It’s become almost a tradition in this space (wherever this space might be) to take a look at Thanksgiving from the perspective of a Cardinal fan. (See 2012, 2008, and 2007.) While a number of the items are the same on every list, that’s to be expected. For instance, most of us are thankful for family, friends, a job, etc. every year, right? (And to be clear, I’m quite thankful for all of those things this year as well.) So what should Cardinal fans be giving thanks for this year?
–Bill DeWitt and the ownership group. Let’s start at the very top, shall we? The Cardinals are blessed with a smart and savvy ownership group that respects and appreciates the game. There are going to be no crazy selloffs in St. Louis as there have been in Miami or no penny-pinching when one more player might make the difference. I’d argue that there’s not a better ownership group in the game than the one running the Cardinals and for that, we should be thankful.
–John Mozeliak. When the lists of top GMs are made around the game now, it’s a rare one that doesn’t include Mo on it. Mozeliak has been able to do the nearly impossible this offseason, improving the team while keeping all the good trade chips. Even his missteps, infrequent as they are, have a minimal negative impact on the team. When you look at what other teams, such as Philadelphia and Anaheim, are doing, it makes you really appreciate having the bow-tied one at the helm.
–Mike Matheny. While Matheny isn’t necessarily the cream of the crop when it comes to managers, he’s not bad either. He has his foibles and, to some degree, we vocal fans should be thankful for those because it gives us something to Tweet about during games. He’s also been a steady hand and a calm presence on a team that almost make three straight World Series appearances. It looks easier than it is and there’s no telling what another manager would have done.
–Chris Carpenter. While Carp really hasn’t given much on the field in the last couple of years, that doesn’t diminish what he meant–what he means–to this organization. His competitive spirit and fire will shape those coming up for years to come. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Carpenter around St. Louis, which is another thing to be thankful for as well. It’s often said of Carpenter you’d hate him unless he was on your team. I’m thankful that we don’t have to test that.
–Adam Wainwright. When Carpenter laid down the mantle of staff ace, Waino was right there to pick it up. It was almost like a Doctor Who regeneration, where it’s a different face, a different personality, but the same powers and effectiveness. Waino is quick with a joke, a smile, or a funky dance, but when he gets on the mound, he’s like Carpenter 2.0. I’m thankful not only to have him as a Cardinal, but that he signed that long-term contract back in February so he’ll be a Cardinal for a long time to come.
–Michael Wacha. The season as we know it would have been a lot different without this rookie. Without his outing in the NLDS, there’s a good chance we are still wondering exactly what went wrong this year instead of talking about the best team in the National League. His no-hit bid was perhaps the most exciting performance of the season. I don’t know that he can live up to all this going forward, but we can definitely be thankful he’s a Cardinal.
–Ballpark Village. It’s finally become something more than a punch line. The buildings have taken shape and the inside work is underway, with the Opening Day deadline being extremely likely. Those in St. Louis may appreciate it more than the diaspora, but there’s no doubt that if you are looking for something to do before the game (or some Ted Drewes afterwards), you’ll be thankful that it’s there next season.
–Carlos Beltran. He may be gone, but he won’t be forgotten. Beltran stepped in when Albert Pujols left and helped this team be a playoff team both years he was here. It also helped ease the sting of the icon leaving to know that some of the money was immediately going to a proven slugger. The realities of baseball mean that Beltran will wear a different jersey next season, but we give thanks for what he gave us in his brief time under the Arch.
–Matt Carpenter. You can always be thankful for pleasant surprises. Carpenter probably had his career year last year, but it was a wonderful year to have. We were just hoping that he could play second without embarrassing himself. Instead, he wound up fourth in the MVP voting. This Cardinal team would have been in a world of hurt had he not been as good as he was.
–David Freese. He didn’t have the best 2013 and he’s now a member of the Angels, but we can give thanks for what Freese did while playing for the hometown nine. We’ll always remember Game 6, of course, but there was more to his tenure than two amazing at-bats in one playoff game. It’s easily overlooked that he was MVP of the NLCS that year as well and put up 20 homers last season. We wish Freese the best as he restarts his career on the West Coast and are thankful for what he did for the Cardinals.
–Yadier Molina. There are almost too many things to be thankful for when it comes to the Cardinal catcher. Do you single out his offense, his all-around hitting prowess combined with his very low strikeout totals? What about his defense, as he continues to pile up Gold and Platinum gloves? (I missed it, but Yadi missed his third straight Platinum glove by 0.2%.) Or his leadership, shepherding a staff full of rookies through the high pressure of a pennant race and the playoffs?
–The Cardinals. You could list almost every player and find a reason to be thankful that they are part of the Cardinal organization. Personally, and this flows from the ownership down in my opinion, I’m thankful that this is a classy, well-run team that I root for. I know that “The Cardinal Way” has come under some mockery and attack recently and the “Best Fans In Baseball” label is now, for many, sarcasm instead of tribute. It doesn’t matter. This team does things, on the whole, the right way and in a way that I can be proud of being a Cardinal fan. I’m thankful I don’t have to twist myself into knots rationalizing things that they do. They aren’t perfect (some would argue the Jhonny Peralta stuff falls into that, though obviously Nick and I don’t), but I can’t imagine a better team to be a fan of than the Redbirds.
Now, personally, I’m thankful for a lot of things as well that tie into my Cardinal fandom. I’m grateful for Twitter, which allows me to feel like I’m at the game even when sitting on my couch. I’m grateful to Bonfyre, which allows us Cardinal fans to have some real conversations that aren’t limited to 140 characters. I’m grateful that Fox Sports Midwest televises every game the major networks don’t, so that I can see this team on a daily basis.
I’m grateful for those in the United Cardinal Bloggers, who make being a fan so much more fun. I’m grateful for our new guys like Ben and Dan and John and Joe (even if Joe did beat me for Best Individual Blog this year!) I’m thankful for the “old guard” like Christine and Tara and Bill and Matt and the Redbird Rants crew. I’m thankful for the UCB hosts like Kevin and Jon and Chris who give voice to some great opinions on a weekly basis.
I’m thankful for the smart guys like Pip that write stuff that I can only begin to grasp. I’m thankful for the history guys like Bob and Mark who keep us tethered to this great rich past that the Cardinals have. I’m thankful that we’ve got a family involved in this whole blogging thing, with Tom and Rodney (and the other boys). I’m thankful that we even go international with our Korean group of guys.
I’m thankful that there are so many bloggers involved with the UCB that I’m having trouble naming them all. I’m thankful for Corey and Corey, for Diane and Eliza, for Jeff and Joe, for JP and Mark, for Mary, Scott, Scott and Wes.
Most of all, I’m thankful for my Conclave brethren. It’s been a joy to work with Steve, Mike, Mike, and Dustin. I’m always thankful of the conversations I have with Dathan and Josh on a regular basis. I can’t say enough how thankful I am that Nick decided this was a good idea and did all the hard technical stuff to get us up and running.
As Cardinal fans, we are well and truly blessed. In the last decade, there have been four trips to the World Series, two titles, and really no season where the team has been out of it when September rolls around. There is so much to be thankful for.
Most importantly, this: We aren’t Cub fans!