Many of us may have trouble remembering things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. It’s been a year in which so many of us have been touched personally by illness and death.
Look hard enough, and you’ll still find things to be grateful for in 2020. Babies were born, people got married, and vital workers did their jobs without asking for thanks, but deserving them.
When I look at the standings for the 2020 season, I always cringe. Was it possible that the Orioles played only 60 games, and that two pitchers, Thomas Eshelman and Travis Lakins, shared the club lead with three wins?
Is it possible that DJ Stewart led Oriole hitters with 20 walks, and that a reliever, Cole Sulser, issued 17 walks in just 22 1/3 innings?
Yes, those things happened, but as you gather around your much smaller group at Thanksgiving, let’s pause as we find Orioles to be thankful for.
Let’s be thankful—and delighted—that Trey Mancini’s colon cancer was caught early, treated expertly and handled gallantly. With the loving help of Sara Perlman, Mancini is healthy and poised for a heartwarming and productive comeback in 2021.
That Mancini is using his position for colorectal cancer awareness is awesome, and he’ll be a huge asset in that fight.
Be thankful that Cal Ripken Jr’s prostate cancer was discovered early, too, and that the Iron Man returned to normal life quickly and is also raising awareness of this disease.
The Orioles had few reported cases of Covid-19. Anthony Santander, Dwight Smith Jr. and Bruce Zimmermann were found to have it when they reported for summer camp.
They recovered nicely, and no other teammate was known to have contracted it. Big thanks to head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and his staff for that.
Thanks to the Orioles public relations staff, who worked tirelessly, and without notice—except from us—in dealing with an awful situation gracefully. Hopefully, they’ll all be together for the 2021 season.
There were Orioles’ performances on and off the field to be thankful for. Santander showed that he could be a true power force and, despite missing the last three weeks of the season because of an oblique injury, was voted the Most Valuable Oriole and was a finalist for the Gold Glove in right field.
Hanser Alberto, whose future is in question, helped alert his fellow Dominicans of the dangers of Covid-19 and, along with other major leaguers, distributed food, medicine and supplies in his hometown of San Francisco de Macoris, which was ravaged by the pandemic.
Alberto also recorded announcements in English and Spanish to alert Marylanders about the pandemic.
John Means pitched the 2020 season with a heavy heart after his father, Alan, died from pancreatic cancer at age 58 in early August.
Means was always expansive and thoughtful during his postgame Zoom interviews, and pitched brilliantly in September, raising the hopes of Oriole fans that he could help mentor a young pitching staff.
Be thankful that with Zimmermann, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, there were some young pitchers with promise with more on the way.
Many fans were hoping for an early 2020 debut for Ryan Mountcastle. That didn’t happen but, when he finally was called up, he was far better than expected—at bat and in left field, too. He’s still eligible for the Rookie of the Year in 2021.
Cedric Mullins is thankful that he had an opportunity in 2020 after a lost season in 2019. He showed that there’s still a place for defense and speed, leading the majors in bunt hits.
The “make it up as you go along” rules of 2020 gave us some unforgettable moments. There was Austin Hays with a leadoff two-run home run in the 10th inning in Philadelphia and Lakins scoring a run in the eighth inning, an extra inning in a seven-inning doubleheader. These were made possible by the new rule, which placed a runner on second to start extra innings.
Stewart gave us some thrills, hitting six home runs in six games. Fans are hoping there are more in 2021.
Relief pitchers Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro are missed. Bleier talked to a few of us through a security fence during summer camp, hoping we’d be around to talk to him without barriers. He was traded to Miami on July 31st, and it was great to see that he made a playoff appearance for the Marlins
Castro was always fun to have around, and he talked with us after he was traded. He flew back from Buffalo, where the Orioles were playing Toronto, on the team plane with his now ex-teammates. His new team, the New York Mets, were the Orioles’ next opponent.
Tanner Scott and Dillon Tate showed growth in the bullpen, and 35-year-old César Valdez, one of the humblest players I’ve covered, treasured his new -ound success in the majors. It’s great to see a pitcher succeed who doesn’t throw 95 miles per hour.
It was another challenging season for Alex Cobb, but he was always available after his starts and found himself in an admittedly difficult position after the Orioles’ game at Tampa Bay was postponed on August 27th after the teams agreed not to play.
Protests around the country and in the sports world centered on police shootings of young black men, and Cobb, whose brother is a police officer and decorated Iraq war veteran, spoke eloquently about seeing both sides of a difficult issue.
Through all of these challenges, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde kept his team from crumbling, and actually recorded a better winning percentage in 2020 than it had in 2019.
A year ago, we couldn’t have predicted this awful year, and some of us are simply thankful to be healthy and safe. Perhaps next Thanksgiving we’ll have much more to cherish.