“Being thankful” and “2020” haven’t usually gone into the same sentence without a negative word somewhere in there. After all, since back in March we’ve dealt with lockdowns, masks, and a rising infection (and, sadly, death) toll from COVID-19. The baseball season was curtailed and turned out much different than we are used to. It’s not a year that anyone is really going to be that interested in reliving the memories of going forward, I don’t believe.
However, even in the dark, there’s some light. There are still things to be thankful for on this holiday. Hopefully, if you are reading this, you have your health. (If not, why are you subjecting yourself to my writing and making things worse?) It’s possible that you lost loved ones in this season and that Thanksgiving is going to be completely different than normal, but there are still people that care about you in your lives and hopefully you can see some of them today, even if it’s via technology and not sitting down at the same table.
Strictly from a baseball sense, there are other things to be thankful for if you are a Cardinal fan. For instance:
- There actually was a season this year and it was completed. For a while there, between the virus and the general inability of players and owners to agree on anything, it looked like we might not see baseball at all in 2020. Instead, we got the season that we got. Nobody could go to the ballpark, the DH was employed, and there were a ton of doubleheaders for the Cardinals, but we still got to sit down most every day and watch a game. It was a lifeline to a different, more normal time.
- We got another year of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. We might see these two back in Cardinal red next year, we might see them in other, strange uniforms. Whatever the future holds, getting to see these legends back on the field this year was a great thing. Not that they were always on top of their game, but they definitely had their moments, whether it was Wainwright’s complete game on his birthday or Molina’s home run wearing #21 for Roberto Clemente.
- The Cardinals were again a playoff team. Even though they had such an obstacle course, first dealing with an extended layoff due to the virus getting into the clubhouse and then the gauntlet of games they had to make up, St. Louis was still good enough in the shortened season to make the playoffs. In fact, even if the playoffs hadn’t been expanded, they would have gotten in (though they probably would have had to make up those games against Detroit that way). They were also the only NL Central team to win a game in October, they almost scored more runs in an inning than the other three NLC teams did in their entire series combined, and were just a few innings away from moving on to the next round before an uncharacteristic bullpen meltdown. It wasn’t a great Cardinal team but we’ve seen so much worse.
- Paul Goldschmidt returned to form. After seeing a still good but not great Goldschmidt in 2019, there was a bit of concern that the Cardinals had yet again acquired a player that couldn’t live up to his past exploits. That concern eased somewhat when Goldschmidt played every day and put up 2.1 fWAR (very close to the 2.9 he put up in much more 2019 time) while hitting .300 with 6 homers. The power might have been a bit low, since that would have been about 17 homers in a regular season, but the rest of his offensive game made him one of the few bats you could count on. The defense, well, that’s remained top notch.
- The pitching and defense stayed strong. Especially after last year, when there were significant gains made in the fielding department, you might have thought that the team would take a small step back in 2020. Instead, the glove work was as strong as ever. Tyler O’Neill and Kolten Wong won Gold Gloves while Goldschmidt, Molina, and Harrison Bader could make a case for recognition. Jack Flaherty wasn’t Bob Gibson again, but the emergence of Kwang Hyun Kim and the work of others like Austin Gomber kept the mound a fortress for St. Louis.
- Alex Reyes stayed healthy. We got to see a full season from the former phenom. He may never reach the heights that it looked like he would while he was making his way up the ladder, but he showed that he has plenty left to be an effective weapon, maybe more in the bullpen than the rotation. I’m glad that he finally got a chance to show his stuff in a more extended way.
- The Dylan Carlson era began. Perhaps not with the bang that we expected, but there’s no doubt there’s a bright future for that young man. The Official Prospect of the Blog struggled a bit early and wound up returning briefly to the alternate site in Springfield, but came on well enough at the end of the season to lay claim to the cleanup spot going into the playoffs. The last rookies that did that for the Cardinals you may have heard of–Stan Musial and Albert Pujols. While he probably won’t reach those levels, it’s good to have him on our side.
There were more positive things this year, of course, but that covers a lot of them. As always, though, there’s one major thing to give thanks for. Be thankful you are not a Cubs fan!