The best, most sustainable major league powerhouses all find themselves relying upon their player-development machines, their financial muscle, and liberal helpings of good fortune at one point or another to assemble their rosters ... but when three players born distinctly from each one of those three factors combine to completely take over a key game, you have something of note on your hands.
In a certain sense, the night belonged to an imperfect Derek Holland -- the product of a now-defunct draft-and-follow system who is now squarely entrenched in the process of evolving into a serious long-term rotation asset, and who even now is probably the second-best starting pitcher on the Rangers' staff. The command was off from the get-go, and the seven strikeouts against three walks against one home run over seven innings were suggestive of an okay, but not great start ... which is where I point out that the Athletics, poor hitters as they might be, mustered only one run on two hits against Holland. That he managed to shift his game plan on the fly, adjust in response to his lacking command and make it work for him may be even more exciting than if he had gone out and shut out Oakland.
In another sense, the night belonged to Michael Young, whose 3-for-5 effort on the night granted him his sixth 200-hit season -- yes, he finds himself in good company in accomplishing this feat -- and, perhaps more significantly, his first such season since 2007. Seven and a half months ago, the Rangers were staring down the prospect of eating a substantial chunk of money and netting anemic-hitting outfielder Eric Young Jr. in exchange for what was then an intensely disgruntled Young -- a deal that didn't sound very appetizing at the time in spite of the fact that Young was coming off a down 2010 season, and, to the Rangers' good fortune, never materialized.
I still harbor some concern over what tomorrow may bring, but Young's chances of producing near or at the level of his eight-digit salary over the next two seasons certainly feel a lot better than they did at this time 12 months ago -- and as far as this season has been concerned, Young has gone well above and beyond what many of us felt we could reasonably ask of him production-wise.
But in the third, most powerful sense, the night really belonged to Adrian Beltre, whose three-run missile to straightaway center field in the first inning literally buried the Athletics for good, and whose 2-for-5 effort on the night as a whole vaulted his seasonal batting line to a robust .288/.327/.541 with 28 home runs in only 496 plate appearances. Before last night's game, Beltre had batted .356/.382/.750 with 13 home runs in just 144 plate appearances since the outset of July. After last night's game, Beltre found himself perched atop FanGraphs' fWAR third basemen leaderboard for the 2011 season, having crept just above the five wins above replacement mark and ahead of Evan Longoria. In spite of the missed time due to injury, there is a legitimate argument to be crafted for Beltre being the best third baseman in baseball this season. That's ... startling.
Around the dawn of the new year, the Angels tendered Beltre a five-year, $77 million guaranteed offer. Texas came in $3 million above that and tacked on the sixth-year vesting option for good measure. It has always been Beltre's position that he was driven more by a desire to win than a desire for maximum coin when he opted for the Rangers, but without the resources to enable an offer of that caliber and the courage and front-office intelligence required to pull the trigger on the right player, Texas may not be in first place today.
I'm generally not big on these exercises that dabble within the realm of the hypothetical ... but until the games really start mattering again, the realm of the hypothetical is one of the best places to step back and admire what has actually been required to put together this monster of a baseball team.