What makes a successful season?
It's a question I've been thinking on since the Astros opened the 2017 campaign with a 3-0 win over the Seattle Mariners. What's the definitive indicator that yes, we can consider this season one of the greatest in team history?
Is it winning the World Series? Most of you know by now that the playoffs are essentially a statistically random entity. More often than not, the best regular season team, or even one of the top two, doesn't win it all. The Astros began the season by bounding onstage and demanding the rest of the baseball world take notice. In the end, they shuffled rather quietly to the third-best record in the majors, and are flying as under the radar as you can when there are only seven teams left to eliminate. After all, there's a 29/30 chance every year that your favorite team will not win the World Series, and at this point, the odds have increased to just 7/8. If you don't like those chances, you probably need to go find a new hobby.
Is it winning the division? I've seen countless Twitter bros crow on and on about how this season is a waste if the Astros don't capitalize on their division title by winning it all. But let's think about it this way: do you remember when you first laid eyes on an iPhone? I remember sitting on my uncle's couch and seeing a commercial in which the guy proclaimed, "I've got my camera, my computer and my phone, all in one device!" Rewind SIX YEARS before that, and you'll be at the last time the Astros won the divison: 2001. Treasure division titles, folks, because you don't know when the next one will come along.
So is it enough to just enjoy 101 regular season wins? To have gone into every night thinking there was a distinct possibility this team could hang nine runs on the board? To watch Jose Altuve spike his glove on the ground after simply being too short to catch a line drive? Or see Marwin Gonzalez lean, lean, leeeeean to the left in a slightly more reserved version of Carlton Fisk, willing the ball to hit the foul pole and strike a deadly blow to the hated Rangers? Or watch the 11-run inning complete the Memorial Day Miracle in Minneapolis? Is it enough to remember how thrilled we were when we learned that, indeed, Jeff Luhnow did pull the trigger and acquire Justin Verlander with seconds to spare? And then watch Verlander dominate in his five starts? Is it enough to remember the moment when Carlos Correa squeezed the final pop-up in his glove, putting an exclamation point and a division title at the end of this magical year?
I'd argue that it is. It's enough for me.
I'll be watching every minute of the Astros' October run. I hope they sweep their way to 11 wins and hold that World Series trophy up for a city that's still in recovery and still needs as much hope as it can get. But if they don't, if Chris Sale is Chris Sale and the bullpen falls apart and the bats go cold and the team is eliminated before we can even break our new postseason paraphernalia in, this year will still be enough for me. It will be enough to have fallen in love with baseball again.
After all those losses and hopeless years, it will be enough to believe in the Astros again.