Rangers' cohesiveness on display
Support through adversity part of fabric holding club together
ARLINGTON -- It is a remarkably unified Texas Rangers team that will take on the New York Yankees in the 2010 American League Championship Series. These are people who do more than pay lip service to the team concept.
This is not always the case in contemporary professional sports, where a player's closest friend and advisor might be his agent, and the player sees his presence on a given team as a truly temporary condition. He may be playing here for the contract he will get elsewhere.
The Rangers, though, give you the sense that they are all in this together. Many teams talk about this approach, but few teams actually achieve it.
On Thursday before their workouts, this was a popular topic at the Rangers' media sessions, and it was a topic instigated primarily by the team. Outfielder Josh Hamilton, the Majors' leading hitter this season with a .359 average, was singing the praises of manager Ron Washington as a human being.
"A good manager doesn't feel like a boss," Hamilton said. "He feels like somebody who's there to direct and lead you."
That, Hamilton said, was indicative of the way things were with the Rangers.
"The way our organization is set up, the way we interact with everybody, it really doesn't feel like we have bosses," Hamilton said. "We all interact kind of on the same level and respect each other and talk to each other like a normal person."
This, of course, has become the first Rangers team to win a postseason series. That is a breakthrough that has been made all the more special by the Rangers' sense of community. Maybe the breakthrough itself was a result of that sense of community.
"We started in February -- Spring Training, we made a commitment to each other that we felt like we were able to get to this point," Washington said. "And at the time, you know, a lot of people thought it was words. But we have a bond inside of that clubhouse that goes a little deeper than words. We went out this year, and we put it together."
In the same way that the players have genuine respect, admiration and affection for Washington, the manager has that sort of regard for general manager Jon Daniels. In specific terms, when it became public that Washington had tested positive for cocaine in 2009, another GM might have canned his manager. Daniels supported his.
"Jon Daniels, I love him, and I don't only love him simply because he supported me," Washington said on Thursday. "I love him because he gave me an opportunity to be a big league manager.
"But more than anything else, he's brought an organization together and he made us all believe, and when it came time to do things to help, he was there, and that's what I love about him the most. The problem I experienced, he didn't judge me. He supported me, and I could never say enough about that support.
"When you're a manager, a lot of times, you get hired to get fired. And whenever that time comes -- and I hope it's a long time in the future -- I hope that I can always have him as a friend."
Hamilton, who has had his own well-documented problems with substance abuse, was asked what his gut reaction was when he heard of Washington's situation.
"My gut reaction was to give him a hug," Hamilton replied.
The atmosphere around the Rangers is healthy, upbeat, positive.
"The clubhouse is very loose," said second baseman Ian Kinsler. "No one really sits in front of their locker with their backs to the clubhouse. Everyone is always out in front. Everyone talks to everyone. There are not really any cliques or anything like that. We all get along. It's pretty unusual."
The outward signs of high spirits and high hopes are there to be seen by millions. There is "The Claw," displayed by Rangers players for offensive achievement, and "The Antlers" for speed-related achievement. These signs have spread beyond the team to the fans and have become part and parcel of the happy march forward for this club.
"I think that's just something for the fans," Kinsler said. "We'd be just as tight as a team without that, but it's a lot of fun. I think it's cool for us to show our emotion. It starts with our manager; honestly, I don't know how many managers would let that happen. But it's what we do. We enjoy it, and he lets us run with it."
How does all of this togetherness translate onto the field?
"If one of our hitters goes up to the plate and a pitcher does not want to throw to him, we have this pass-the-baton thing; let me help you," Washington said. "That's just our mantra around here.
"You know, that's the type of stuff that makes you what you are -- having people around not judging you, seeing what they can do to help you continue to move forward in a direction that you want to move in. And you know, the 25 guys that we have in that clubhouse, it's the reason why the Texas Rangers also are what they are, because they are all about support, supporting one another."
You can explain the unprecedented success of the 2010 Texas Rangers through the conventional means -- pitching, defense, power and speed. But somewhere in the mix, you had better include "supporting one another."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.