Rangers Report to Surprise a Different Team
Ask any player from a championship team in sports and they will all tell you the biggest step a team makes on the way to a title is learning how to win.
Talent alone doesn't win the big prize in any sport, just ask the 2010 Dallas Cowboys.
The Texas Rangers took that step in winning last season with the first American League Championship in the club's history despite a season filled with drama from the outset.
The manager came public with a failed drug test.
The team was auctioned off in bankruptcy during a pennant race.
Their best player and eventual MVP of the American League missed the last month of the season and was less than 100% in the playoffs.
Yet through all of this the Rangers tasted success in October, finally.
No longer will simple contention be good enough for this team and anything short of a World Series Championship in 2011 will be considered a failure.
The Texas Rangers are a different team now with the same goal as Boston, New York and Philadelphia: holding the trophy with all the flags on it in a champagne shower.
Sure, I noticed the moves the Boston Red Sox have made leading them to be the favorites in the American League and I'm also well aware of the "Big Four" in Philly.
Ask the Miami Heat how their "Big Three" have worked out thus far.
The Rangers didn't bow down to the mighty Yankees lineup in the ALCS whipping the Bronx Bombers in every phase of the game despite a heart wrenching loss in Game One. I highly doubt they'll be even slightly intimidated by the new look Red Sox lineup.
There is however one threat the Rangers will have to deal with 19 times during the regular season and perhaps in the playoffs should both teams make it: the Oakland Athletics.
Oakland has what could be the best pitching staff top to bottom in the American League and added some offense to score that staff some runs in 2011.
Despite an anemic offense, the A's played the Rangers tougher than any other team in the American League West last season and they've had just as good of an offseason as the Rangers, maybe even better.
The Rangers of course still have the prospects to make another trade similar to the Lee trade last July but for now the club will rely on CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis to lead a rotation that has some unproven arms with a lot of talent.
The defense should be much better with Adrian Beltre at third base and hopefully Julio Borbon in centerfield as the team hopes to move Hamilton to left.
The offense should also be better with Beltre replacing Vlad's bat and at the moment Michael Young getting most of his at-bats as the club's designated hitter.
Barring a Young trade the 2011 Rangers are without a doubt better than last year's pennant winner in both offense and defense.
Should pitchers like Michael Kirkman and Derek Holland have break out seasons in the rotation the starting pitching will be better as well.
There's a lot to like about this team going into Spring Training and with a couple of young pitchers establishing themselves the Rangers could once again find themselves lining up in late October with the World Series logo on their sleeves.
The defending American League Champions no longer need marketing slogans like "It's Time."
The players, fans and I'd have to say all of baseball already know this team is capable of winning it all, now it's all about finishing what the team started last year.
The drive to a World Series Championship begins in Surprise, Arizona this week and the Rangers are ready.