The Texas Rangers were the darlings of baseball in 2010.
Texas overcame manager Ron Washington's drug-use admission, bankruptcy and a history of playoff follies to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
That's when the Rangers went from darlings to ugly ducklings as they were overmatched in five games by the San Francisco Giants.
As the Rangers prepare for their second World Series, which begins Wednesday night against St. Louis at Busch Stadium, they vow that things will be different.
"I don't think anyone expected us to be where we were last year," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "This year we expected to be back and here we are. There's confidence there. We're not overconfident because we know we have to go between those white lines and perform. The difference is we're ready to perform."
The readiness comes from the experience the Rangers gained last season. While the Rangers may not have faced the Cardinals since a three game interleague series, there will be no surprises for the Rangers this time around.
They're ready for the media crunch that comes with the World Series. They're ready for the added butterflies in playing on baseball's biggest stage. They're also fueled by a 2010 season that came up three games short of every team's ultimate goal.
"We know about last year and we were disappointed," said right-hander Colby Lewis, who will start Game 2 Thursday. "I think we were a little bit in awe last year of what a run we were on. This year it's just expected out of us. We expect each other to perform and play and get to this point. Now we just have to go take one more series."
Texas also may have learned last year that it doesn't do any good to peak too soon. Last year's American League Championship Series pitted the Rangers against the New York Yankees. To the Rangers, there were the same Yankees who won nine of 10 playoff games against Texas in the 1990s.
Beating New York in six games last year touched off a celebration among the Rangers that may have started a series too soon. That won't be the case this year.
"It's going to be way better," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We're in better shape as a team. I think mentally we're better prepared too. Last year we got to this point and I think we had so much joy from beating the Yankees we lost a little bit of focus. This year we see things in a different way. We're happy to get back. We're blessed to get back. At the same time, we're still focused and we know we've got work to do."
As much as Rangers last year wanted to believe to approach the World Series as just another series, they know that's not the case now. Nerves certainly played a role in their struggles. The offense failed to perform. Cliff Lee didn't win a game. Derek Holland had a disastrous Game 2 as he didn't record an out and walked all three batters he faced.
Those are the kinds of things that happen when a team is in a situation for the first time.
"Nothing is going to take us by surprise now," Rangers first baseman Michael Young said. "I've kind of said that all postseason. We know what to expect. We know it's going to be nuts. I think we know now to focus on the things that really matter. Experience can only be a good thing."
So can having a better team, which the Rangers believe is the case this year.
Even though they've struggled in the playoffs, the starting rotation is deeper than it was last year. The bullpen is pitching better than it has at any point in the season. The offense is deeper than it was last year.
The Rangers also feels like they are better prepared offensively to handle a pitching staff that gets on a roll like the Giants did last season. The Rangers managed just 12 runs in the World Series last year, three fewer than they scored in the Game 6 ALCS clincher over Detroit.
"We know we're going to run into solid pitching staffs this time of year," outfielder David Murphy said. "I think our offense, as solid as it was last year, we could have scratched out more runs here and there. We didn't execute. We didn't play bad. We just didn't execute as good as we could have. It's just a matter of execution."