Series loss should not ruin special season

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The loss is still fresh in everyone's minds. I know that. And because of that, there's plenty of disappointment. The players felt that right after Game 5 in the clubhouse.

But consider what this team did this season. They hadn't won the AL West in 11 years and led the pack for most of the season, clinching with more than a week left in the season. They hadn't won a playoff series in the franchise's history and did so with a memorable Cliff Lee start in Game 5 in Tampa. They weren't supposed to be able to handle the Yankees in the ALCS, but dominated them, winning in six games. They gave fans a chance to see a World Series game in Arlington. And they gave everyone a reason to forget about the Cowboys for the first part of the NFL season.

For most teams, winning a championship takes time. You have to experience some failures before you get to the top. The Dallas Stars are a prime example. They made it to the Western Conference Finals and lost before eventually winning the ultimate prize in 1999. These Rangers will be stronger next season because the postseason won't be new to them.

Of course, you never know if this team will get another shot at the World Series. Nothing is guaranteed. But that should in no way diminish what this team accomplished in 2010. It's the best year in the history of the franchise. Just remember that.

A few random thoughts. I'll have more as the weeks go by and I get more time to think about it:

* I'll never forget the way that team supported its manager when the revelations of his failed drug test were made public. They didn't turn their backs or pass judgement. They rallied behind him and came closer together as a team. For the players in the clubhouse, that story was over in 48 hours. I honestly never heard any of them talk about it again after that.

* Looking back on it now, Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off single set the tone for a wild and crazy season. To think he wasn't on the big league roster after that and eventually traded to Boston seems strange. But the way the Rangers came back showed their ability to play nine innings and never give up.

* I'm never been around a better clubhouse atmosphere. There were no small groups or guys that didn't like each other. It was one big team and they supported one another. They had fun every day, too. Jeff Francoeur couldn't believe that when he arrived to join the team in Kansas City. It was a group that welcomed him with open arms and he quickly became a part of the fabric of the team. But they stayed loose and calm and didn't let losing streaks or rough losses crush them.

* The Lee trade sure showed how serious the front office was about this season. Several of us (including MLB.com writer T.R. Sullivan) thought the Rangers had a chance when we heard the Yankees deal fell through. Daniels had worked hard to put together the top minor league system and he had the pieces to make the deal happen. And he did. There was a lot of excitement in the press box that night and the crowd was electric the following night when he made his debut.

* Interestingly, the thing I'll remember most about Lee's first outing wasn't Lee. It was the impromptu ovation Michael Young got when he came out to stretch before the game. The club was honoring him that night as the franchise's all-time hits leader. And while Lee generating the largest walkup crowd in the history of the park (14,500), the fans showed their appreciation for Young. It was a neat moment.

* The August game against the Yankees -- a 7-6 loss after the Rangers blew a six-run lead -- was the night I was convinced this team could win a playoff series. I went to the clubhouse and expected to see the end of the baseball world in there, but there was only a sense of resolve. I can't fully describe it, but there was a calm that surprised me. Michael Young said he wasn't worried about the loss crushing his team's spirits. After an off day, they staged a major comeback of their own in beating the Red Sox, 10-9 in 11 innings.

* It was surreal to have the Rangers auction end while the club was celebrating a much-needed win in Seattle in August. After all the months of court battles, Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan finally got the team. They made their final, winning bid about the same time that Michael Young hit a go-ahead grand slam in an 11-6 win.

* The players had a fun time celebrating in Oakland. The road trip didn't start well, but once they cut the magic number to two, they completely relaxed. The two weeks prior to clinching was the tightest I saw the team in 2010. But once they relaxed, those of us covering the team in Oakland knew they were going to get it done. They did and then erupted into pure joy. They stayed on that high throughout the final week of the season.

* Scoring early runs on David Price in Game 1 set the tone for the ALDS. Even when the Rangers lost the two games at home, they knew they could score on Price and that Lee would do his thing. It was a confident bunch during batting practice before Game 5 and they won easily.

* The fact that Lee didn't start until Game 3 turned out to be the best thing for this team in the ALCS. During the media day before the series, Lee dominated the talk. And he wasn't even taking the mound until the series shifted to New York. Lee was able to win the pivotal game of the series for Texas and provide a confidence boost. The fact that Texas had homefield advantage helped too, because they simply needed a split at home to have Lee give them a 2-1 lead.

* Think about the players that impacted this team that weren't even in their current roles when the season started: Neftali Feliz (from setup to closer), Bengie Molina (traded from San Francisco in June), Cliff Lee, Matt Treanor, Mitch Moreland, Jeff Francoeur (and some others I probably missed).

* Ron Washington has really grown as a manager. And the best thing about him is you can talk to him about the moves he makes and question them and he'll tell you why he did what he did and respect your opinion. He got this team to play hard every game. Few managers in the league can do that. The guy should be AL manager of the year.

* Now that it's all over, I do want to thank all of you for joining us here on the blog and in the in-game chats all season. It's been a memorable one. And spring training is just a few months away. We'll be breaking down the offseason decisions and covering things leading into the arrival of the club in Surprise in February.