One narrative that is pervasive in sports that I’ve never really understood is that a team has to win it all to be considered successful. If a team fails to win a league championship they are cast as failures or fundamentally flawed in their roster, coaching, or style of play. Lose in the finals? Suddenly all the media can talk about is everything that is wrong with that team. Meanwhile they made it further than the other 28 teams that also put everything they had in to winning too. Does it suck to lose? Of course. Is the ultimate goal to win the championship? Of course. But does that mean that a team is a failure just because they weren’t the one out of 30+ teams to go the distance? I don’t think so.
Let’s look at the Jays as a recent example. After over 20 years of not making it to the playoffs, the Jays made it to October in back to back seasons. Both times they have been eliminated in the ALCS. This time around the criticism has been raining down. Not fast enough, too old, bad coaching decisions, not enough contact hitters. The Jays did not win it all and there are changes that absolutely could be made to improve this roster, but the question remains, was this season a failure? In my opinion it was not. No, the Jays didn’t get those last 7 wins they needed to be World Series champions. What about the other 94 wins they achieved this season though? What about the heights they reached during the regular season? What about Edwin’s walk off home run in extra innings to advance to the ALDS? What about the image of Josh Donaldson flying across home plate to walk off the arch rival Rangers and complete the sweep?
The Indians won the ALCS, they were the better team. Their pitching was on another level and even though the Jays pitching was special too, the Indians deserve to go the World Series. With that being said the Jays season was not a failure in my mind. I had that same feeling of disappointment and wishing to see my team win it all for the first time in my life just like everyone else. I’ll tell you though that the disappointment didn’t erase any of the joy that went along with this run. It’s fun to watch a team do well enough in the regular season to be one of the special few to make it through October, and it’s fun to watch a legitimate playoff run. The Jays have room to improve and I hope they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a great season and a magical ride even if it did end just a little early.