue Jays – Home runs
Fans love home runs and the Blue Jays hit a lot of them. Toronto, in fact, ranked fourth in baseball with 185 homers hit as a team. That’s a lot of bombs. Edwin Encarcion in particular has been sensational with 78 taters in the last two years combined. They may lose a lot of games and play in the league’s toughest division, but at least they’re fun to watch.
Washington Nationals – A championship window
Just to make a comparison, consider how rare a ‘championship window’ has been for D.C. sports teams in recent years. In my lifetime, the Bullets/Wizards have never had one. It’s been over two decades since the Redskins could justify a window for title contention. Yes, the Caps technically have one, but they haven’t done anything with it. The Nationals have a legitimate opportunity to compete for a championship, and due to their youth, it could play out through the rest of this decade. Whether they capitalize or not, it is an exciting time to be a Nats fan and for that D.C. should be thankful for such an optimistic future.
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com.
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