This time of year, it’s all about tradition. From now until then end of the calendar year, we’ll do a lot of the same things we’ve always done, get together with the same people we’ve always gotten together with, eat the same foods that we always eat, and expect nothing less, getting irate if things are just a little bit off. (OK, maybe that’s just me.) One of the traditions around this blog, besides Playing Pepper and Exit Interviews and Star Wars mashups, is taking time at Thanksgiving to talk about what we, as Cardinal fans, have to be thankful for. I’m not talking family or health or anything like that–we all know we are thankful for those things–but things specific to us as fans of the St. Louis club.
In no particular order…..
I’m thankful for at least a year of Jason Heyward. I’m hopeful that we’ll have more years of his play to be thankful for in the future, but even if it was just one year, it was great to see him wearing the birds on the bat. His defense was outstanding, his baserunning was inspired, and he could hit a little bit as well. There’s a reason most everyone is on the #SignJasonHeyward bandwagon. It was something wonderful to watch.
I’m thankful for the leadership of Adam Wainwright. Sometimes it manifests itself in strange ways–I expect Lance Lynn thought he was being “like Waino” when he tried to play through his arm issues–but I think it’s an attitude that has pervaded the clubhouse. To see a staff ace work his tail off to come back and contribute out of the bullpen has to make an impact on some of the younger players. I’m not saying anyone on the club isn’t working hard, but that’s a high bar for folks to try to attain. Mix in that determination with his playfulness and his wisdom and he’s the perfect person to lead this team.
I’m thankful for the consistent winning. Yes, getting a World Series title again would be nice, but what I want out of baseball is the everyday wins. This is the background of our lives for half a year (the games are–the Game is all year long) and wanting to watch this team, expecting a win or at least some quality play, can’t be minimized. I’m sure that there were Reds fans and Brewers fans that were watching every night down the stretch, but it had to be at least somewhat more of an obligation than a joy. The Cardinals, for a long while now, have given us meaningful games all the way through September, which means that more often than not, the day ends on a positive note. It’s a joy to be able to say that.
I’m thankful for Yadier Molina and his defensive abilities. It’s not quite the same as it used to be–I never tired of that pickoff play he and Albert Pujols ran–but to hear people continue to rave over Yadi and his pitch calling is a great aspect of being a Cardinals fan. Some people may think that Yadi gets overrated by us and perhaps that’s somewhat true, but Molina is still a rare talent and likely the last person to wear #4 in St. Louis.
I’m thankful for the emergence of Carlos Martinez. This time last year we wondered what he really could do as a big league starter. Now, we’ve got an idea and it’s pretty great. He’s a dominant force in the rotation and his absence in the postseason left a hole that no one could truly fill. Then, to add into that mix, he’s got more personality than we’ve seen out of most of this Cardinal prospects. (I think one cup stacking incident was more personality than Stephen Piscotty showed all year–I don’t say that to bash Piscotty, just to underscore how stoic he was!) He’s a guy, as I’ve said numerous times, that would get plenty of attention if he wasn’t on the “fun hating” Cardinals. I really look forward to him getting back out there again next season, cups and all.
I’m thankful for solid and committed ownership. There are going to be those that point the finger at Bill DeWitt should Heyward get away or they don’t sign someone like David Price or Zack Greinke. However, DeWitt has consistently been a force for good in St. Louis baseball, providing money when necessary (look at the payroll versus market size) and allowing those in management to do their job without having a micromanager hanging over their shoulder. In February, The Cardinals Way comes out. I’ve read a preview copy of it and once you get a chance to read it, I think you’ll see just how innovative and risk-taking DeWitt has been at times, even when he seemingly had every reason to stay the course. Even when things have gone wrong, DeWitt and company haven’t panic but have trusted in what they’ve built. So far, so very good.
I’m thankful to be a fan of a team that’s held to such a high standard, especially since they so often meet it. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of folks around the Internet that roll their eyes whenever the Cardinals are mentioned. I remember when that used to be the Yankees. People were always so frustrated with them because they won and won a lot. Now it’s St. Louis’s turn. Sure, they toss in “the Cardinal Way” like it’s some new slogan only this team would come up with (spoiler alert–many other teams have had a Way in the past and in the present) or think the club is some sanctimonious group, but really, most of that has passed with Tony La Russa leaving town, folks just haven’t caught up yet. (Plus, if their team does something similar, it probably gets glossed over.) We’ve got BestFansStLouis on Twitter and folks just itching to bring any Cardinal fan down a peg. It’s OK. You can’t bring someone down if they aren’t up high in the first place.
I’m thankful that Tyler Lyons not only still wears #70, but is becoming more and more relevant to this team. What started almost as a joke has become a real rooting interest and it’s great to see him continue to develop.
I’m thankful that we get to see Matt Carpenter hit every day. He had a different style this year–more power, more strikeouts–but he’s still an impact hitter on a team that doesn’t have many of them. He’s also fairly adept afield, even if he has to shift to second or first for some reason. He’s probably going to be a core player in this squad for a long time to come and it’s fun to get to see him out there every day.
I’m thankful that the organization treats the bloggers so well. Whether it’s the annual Blogger Day at the ballpark or the more recent ability to ask John Mozeliak questions that he’ll actually answer, the club makes sure to listen to us and interact with us. It’s a small thing on their part but it means a lot to myself and the others.
I’m thankful for the friends that I’ve made while talking and writing about this team. Whether it’s fellow bloggers in the United Cardinal Bloggers, a commenter here on the blog, or folks that have interacted on Twitter with me, it’s always enjoyable to talk about the Cardinals with like-minded (or at least reasonable if not like-minded) fans. I’ve been doing this for over eight years now and I know that I might have given it up if it hadn’t been for those that encourage, those that like what I do and tell me so. I hope I can be as encouraging to them as they have been to me!
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you are traveling, you can do so safely. For those of you dealing with family that are Cub fans, remember, be kind and gracious if at all possible. They don’t have years like this very often. The least we can do is smile and humor them.