I don't want to lick the boot anymore, comrade but I must tell you the greatest and best part of TF2 is it's engine and the shooting with all 9 classes.
Even with the item servers gone I enjoy the game. Stranges, Hats etc are pretty much vanity or to feel part of the "trading" ecosystem.
I am sorry you did not enjoy TF2 but I think you should give it another chance. The best things about it don't cost money.
The gameplay, The maps, The custom servers, The stupid chaotic community, The voicelines, The ragdolls, The jigglebones, The temporary truces, The little games people make up inside the tf2 itself.
All of these can be enjoyed by just joining any match and shooting other mercenaries. It is a relic. It has many flaws but damn it I still find it fun to rocketjump, trap people or meatshot the enemy time by running around and wasting their time. It is infinite fun for me.
I won't tell you to feed the mega corporation that is valve. Because honestly it doesn't deserve or need any money. But dang it they made an absolute classic that will never die. No matter the cases and bloat.
The core stock gameplay is the best thing about Team fortress 2.