Let's start with the obvious: if the Seattle Mariners make the American League playoffs, the 2013 season will be an unqualified success. And they could. We could totally see Felix on the mound for the wild-card play-in game, dominating the haha Angels, sending the Mariners to the ALDS.
It could happen. Orioles! But it probably won't.
So, in the absence of a postseason appearance, what does success look like, this season, for this team? What, specifically, would indicate a successful campaign? I'd like to propose nine measures by which to judge the 2013 M's. Why nine? Because baseball.
1. Be relevant in the playoff picture on the first day of September.
And not in a "all we need is to run off nine wins in a row and we'll be withing striking distance of the second wild card" sort of way. No, be a team that could make the playoffs with a strong final month plus a couple lucky breaks. I just want to watch meaningful baseball in the ninth month of the year.
2. Play well enough to ensure that Eric Wedge remains the manager in 2014.
I will shed no tear the day Eric Wedge is fired, nor will I bellyache if he signs an extension. In fact, I'd love for him to sign an extension. Even though I think he is an average manager at best! Another helping of Eric Wedge means the team has won more games. Should the skipper not return for 2014, it will be because the team cratered in 2013. I don't want the team to suck in 2013. No more words are necessary in this paragraph. Except maybe to say that 1. and 2. are obviously connected.
3. Put Felix on the mound at least 30 times.
Fewer than 30 times would be worrisome, not just from a wins standpoint, but because of the uncomfortable health questions that would ensue. Also, watching Felix is pure baseball joy, and we'll only have him in a Mariners uniform for 16 more seasons, so we should enjoy the ride while it lasts.
4. Witness at least one breakout season from at least one young player.
And by breakout season, I don't mean a pretty solid 2.5-WAR year. I mean like an .850 OPS. Thank you Kyle Seager, for 2012. We enjoyed that pleasant surprise. But in order for this team to score more runs, more is required. One of the guys from the young core needs to turn into a star. Someone needs to post a .290/.360/.490 slash line or thereabouts. Ackley, Smoak, Saunders, Montero -- one of them needs to make it, and make it big.
5. Bay and Ibanez need to be prevented from making a combined 500 PA.
Please don't waste the equivalent of a full-time player on two guys that aren't part of the future. That's not success. IF by some comedic cosmic comeuppance, Baybanez plays 150 games, it had better be because that unseemly monster is producing big numbers, helping keep the team is in the playoff hunt. Otherwise, no. Just no.
6. Leapfrog one of these three: Anaheim, Oakland, Texas.
Finishing fourth is not successful. That's next-to-last. It is very far from first. A bright future is nice, but finishing in the bottom half of the division is a habit that needs to end.
2004: last place
2005: last place
2006: last place
2007: not last place
2008: last place
2009: next-to-last place
2010: last place
2011: last place2012: last place
Possible exception: Posting an 87-75 record and missing out on the playoffs by two games, while finishing
next-to-last fourth in the AL West, wouldn't be unsuccessful. Still, fourth place, gross.
7. The catcher spot sees itself solidified.
Two ways this happens: by Jesus Montero progressing, or Mike Zunino impressing. Either Montero takes a step forward, offensively and defensively, or Zunino dominates whichever level of competition he finds himself at. Either outcome is fine. To be more specific, as promised: The front office needs to know who the starting catcher is for Opening Day 2014.
8. The starting rotation doesn't self-destruct.
Avoiding total collapse/horrible luck/injury from the extremely volatile Iwakuma-Saunders-Ramirez-Number 5 Guy group is no doubt a key to respectability, and therefore some success, in 2013. League average performance from that set of four pitchers would go a long way to producing a watchable, winning product. A successful product. That's the specific part: League average, or close to it.
9. Something special happens
This is maybe the least specific, but most inclusive, parameter of the lot. It could be something like a no-hitter or perfect game. Or a guy gets crazy hot and homers in seven straight games. Or a couple guys hit for the cycle. Or Felix puts the fear of Orel Hershiser into everyone by spinning together 52 consecutive scoreless innings. Or a young starting pitcher gets promoted and instantly contributes in a significant way. Or Jack pulls off another Cliff Lee-level trade. Something that sustains hope, that promises a better future, that rekindles all the good feelings we get when baseball is at its best.
In order for 2013 to be successful, I need to see almost all of those boxes checked off. Any fewer than eight out of nine, and I'd consider the season a disappointment. How about you?