You don't really require a bonus in circumstances such as this -- first pennant, first World Series, a big victory over baseball's ultimate postseason team. But the Rangers found a plus for themselves anyway.
They defeated the mighty Yankees in six games in this ALCS. They did not need to go to the unbeatable one, Cliff Lee, for a Game 7. You know what the talk would have been had the Rangers won in seven. In some quarters, some people would have said: "Well, of course they won, they had Cliff Lee."
And that would have done an injustice to the Rangers as a whole. Lee is still great, he is still the best postseason pitcher in baseball, in the last two years, at this moment. But the Rangers beat the Yankees with Lee starting just one game. When Lee wasn't pitching, Texas still beat New York, three games out of five.
And now, by winning this series in six games, the Rangers hit the daily double. They advanced to the World Series, and they will have the ace of postseason aces, Lee, available to start Game 1 of the 2010 World Series.
The Rangers beat the Yankees on every available level. And in the end, the Texas pitcher who beat the Yankees twice was not Lee, but the unheralded, yet supremely effective, Colby Lewis. He won Game 2 after the Rangers suffered what could have been a disheartening loss in the opener.
In the decisive Game 6, Lewis not only defeated but completely contained what had been baseball's best offense during the regular season. He held the Yankees to one run on three hits over eight innings. Josh Hamilton, with four home runs and seven RBIs, deservedly won the ALCS MVP, but Lewis was responsible for 50 percent of the Rangers' victories. Lee pitched a dominant Game 3, but the most important pitcher for the Rangers in this series was Lewis.
For its breakthrough accomplishments, this is a remarkable Rangers team. But it is remarkable on other levels. You can see the pitching, the hitting, the defense, the aggressive and alert baserunning. But even beyond that, this club forms a rare combination. It maintains terrific intensity while it is having a great time.
"I mean, baseball is a kid's game," Hamilton said Friday night. "Yeah, we are all grownups and have children, a lot of us, but we have to remember where it all started and it's about having fun. We do that well together.
"So I mean, the chemistry is just unbelievable as far as in the clubhouse. We never take anything too seriously. But at the same time, our focus level is up, always. So it's been fun."
It has been fun for the Rangers, and pleasantly amazing for everyone else to watch. Conventional wisdom wouldn't allow a team to advance from never winning anything in the postseason to going to the World Series in one single October. But for anyone who said it couldn't happen, the Rangers just made it happen.
"It happens by going out there and respecting the game of baseball and coming every day and not caring about the obstacles that's in front of you; knowing that you can; believing that you can; and just going out there respecting the game, respecting your teammates, respecting the organization," manager Ron Washington said.
"These guys came together last year, and they made a commitment in Spring Training. The only thing I've ever told them from that commitment is the only thing that matters is what you believe inside the clubhouse, not what goes on outside the clubhouse. I keep saying the same thing over and over: 'It's not the best team that wins, it's the team that plays the best on that day.' Well, that was quite a few days that we played better than the teams we played, and that's why we are headed to the World Series."
In the end, it shouldn't be surprising that the Rangers beat the Yankees, won the ALCS and are headed for the Fall Classic. They were, as Washington said, the team that was clearly playing better.
And along with all this talent on the field, Washington has been a top-shelf manager, in tune with his players, knowing the mentality that they needed to maintain to win. General manager Jon Daniels and his staff have done a superb job of putting together a system that would deliver terrific young talent to the Major League club. There is aggressive new ownership here, and no club could ask for a better focal point for this entire Texas franchise than team president Nolan Ryan.
The Rangers won the AL pennant because they fully, richly, totally deserved to win. And by winning in six games, they got to spread the credit evenly around. And there was plenty of credit to be shared.