Domenic Vadala: Defining success and failure

I live tweet every Orioles game for Birds Watcher, and I monitor Twitter for all things Orioles on a daily basis. (If you’re not into Twitter, I highly recommend it.) One thing I gather from seeing the opinions of some Orioles fans is that this season is a complete and utter failure if the team doesn’t qualify for the postseason.

In a way, I can understand those sentiments on the part of fans, as Baltimore got a reminder of what meaningful late-season and postseason games were like last year and doesn’t want to revert to how things were before. But are we really prepared to call this season a failure if they don’t make the playoffs?

I would submit that the answer to that question should be a resounding no. Granted, perception can often be reality to some people, and I understand that. So if someone wants to say that a non-playoff year is a failure, that’s their decision. However, I would disagree.

For starters, those 14 consecutive losing seasons are still fresh in everyone’s mind. Only two short years ago, the O’s were playing out a string of games in another lousy year (yet none of us will ever forget the dramatic ending to that 2011 season). In fact, that season might well have been a disappointment because I think the expectations were higher coming out of a great finish to 2010 under Buck Showalter.

The fact that the Orioles went 14 years without a winning record - and thus 14 years without playing meaningful games late in the season - is not something that’s lost on the fan base. Some folks just look at that and feel that the aftermath equals failure if that same status quo is not at least met or bettered. And I don’t know that a legitimate point can’t be made in that regard.

However, I would submit that the very opportunity to play meaningful games at this time of year means that the season is not a failure. If the O’s reverted back to winning 65 to 69 games this season I would agree that would have been not only a failure, but a total collapse. But if the Birds win two more games, they’ll guarantee a non-losing record for the second season in a row. Three wins and they’ll guarantee a winning record for the second year in a row.

In no way am I suggesting that .500 is the line between success and failure. It’s merely a noteworthy milestone in the course of a season. But I would encourage fans to look at 2013 at face value - at the moment, this team is right in the thick of contention. Short of running away with a playoff spot as Boston or the Dodgers are doing, can fans really ask for more than that?

What if the O’s don’t qualify for the postseason? Inconsistency, bullpen issues, the absence of a long winning steak, and other factors will be pointed to as the reasons they didn’t make it. And for the record, all of those aspects will probably be legitimate points.

But the fact will be that the Orioles will have probably been in the chase until the end, which should count for something. Obviously, on the flip side, if you’re sitting at home in October, it doesn’t really matter whether or not you won 69 or 89 games. You still didn’t make it.

I would hope that the majority of Orioles fans wouldn’t look at 2013 as a success or failure based squarely on whether or not the franchise qualifies for the playoffs. I would remind people that following their 2004 World Series championship and 2005 playoff run, the 2006 Boston Red Sox didn’t qualify for the postseason. They certainly came back strong the following year with another World Series title, however they were unable to muscle into the playoffs in 2006. Sure, in the immediate aftermath of the year their fans might have been disappointed, but given the surrounding few seasons, I’d hesitate to call that a failure.

I suppose you can file this under the category of life being a journey. Sometimes journeys have setbacks, and sometimes things don’t go quite according to plan. But that’s life. And as a collective society, baseball is one of our favorite motifs for life. So if on Sept. 30, the Orioles’ year is over, it’s OK to be disappointed. However, make no mistake about the fact that it’s not a failure.

Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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