McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers the A.L.'s new power

McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers the A.L.'s new power
October 16, 2011, 5:26 am
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- While the Red Sox sort through their institutional dysfunction and the Yankees lick their wounds and weigh their options after a first-round exit, an interesting development has taken root in the American League.

The Texas Rangers have become the AL's third super power.

The Rangers dusted the pesky Detroit Tigers, 15-5, in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and advance to the World Series for the second straight year.

That doesn't exactly put them in the dynasty category, but consider this: the Rangers are the first team in a decade to win back-to back American League pennants.

And if that hasn't caught the attention of the Yankees and Red Sox, it should.

"I think it's hard to repeat,'' said club president Nolan Ryan, "and when you look at our ballclub, with the young talent we have and the balance that we have . . . Are we elite? I don't know. But I'll say this: I think we're as good a ballclub as there is.''

Over the last few seasons, the Rangers have become an effective and efficient organization. General manager Jon Daniels has emerged as one of the game's top executives and a stabilized ownership group has provided him with the necessary resources.

The Rangers aren't about to spend dollar-for-dollar with the Red Sox and Yankees, with a 2011 payroll of 92 million, good for 13th among the 30 MLB clubs. But remember: They were willing to hand out more than 100 million to retain Cliff Lee last winter.

There's room to grow with that payroll, too. The Rangers' new local TV deal, worth nearly 3 billion, doesn't even kick in until 2015. That might not rival the revenues generated by the Yankees' YES Network or the Red Sox' NESN, but it will do.

(It's worth noting that the among all 30 teams, the Rangers play in the second-biggest unshared TV market.)

It might not even be enough for the Rangers to be players for the super-elite free agents such as Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but as the Red Sox and Yankees know all too well, that can be a dangerous neighborhood in which to work. The Rangers learned that first-hand with their 252 million contract for Alex Rodriguez.

Besides, these Rangers weren't built on big-dollar free agents. They've won consecutive divisions and pennants thanks to homegrown talent (Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, C.J. Wilson, Michael Young), shrewd trades (Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, David Murphy) and smart free agent signings (Adrian Beltre, Colby Lewis).

But the real foundation of the team came in a huge deal by Daniels in 2007 in which the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves and got shortstop Elvis Andrus, starter Matt Harrison, closer Neftali Feliz and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in exchange.

The Texas farm system is well-regarded and was in the top half of all organizations last May by Baseball American, an achievement considering how many players the system has graduated in recent seasons, plus the four players they had to sacrifice to get Lee from Seattle in the middle of 2010.

The Rangers are in it for the long haul. And they've won as many pennants as the Yankees and Red Sox combined in the last six seasons.

The Super Two now have company.

Not that the Rangers feel their work is done. Reminded that his team had just become the first team to back-to-back A.L. pennants since the Yankees of 1998-2001, Daniels kept his perspective.

"I think the other teams that did it won the World Series,'' he said, ''so I think we've still got a pretty big step ahead of us before we can put ourselves in that group.''

It's even more incredible when you consider that, until the Rangers beat Tampa Bay in the Division Series a year ago October, they had won exactly one (1) postseason game in their history and had never won a playoff series. Now, they've won four of their last five.

Throw in the fact that the Rangers were literally auctioned to the highest bidder in the summer of 2010 and their journey is all the more remarkable.

Now, the Rangers are headed for the World Series again. And just in case the Red Sox and Yankees have been preoccupied surveying their own damage, they're not going anyway anytime soon.