One year has passed since I penned my inaugural Baltimore Orioles as a Thanksgiving dinner article. And with my newborn baby son stirring quietly to my right in his bassinet, I am feeling reflective.
Reflective about how much I am thankful for since last Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my newborn, Grayson Levi, born November 4, 2023. I am thankful for the hundreds of thousands of people who have read and enjoyed my articles this past year and those of my fantastic colleagues at Birds Watcher. I am also thankful for the 2023 Baltimore Orioles, who caught the Rays for first place in July and never looked back en route to their first division crown since 2014.
So gather round, friends and family, for it is time for the second annual Baltimore Orioles as a Thanksgiving dinner article.
The Turkey - Gunnar Henderson
As I wrote last year, the turkey is the main event of the Thanksgiving meal. It is why people come to the table and what people think of when they think of Thanksgiving. Naming the Thanksgiving turkey is my way of celebrating the Orioles' best, must-see player. In 2022, it was Adley Rutschman. This year, it is Gunnar Henderson.
In his first full season in the Major Leagues, Henderson took home the American League Rookie of the Year Award, a Silver Slugger Award, and Most Valuable Oriole, for good measure. The 22 year-old was worth a team-high 6.3 WAR and was easily their best playoff performer.
Americans across the country will gather around their tables tonight for a turkey dinner. Just as Orioles fans gathered around their TV sets and packed Camden Yards to watch their star infielder, Gunnar Henderson.
Roast Goose/Ham - Adley Rutschman
For those who do not traditionally enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving, there are several alternatives, such as roast goose and ham, that find themselves on many Thanksgiving dinner tables. While Gunnar Henderson was my 2023 turkey, others may reasonably disagree and have another player as their 2023 centerpiece: Adley Rutschman.
While Rutschman served as the turkey last year, he was terrific in 2023 as well, posting 5.2 WAR, participating in the home run derby, and playing in the All-Star game. For those that prefer alternatives to turkey as their main course, I see you. For those who prefer Adley Rustchman to Gunnar Henderson in 2023 - that is perfectly reasonable as well.
Appetizers - Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer
Few Thanksgiving dinners start with a rush to the turkey. Our house is no different. The best "starter" at Thanksgiving dinner is homemade butternut squash soup, a recipe that my Aunt Natalie and mom Claire have followed for years. Kyle Bradish, the Orioles' best starting pitcher this year, is the butternut squash soup.
Not far behind, my amazing mother-in-law Lisa and Aunt Kay love preparing charcuterie boards and cream cheese tomato wraps before we dig into the bird. These two delectable starting plates are represented by two Orioles' fantastic starting pitchers, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer. Combined, Bradish, Rodriguez, and Kremer helped pitch the Orioles to their first division title since 2014 and first playoff appearance since 2016.
Mashed Potatoes/Cranberry Sauce/Stuffing/Mac and Cheese – Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle
Thanksgiving dinner isn't Thanksgiving dinner without delicious sides to compliment the main event, the turkey. While Gunnar Henderson carried the Orioles in 2023, the Orioles would not have won 101 games without tremendous contributions from Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, and Ryan Mountcastle, among others.
Cranberry/Apple Pie - Ryan O'Hearn
Never heard of Ryan O'Hearn before the 2023 baseball season? I bet you know him now. The previously unheralded first baseman, acquired from Kansas City during the offseason, hit .289 with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs in a mostly full-time role with the 101-win Orioles this year, leaving an unexpectedly sweet taste on fans' pallets heading into the offseason.
Prior to reading this article (or perhaps last years), you may never have heard of the delicious cranberry apple pie that my Aunt Lora originally obtained from a friend and makes the perfect compliment to the salty, briny turkey. Oats, brown sugar, butter, apples, cranberries – this is the “surprise” sweet side dish that we get to enjoy but has not made its way to tables around the country.
While Orioles fans are not soon to forget O'Hearn's contribution to the 2023 team, you will not soon forget this previously unknown sweet side dish if you try it this year. Feel free to reach out to me for the recipe.
Pumpkin Pie - Yennier Cano
Pumpkin pie - the traditional closer to a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Heck, even Snoopy and Woodstock enjoyed a delicious-looking pumpkin pie with whipped cream in the famous Peanuts animated special after finishing their turkey.
Felix Bautista was one of the best closers in baseball coming into the 2023 season and was a no-brainer for the pumpkin pie nomination in last year's article. As great as Bautista was in 2023, he was unable to finish the season, injuring his right arm against Colorado and undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.
Enter Yennier Cano, who quietly and unexpectedly starred as one of the best relievers in baseball in 2023. Cano finished the year as the Orioles' closer and with Bautista out until 2025, enters the 2024 season as the frontrunner for saves.
Just as pumpkin pie will finish many outstanding Thanksgiving dinners this year, Orioles fans can expect Yennier Cano to finish many outstanding wins for the 2024 Orioles, as they search for another division title.
After Dinner Thanks
Orioles fans have so much to be thankful for this year. 101 wins, a division title, and the emergence of stars Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, Kyle Bradish, and Grayson Rodriguez, among others. While Thanksgiving is a football holiday, baseball is something we can celebrate and be grateful for year-round. Just some pleasant thoughts to ponder as you finish that last slice of pie and drift off into a tryptophan-induced nap.