“Thank you,” someone would inevitably say, grabbing Ross’s arm, the simplicity of the statement and the earnestness of the voice conveying the emotion behind it.
“No,” Ross would reply, genuinely amazed and grateful that people recognized him and were so moved by something he had a hand in achieving, “thank you.”
By the time the Giants reported to spring training last month to launch their title defense — met there by a camera crew from Showtime, which is shooting a season-long documentary series on the team — Manager Bruce Bochy felt the need to bring everyone back to reality. Closing the clubhouse doors (Showtime’s cameras were kicked out, as well), he urged his players to get out of glory-basking mode and rediscover the hunger that drove them all the year before.
“We'll never forget what happened. You deserved every accolade you received,” Bochy told them, as he summarized to reporters later. “But success is never final. You have to earn it again. You’re never more vulnerable to complacency, sloppiness or arrogance [than you are now]. That’s why we need to keep our focus.”
For sure, it was a charmed existence, the likes of which few had ever witnessed, that the Giants led in the second half of the 2010 season, and all the way to the end of October. None of their five top starting pitchers missed a start, which is practically unheard of in today’s world of sore shoulders and elbow blow-outs. Their September waiver-wire acquisitions, Ross and lefty specialist Javier Lopez, turned into Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax every time they set foot on the field.
But if a skeptic questions whether everything could possibly go so right for the Giants in 2011, the Giants would answer: Who says it can’t? And who says it has to?
“We love it when the critics say it was a miracle season,” Ross said. “Because when you look at our lineup, we don’t have any superstars in that lineup. You’ve just got a lot of guys who play baseball, and play the right way, and want to win. I’d take our team over a team with two superstars who only care about themselves, and nothing else. I’ve played on teams like that, and it doesn’t work.”
Maybe as a hedge against the law of averages — surely their luck can’t be quite as good this time around — the Giants should have done more this winter than simply replace Juan Uribe with Miguel Tejada at shortstop.