Back-to-back AL champs T-shirts this week might top last year's Claw and Antlers bonanza. The Rangers did it. Consecutive AL titles. That the Yanks were the last to do it in 2000 and 2001 proves just how difficult it is to repeat (only the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL have repeated -- 2008 and 2009 -- since the Atlanta Braves a dozen years earlier).
You don't have to explain the magnitude to Rangers manager Ron Washington.
"Well, it's extremely difficult. Everything has to more or less fall into place. But, more than anything else, you have to weather the storms. There were quite a bit of storms," Washington said. "The schedule -- you had to weather the schedule. You had to stay healthy. And we lost quite a few of our pieces at some point during the course of the year. But, the depth we had held us together. And that was the key right there. And our young kids that took on the workload of going out there every five days with no experience and proving that they can battle through a Major League-tested season. All of that came into play. It wasn't easy."
The Rangers didn't clinch the AL West as quickly or as easily as in 2010. They had a chance to take an eight-game lead on the Los Angeles Angels in July, but lost two of three and the race tightened. Again in August the lead nearly ballooned to eight, but a walk-off homer in the series finale cut it back to six. The Angels again made a charge, but Texas never surrendered the division lead.
A 19-6 September, including a 14-2 final push sealed the division race one series before a potential showdown in Anaheim.
"When you got a group of guys that's committed to each other and committed to a purpose, usually good things happen," Washington said. "I have to give a lot of credit to our pitching staff. You have to give a lot of credit to the guys that showed up every day and strapped it on and grind. I have to give a lot of credit to the organization for getting us pieces when we need it and just trusting us with all that talent that they gave to us.
"More than anything else, the players deserve a heck of a lot of credit because it took a lot behind the scenes to get to this point. And more than anything else, we defended our American League championship."
And now the only goal left for this once-moribund Rangers franchise that plunked down in Arlington in 1972 is a world championship.
It took until 1996 for a first division crown and a playoff win.
Then 14 more years for a playoff series celebration, coming in last season's five-game ALDS triumph over Tampa Bay.
The Rangers got greedy and followed it up with a first AL pennant and World Series appearance.
And now, after dispatching the Rays in four and the Tigers in six, here they are again.
On to St. Louis.