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Success 'addicting' for Texas Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers team leader Michael Young sat at his locker in the clubhouse after Game 5 and was already thinking about next season.

"Everyone says the postseason is addicting, and they're right," Young said. "This is where we have to be. And now we've raised the expectation level to do that. I can't wait to do it again."

The Rangers got a taste of celebratory champagne -- and ginger ale, of course -- and now they want to make it an annual rite on par with the perennial powers in the American League.

"This was a transformation year for the Texas Rangers," managing general partner Chuck Greenberg said. "All the hard work has been done for a number of years now by an exceptional front office led by [general manager] Jon Daniels and [president and part owner] Nolan Ryan.

"To see those efforts bear fruit this year at the major league level, to see the success on the field and the way the community rallied around the franchise to a degree that had never been seen before, was a joy to watch. You saw the game was over, the season was over and 52,000 fans were standing and cheering, 'Let's go Rangers.'

"They wanted more. This is a season to savor, and it's a season to build off of to go where this franchise has never been."

The task of building off 2010 begins now. This team was not configured to be a one-year wonder. The Rangers have a young core and the pieces in place for this past season to be merely the start of a winning window that could make sellout crowds and AL West titles more the norm than the exception in the next five years or more.

"I know we accomplished a lot of our goals, but not the ultimate one," Daniels said. "I'm very, very proud of our group. We've already started talking about next year, and we'll do more of that in earnest now. We'll find complementary pieces but won't stray from our core beliefs, which are scouting and development."

Finding those pieces last offseason was a challenge. Daniels had a tight internal budget and managed to turn pennies into dollars with some creative maneuvering at the winter meetings. He freed up enough money to sign some free agents. Some of the signings yielded huge dividends -- Vladimir Guerrero and Colby Lewis, for example -- and some didn't, like Rich Harden and Khalil Greene. But Daniels and his team took some chances and made some things happen to improve a 2009 team that won 87 games.

This offseason, Greenberg's first priority is to sign Daniels and his staff to new contracts. All sides want that to happen. Once that gets done, Daniels will ink manager Ron Washington to a long-term deal. Then he'll shift his attention to the players. He will have more money in the piggy bank to sign them.

Greenberg has pledged to make the Rangers' payroll more in line with the size of the market. That's not to say Greenberg will be throwing Daniels a pot of gold and telling him to become the Red Sox or the Yankees. But Daniels' budget will grow this offseason. It's a good thing, too. Just to keep the current team intact, he'll have to increase the payroll. A gaggle of players are due sizable raises, including arbitration-eligible stars Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson. Then there's the most valuable pitcher on the market in Cliff Lee. Daniels surprised many by landing Lee at the trade deadline. Can he sign him long-term?

Lee said that he wants to play for a winner and that his time with the Rangers was the most fun he's had in his career. And he knows that this team will be good for years to come. Daniels already has reached out to Lee's agent, and negotiations are likely to really heat up at the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., next month.

But Daniels has other questions that must be answered. Does the team bring back Guerrero as the designated hitter? Should Neftali Feliz get another shot at the rotation? What's the best way to strengthen a bullpen that faded down the stretch? Is Mitch Moreland the starting first baseman on Opening Day? Who catches next season?

Those are just a few of them. And Daniels must decide whether it's time to talk about long-term deals with Hamilton, Wilson and other players. A new TV contract and an ownership group willing to spend money should allow Daniels the flexibility to fill most of all his needs instead of picking and choosing based on a stingy budget. And he still has a strong minor league system to look at internal options or use as trade bait if needed.

"I think in general the core of the club is going to be here for some time," Daniels said. "The way I look at it is the previous two years Anaheim won 197 games, and we won the division this year with 90. I think we're going to have to be better to win the division next year, better than we were this year. So there's certainly a challenge there."

Daniels and many members of his staff wandered into the clubhouse to hug players and thank them after Game 5. Then they debriefed the game with Washington, and they undoubtedly will take some time to reflect on the season. But even after a tough loss, you could tell all of them couldn't wait to tackle next season and help get the club back to the World Series again -- with a different ending.

"This is the beginning of an era," Greenberg said. "The page was turned, and we are moving confidently and aggressively into a very bright future as an organization and as a community. For all those who said folks would lose interest in the Rangers after the All-Star break or they wouldn't come out during [Cowboys] training camp or the team couldn't win in the postseason, all those old myths are gone. And what's left is a community that loves its ballclub, a ballclub that's young and talented, has a great future ahead of it, and an organization that's committed to winning. It's a very exciting time."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.