MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Reasons to be thankful abound in baseball

Reasons to be thankful abound in baseball

We pause now to give thanks for the World Series the Cubs and Indians just gave us. There surely has never been a more perfect way to finish a baseball season.

We're thankful, too, for Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, for Francisco Lindor and Adrian Beltre and for packed ballparks on hot summer days and gut-churning pennant races.

Has there ever been a better time to be a baseball fan? Here's to a thankful Thanksgiving, everyone.

What does your team have to be thankful for?

Angels -- Trout is a joy to watch play baseball, and wouldn't it be cool to see him back in the postseason? That's a real possibility in 2017 amid reports that Angels ace Garrett Richards is healthy and will be good to go on Opening Day.

Astros -- In Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman, the Astros have four of the best and most exciting players in the game. They're the foundation of a club that has transformed the Astros. At 27, Springer is the oldest of the group.

Springer's solo homer

Athletics -- The Athletics have done a nice job of acquiring young pitching depth. All the top contenders -- at least 10 -- for the starting rotation are 27 or under. This is a solid foundation on which to build a path back to contention. Top baseball executives Billy Beane and David Forst are smart and fearless, and in Bob Melvin, the A's have one of the most respected managers in baseball.

Blue Jays -- Baseball has been reawakened the last two summers, with a packed ballpark and a team that has Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez and a string of other stars.

Braves -- Good times are back. The Braves are moving into a beautiful new ballpark in 2017, and they've got a roster loaded with young talent. Atlanta was 37-35 after the All-Star break in 2016 as 22-year-old Dansby Swanson leads the franchise into an era of optimism.

Swanson starts fantastic DP

Brewers -- Optimism abounds. General manager David Stearns has methodically reshaped the organization around pitching and youth. That transformation showed up during a 16-13 September and as the Brewers compiled the third-best ERA in the Majors (3.59) after the All-Star break.

Cardinals -- Few baseball fans have more to be thankful for than those in St. Louis. Their team has won more games than any other the last six seasons and been to the postseason five times. There's a packed ballpark virtually every night.

Cubs -- You don't have to ask, do you? This World Series didn't just fulfill the dreams of Cubs fans. Baseball fans around the world were captivated by this World Series -- by how it was played and how it ended and the team that won it. Hats off to you, owner Tom Ricketts, and your main baseball man, Theo Epstein.

D-backs -- First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the kind of player every other franchise is trying to acquire. Besides having made four straight National League All-Star teams, he's deeply involved in a variety of charitable works off the field as well.

Goldy's two-run homer to center

Dodgers -- Four straight NL West championships. Four straight years of leading the Major Leagues in attendance. Dodger Stadium, arguably the most beautiful place on earth to watch a baseball game. Dodger Dogs.

Giants -- AT&T Park is spectacularly beautiful and packed every single night. Every game is a big event. And there are those three championships. And great players like Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. And a manager, Bruce Bochy, who has already punched his ticket to Cooperstown.

Indians -- In 2016, the Indians exemplified everything we love about sports. They were a very solid team for four months. Then they were hit hard by injuries. And somehow, showing determination and guts and all that other stuff, they got even better.

Mariners -- There was a rebirth of great baseball at Safeco Field in 2016. Robinson Cano continued his Hall of Fame arc. Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz had great years. Young pitchers stepped up. Manager Scott Servais did a terrific job molding general manager Jerry Dipoto's acquisitions into a team that was in contention until the 161st game of the season.

Marlins -- This year, Giancarlo Stanton had the hardest-hit baseball of the Statcast™ era -- 123.9 mph. He also had the next four hardest-hit balls and eight of the top 12 in 2016. In seven seasons, he has averaged 30 home runs despite playing 150 games just once. No player in baseball is more fun to watch.

Statcast: Stanton's hot grounder

Mets -- Matt Harvey is healthy. So are Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. Throw them into a rotation with Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, and the Mets are poised to do something special in 2017.

Nationals -- In the last five seasons, the Nationals have won 458 regular-season games and been to the postseason three times. Only the Cardinals have won more regular-season games among all 30 Major League teams. The Nationals will be back in the postseason mix again in 2017 with another chance to make a deep October run.

Orioles -- In Camden Yards, the Orioles have arguably baseball's most beautiful ballpark. In Dan Duquette, they have a general manager that has made the Birds the American League's winningest team the last five years. Finally, in manager Buck Showalter, center fielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy, the Orioles have a clubhouse environment as good as any.

Padres -- Wil Myers became the star he was long projected to be in his fourth Major League season. He produced 29 doubles, 28 home runs and a .797 OPS. Still just 25 years old, Myers could get even better even though he's plenty good enough already.

Myers' three-run jack

Phillies -- It's impossible to watch the Phillies and not be impressed with the youth and energy from Odubel Herrera, Jorge Alfaro, Maikel Franco, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickoff, etc. There's more talent on the way, most notably shortstop J.P. Crawford and outfielder Nick Williams.

Pirates -- There's young homegrown talent in every corner of the clubhouse. There's a winning tradition -- three playoff appearances in four seasons. There are regular crowds of more than 30,000 at one of baseball's most beautiful ballparks.

Rangers -- Beltre is as productive and as professional as almost any player in baseball. He's the heart and soul of a franchise that has been to the postseason in four of his six seasons and that he's a virtual slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Rays -- You can watch a lot of Major League baseball without seeing a player as good as Evan Longoria. That he has played all 1,279 career games for the Tampa Bay Rays says plenty about both the franchise and Longoria's emotional investment in the community. Now 31, he's coming off one of his best seasons -- 41 doubles, 36 home runs, .840 OPS.

Longoria's RBI double

Reds -- Joey Votto's on-base percentage was .490 after the All-Star break. His batting average was .408. Votto's .961 OPS after 10 seasons is the 18th-best of all time, better than that of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson.

Red Sox -- Fenway Park is that place that breathes history. You can imagine what it was like when Ted Williams stood there at home plate. On a roster loaded with talented young players, the best thing about watching the Red Sox play is still the ballpark. Its magic and beauty endure.

Rockies -- The Rockies appear to be on the cusp of greatness. They've got arguably the best group of young pitchers they've ever had. They've got two of baseball's best players in Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez. They've got young position players scattered around their lineup.

Arenado named Silver Slugger

Royals -- Here's to Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer, to Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas, and to one more October in Kansas City. Here's to the men who led the KC baseball renaissance -- David and Dan Glass, Dayton Moore, Ned Yost.

Tigers -- Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are at that point in their careers where we can begin to appreciate how good they've been. Cabrera may already have punched his ticket to Cooperstown, and Verlander is close.

Twins -- In Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the Twins have just added two of the brightest people in baseball. They will get the Twins on the right track and probably do it more quickly than anyone expects.

White Sox -- Adam Eaton is one of the best-kept secrets in baseball. Not only is he an on-base machine -- .362 OBP the last three seasons -- but he's also one of the best center fielders in the game.

Eaton's diving catch

Yankees -- Make way for the kids: Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin. They get their chance to lead the Yankees into a bright and shiny new era.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.