October 16, 2011 - 8:39 AM
After a summer of talk that was basically all Yankees and Red Sox all the time, after a September marked by the dominance of the Tigers, the rise of the Rays and the colossal fall of the Sox, we are left with this:
The Texas Rangers are the best team in the American League. Again.
No AL club has gone to the World Series in back-to-back years since the Yankees went to four straight from 1998-2001. No AL West team, in either the two- or three-division setup, has been a repeat pennant winner since the A's took three straight from 1988-1990.
That all changed Saturday night as the Rangers pounded the Detroit Tigers, 15-5, to win the ALCS in six games. Texas will open the World Series Wednesday night in either Milwaukee or St. Louis. Pretty awesome accomplishment.
I'll admit I slept on the Rangers as a team that could get back to the Fall Classic. I picked them to lose against both the Rays and the Tigers. Yikes. Still, it is hard to gauge a team that played 38 games against the Mariners and A's and has the Astros as a chief interleague rival. They were clearly the best in the AL West but how far could they go after that?
But the Rangers are so balanced offensively with speed, for-average hitters and power numbers, and have such a deep bullpen that they've been by far the best team in the playoffs in either league. They're the favorite no matter who the NL produces.
No one gives manager Ron Washington much credit either but he's been terrific. You have to love, for instance, what he did with Alexei Ogando. A reliever with a 1.30 ERA last year, Ogando started 29 games this year and went 13-8, 3.51 with 126 strikeouts in 169 innings. With fewer starters needed in the postseason, he's back in the pen. He made three scoreless appearances in the division series against the Rays, and pitched to a 1.17 ERA with two wins against the Tigers.
In a bizarre regular season, the Rangers survived the discord about whether to bring back the beloved Michael Young, some of the worst heat in Dallas' history and even the trauma of seeing the fatal fall from the bleachers of one of their fans. They won their division, took out the Rays and got a postseason all-time record six home runs in a series from Nelson Cruz (above). Now they're four wins away from their first title.
The Mavericks. TCU in the Rose Bowl. And now the Rangers. Pretty good run for Big D.
Cheap plug alert: I'll be somewhere (either Milwaukee or St. Louis) for Media Day on Tuesday. Follow all our World Series coverage in print and online. Game One is Wednesday night.
AP Photo: The celebration is on for ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz in the Rangers' clubhouse.