I think you have it a bit backwards: proving type preservation is a good property of the type system with respect to the operational semantics, rather than the opposite.
Alternately: the whole point of a programing language is the ability to use it to perform some computational task. Because of this, the operational semantics is one of the requirements of having a programing language. The only real "fitness test" you need is
Can I write the programs I want using this language?
You might then want to prove that say, a compiler is correctly implemented by showing that the computational behavior of (well-behaved) code is equivalent in some sense to the operational semantics, but again, here I would take the semantics themselves to be primal rather than the opposite.
In certain fields of mathematics, notably in the area which studies the propositions-as-types correspondence, one might be more interested in the static semantics (the type system) and have the operational semantics more as an afterthought, where progress, preservation and termination have consequences on the type system as a logic (typically, that the logic is consistent).
But again, usually the operational semantics is primitive, and it is well-defined exactly when it enables the programmer to write the program she wishes to write (and possibly prevents some "bad" programs).