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Another One Bites The Dust

The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series for the first time ever. It really is an impressive story. It always is when a team goes where they have never been before, but really, the Rangers might take the cake.

Remember the start of the year, when Ron Washington's job was in serious jeopardy after he admitted to using cocaine last season?

Remember a couple months ago, when the franchise was sold off in a dramatic auction?

Seriously, the Texas Rangers had a manager snorting lines, and an owner in so much debt that the team could not take on payroll due to his financial status. Naturally, this is the season where the Rangers win the first playoff series ever, and go ahead and make it all the way to the World Series. The 2010 Rangers should purchase the "Believe Big" slogan from the Mariners at this point.

It is hard to root for a division rival, but this is a remarkable story. Plus, whenever I can't stomach it, I just think of them as Cliff Lee and 24 of his more talented friends. Cliff Lee is the solution to all problems, at least until he is a New York Yankee, or until he signs with the Rangers long-term.

While I'm on the subject of Cliff Lee, has there ever been another pitcher who has gone to the World Series in back-to-back seasons as the anchor of a staff for two different teams? Furthermore, has there been another pitcher acquired midseason in back-to-back years by a team that then used him as their ace in a run to the World Series? I haven't looked into it, but I highly doubt it, and on some level I think that says volumes about Cliff Lee.

Anyway, two things really hit me tonight when I saw that the Rangers were going to the World Series. First of all, as my title suggests, another one bit the dust. The list of teams that have never made the World Series is down to just two - the Nationals and the Mariners. That's right, the M's are the only team in the American League that is yet to appear in the World Series, and that hurts. What makes it even more glaring is that so many have made their first appearance within recent memory. The Diamondbacks (2001), Angels (2002), Astros (2005), Rockies (2007), Rays (2008), and now the Rangers (2010), have all been crossed off the list in the past decade. That's 6 out of 30 MLB franchises, or a fifth of the league. The Mariners used to have company. Now they barely do.

By the way, I pulled the years and teams that have appeared in their first World Series recently from a blog post by Larry Stone, where he wonders if the Nats or Mariners will be the last non-participant standing.

What is it about the Mariners that keeps them from success? The Rays made it with a crappier ballpark and way fewer resources. The Rangers made it while dealing with debt and a dramatic sale most of the year. The Diamondbacks made it just four years into existence. Other teams have made it work with tougher situations than the Mariners have.

That leads to the second thing that stuck out to me when the Rangers won tonight. Texas made it to the World Series by doing things "the right way," and sticking to their guns.

For instance, here and there, stories are done about how Nolan Ryan completely changed the mentality of pitching development in the Rangers organization. One notable change was the inclusion of long toss, and its merit is still contested. What cannot be argued is that the Rangers have decided to things their way, because they think it is right, even though it goes against mainstream thinking.

Going back to the Ron Washington story, undoubtedly many franchises would have fired him. However, Texas decided to keep him, at least in part due to the way Washington handled the situation. Again, popularity did not seem to factor into the Rangers decision at all. The sole focus was on doing the right thing.

Even the Cliff Lee trade midseason seemed a little crazy. Why would a bankrupt team mortgage a chunk of their future to rent a player for potentially only half a season? Again, Texas did not shy away from a move that could backfire. The focus continued to be on doing what they felt was the right thing to do.

Just this week, a little story came out about parking prices. Nolan Ryan found out that $10 spots had been jacked up to $15, and when he found that out, he demanded that they be lowered back to their original price, and refunded fans. Yet another example of how the Texas Rangers simply did what they felt was right.

The whole Texas Rangers organization seems to have strong beliefs, and they are willing to make decisions that cut against the grain to stay true to "their way." Also, they clearly have some intelligent people defining "the Rangers way," because the results on the field are awfully good.

I think Jack Zduriencik is a smart guy, and he has surrounded himself with smart baseball people. I also think that Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong have a passion for winning. However, I wonder if the Mariners have an organizational identity. There are some indicators that they do not. For instance, the past decade features four general managers, and seven managers. The organization also can't seem to take a stance on what to do with Josh Lueke, and perhaps equally as troubling, avoid comment on the story altogether. If I continued to dig, other examples of non-committal stances would pop up.

Come on, Mariners, even the Rangers figured out how to make the World Series. How long is this going to take? It isn't just tough luck when everybody else has figured out how to overcome tough breaks and failure to make it to the top.