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What does a successful 2018 Rockies season look like?

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However you choose to define success, there’s a lot to look forward to

It’s that time of the baseball calendar when everything and anything is possible. It’s easy to imagine scenarios for how the season will go, and along with those imaginings there are feelings. Those feelings can range from the euphoric—CarGo’s walkoff home run sends the Rockies to the World Series—to the wretched—everyone’s injured and nothing is fun. And in between we have a bunch of scenarios that can land on one side or the other of one simple question: Was the season a success?

At ESPN, the inimitable Sam Miller ran down what the realistic measures of success should be for all 30 baseball teams. “Success” here is defined broadly and reasonably. So, for Miller, winning the World Series is obviously a success measure for all 30 teams, but only for three—the Cubs, the Dodgers, and the Astros—is it the measure. According to Miller, the Rockies season will be successful if the Rockies accomplish two of the three things:

  • Win 85 or more games
  • Play meaningful games in the final week of the season
  • Get at least one star performance from someone 24 or younger

These seem entirely reasonable measures. In fact, some Purple Row staffers, as you’ll read below, are about in line with this thinking. Others take a different perspective and put themselves in the player’s position to define success. Yet others are thinking about it mostly in terms of how much happiness the team brings out. As fans, isn’t that why we’re all here?

We want to hear from you as well. Let us know in the comments or in a FanPost what you would consider a successful 2018 for the boys in purple.

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Eric: It’s entirely reasonable to define a successful 2018 in binary terms. It could be the answer to one simple question: Did the Rockies win the World Series? If yes, then it was a success. If not, then it was not. Or, if that seems a little unreasonable, it can be a question of whether or not they make the postseason. I see success a little differently.

I think a successful Rockies season is one in which players progress and the team is competitive in September and they either make or miss the postseason based on marginal luck—record in one-run games, injuries, BABIP. An unsuccessful one has pitchers like Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez taking steps backwards, position players like Ryan McMahon and David Dahl not contributing, and the team finishing with 75-ish rather than 85-ish wins.

I anticipate a successful season, but I wouldn’t be surprised by an unsuccessful one.

Ryan: There are a few things that add up to a successful 2018 season for me. First and foremost, they need to be legitimately in the playoff hunt until late in the season and finish with a record above .500. They don’t necessarily have to reach the playoffs, as there are things outside their control which could potentially prevent that, but after reaching the postseason a year ago and returning essentially the same core group of players, they need to be in the hunt.

Perhaps just as important as the record on the field, another aspect of a successful season for me is a willingness to commit to giving young position players—Ryan McMahon, David Dahl, and Ramiel Tapia, specifically—a real opportunity at the Major League level if veterans like Ian Desmond, Gerardo Parra, and Carlos Gonzalez continue to struggle like they have in the past. Even if the Rockies don’t reach the postseason in 2018, they need to know which of these young players can be counted on for 2019 and beyond in order to keep their contention window open for as long as possible.

Kyle: I think the easy thing to say here is that if the Rockies make the playoffs, 2018 will be a success. Making it into October isn’t an easy task for any team, and it only gets more difficult in the cutthroat NL West. However, the team has made marginal improvements over last year’s playoff-caliber squad, and even in this competitive environment they should expect to be contenders.

The optimist in me says that, if Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez turn themselves around this year, the offensive problems that plagued the team last year will go away. (And if Desi and CarGo struggle, the managerial staff will have the sense to plug in David Dahl and Ryan McMahon before things really get out of hand.) The bullpen will be a strength as it was last year. The rotation will build off a successful 2017. Put simply, if the team stands pat or improves on last season’s result, this season will be a success. Anything less will be a tough pill to swallow.

Adam: Did you know only one team every season wins a championship in Major League Baseball? That means if everything is evenly distributed (which, the Yankees exist so...), each franchise will win an average of one title every thirty years. Thirty years! That’s a long time to wait, and watching thirty plus years of baseball for one fleeting moment of glory feels like too much squeeze for not enough juice. Flags fly forever, yes, but if it’s all about winning, you miss out on so much that makes the game truly enjoyable. Consider how long you’ll remember Nolan’s walk-off cycle versus how long you’ll remember the Rockies made it to the Wild Card play in game last season.

So I’m changing the way I watch baseball. I want the Rockies to win, because winning is much more fun than losing, but “success” on a season-level is much broader. I want a few walk-off victories in front of a screaming crowd. I want to see Jon Gray make a bunch of hitters look silly with his fastball-slider. I want to see a Rockies pitcher take a no-hit bid beyond the seventh inning. I want to see an improbable come-from-behind victory or two. I want to see Nolan Arenado continue to establish his case as the greatest defensive third baseman in history (and some good offense would be great, too).

And I want to see them win more games than they lose. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, if they can give me those things above, I’ll call it a successful 2018 Rockies campaign.

Hayden: A successful season will be one that sustains and builds on the success of the pitching staff last season. The Rockies have been considered a punchline in the past, with a number of memes to boot, because of their many failed plans to build a pitching staff at altitude. As we all know, 2017 saw the arrival of young pitchers combined with a powerful bullpen. Those areas look to be a strength again this season, but we should all know better. Snap your fingers and a young rotation has fallen apart on you. Bullpens are even less predictable. I want to see the Rockies show the depth and adaptability to sustain their good pitching from last year.

If they do that, they’ll be in the playoff race. In such a strong division and with the chaos of the wild card race, I hesitate to say it’s playoffs or bust because there might be a team with a really good record on the outside looking in.

Ted: I’m not going to get philosophical about this. I’m gonna be the bad guy. This is likely the Rockies’ final season with both Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon on the team. They have virtually every important piece from last year returning (along with some upgrades), and their young pitchers aren’t rookies anymore. To miss the playoffs after making it last season would not be a success. That’s the bar now. There could be many fantastic individual performances or thrilling games that make up a “fun” year. The team could play overall good baseball for entire season. But if they’re sitting at home for the NLDS, I don’t think a single player in that locker room would consider 2018 a success. Neither will I.

Renee: A weird nostalgia permeates the 2018 Rockies—they feel like a band getting ready to head out on its farewell tour, which is odd given that this season is typically seen as early in their contention window. This incongruity particularly struck me when the Rockies gave Carlos Gonzalez a one-year contract. Plus, there’s the fact that Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu may not be Rockies much longer while Nolan Arenado becomes more comfortable with his leadership position and being the face of the team. Patrick Saunders’ piece on the “Fab 4” reiterates how much these guys like playing together, and that this may be the end of the line (to quote the Traveling Wilburys). Jeff Bridich seems unsentimental (frankly, I’m surprised CarGo is back), and it’s clear that there’s plenty of talent waiting to play, plus that young bullpen. So for me, a successful season means that these guys show that they are the team we’ve believed they could be. Given that they made the wild card game last year, they need to go at least that far this year.

On a purely personal note, a successful season also does what baseball has always done for me: Take me out of my own head for three hours every day. I learned this as a graduate student when my long-term relationship with baseball began. There was nothing like an afternoon at Olsen Field to take my mind off my dissertation, endless student questions, and the fact that I didn’t have a job. With the world and my work increasingly chaotic, I look to baseball for those moments of calm.

Unless the Rockies make the playoffs, in which case all bets are off. I’d be okay with that.