MLB Playoffs

How unlikely Giants hero Cody Ross became iconic Phillies villain

How unlikely Giants hero Cody Ross became iconic Phillies villain

The Giants wouldn't have won three World Series last decade without clutch moments from unexpected sources.

Juan Uribe's first postseason home run in a half-decade sent San Francisco to the 2010 World Series. Edgar Renteria, who only received regular-season MVP votes of any kind twice in his career, was the World Series MVP that year. Barry Zito went from free-agent zero to playoff hero with a pair of influential performances on the mound in 2012. Travis Ishikawa hit an NLCS-winning, walk-off home run in 2014, six months after he was designated for assignment.

But only one instantly became an iconic villain to an opposing fan base.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman made the case Tuesday that Cody Ross is the biggest villain in Philadelphia Phillies history because of his 2010 NLCS MVP-winning performance.

"In all, Ross hit .350 in the series, going 7 for 20 with three doubles, three homers and five RBI," Seidman wrote. "His Giants teammates hit one home run in 181 at-bats. Ross slugged .950 in that series. His teammates slugged .282."

For reference, Ross slashed .288/.354/.466 with three home runs and seven RBI in 33 regular-season games with the Giants. Ross also had more doubles, dingers and RBI in the NLCS than he did in the NLDS and World Series combined, as the outfielder batted .258 against Atlanta and the Texas Rangers that postseason.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

While Ross' dominance at the plate caught the Phillies off guard, his power shouldn't have. Ross hit more regular-season homers against Philadelphia (14) than any other opponent and more dingers at the Phillies' ballpark (eight) than any other opponent's home. He hit all three of his playoff home runs against the Phillies in Philadelphia.

Of course, two of those home runs were against the late Roy Halladay. Halladay had pitched a no-hitter in his lone NLDS start, and Ross was just 3-for-16 in his career -- with zero extra-base hits -- at that point against the eventual Baseball Hall of Famer. So, Ross changed his approach.

"I had tried everything against this guy," Ross recalled in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman earlier this month. "I tried to hit it the other way, stay up the middle, hit the ball on the ground, with zero success. I finally said, 'I’m going to go up there and try to hit a home run and see what happens.' Sure enough, first at-bat, wham! Home run. I’m running around the bases thinking, 'Did that really happen?' I felt like I was running on clouds. Next at-bat, he threw the same pitch in almost the exact same spot and I almost hit it to the exact same spot."

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Those Phillies had won the World Series two years prior and the pennant the year before. Philadelphia hasn't made an NLCS since, nor a postseason appearance since 2011. The 2010 and 2011 Phillies won the most and fourth-most games in franchise history, respectively.

But strange things happen in MLB's postseason, and Ross' Ruth-ian performance crystalizes that fact. That won't make him any less loathed in the City of Brotherly Love, though.

How MLB legend Ozzie Smith inspires Tony Kemp in bid for A's starting job

How MLB legend Ozzie Smith inspires Tony Kemp in bid for A's starting job

When you see A’s infielder Tony Kemp doing a backflip before games this [hopeful] baseball season, we can tell you it is a tribute to Hall of Famer, Ozzie Smith.
“I grew up a big Cardinals fan,” Kemp said via FaceTime last week. “It was kind of inspired by Ozzie”
Kemp said his father took him to a few games, and instantly he was hooked on the St. Louis baseball culture. Shortly after, the work of learning a backflip began on a trampoline.
“Finally until we got enough confidence from the trampoline, I tried to take it to the ground,” Kemp recalled. “Once I figured it out, figured out how my body works and tried to land it … there were some failed attempts in the beginning stages.”
And if you’re trying to figure out when, and why they appear now:
“Can’t do it every time, but every now and then, I try to surprise the fans with something,” Kemp explained.

One of the few remaining question areas for Oakland is at second base, with Kemp on the short-list for consideration as a regular. Spring training is, only spring training, but he still hit .345 in 29 at-bats with the new club.
“I don’t know how they felt … but I felt like I fit right in,” Kemp joked. 
“They’ve been knocking on the door for the past years. I feel honestly, in my heart, this is the year that it’s time to make a splash. We have the resources to do it.”

[RELATED: Why Matt Olson is A's most underrated player]
As for when and where MLB’s suspended season could resume, Kemp still has zero details but a much more optimistic instinct over the last few weeks.
“I definitely think there is an end in sight, and I think we can get on the field. Being on the group text with the guys I know they’re anxious to get on the field.”

What Ray Fosse misses about sports during MLB's coronavirus hiatus

What Ray Fosse misses about sports during MLB's coronavirus hiatus

Editor's note: Like you, NBC Sports Bay Area insiders, reporters and analysts are feeling the sports void during the coronavirus stoppage. They'll share their thoughts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in "What I Miss About Sports." Next up in the series: A's color commentator Ray Fosse.

The great thing about baseball is that every team is in first place on Jan. 1 of the new year. Unless you're a fan of, or personally involved with, the previous year's World Series champions, you might not remember too much about the Fall Classic. Especially if your team was eliminated early in the season.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, I experienced both.

I was one of the lucky young boys who grew up dreaming of playing professional baseball, and I lived my dream for parts of 12 seasons, mostly with Cleveland and the A's. My years with Cleveland were seasons in which we, as players, thought “This is the year and we’re going to win the World Series!” That started on New Year's Day and went through spring training.

Then, the reality would set in.

All the hopes and dreams of a successful season disappeared as soon as the regular season began in April. The unfortunate part of my career is that every season during two stints in Cleveland ended in a trip home following the last game of the year. Our season would end, and all we could do was get through the winter and start dreaming of Jan. 1 again.

The fortunate part of my career occurred in the spring of 1973. I was still dreaming of a successful season, playing home games at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.

It all changed with 10 days left in spring training. I was traded to the A’s, and all my dreams were about to come true all of a sudden.

Ray Fosse homers off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton in Game 5 of the 1974 World Series. Image courtesy AP Photo.

To be honest, I was disappointed to be traded. As a young kid, I collected baseball cards and watched my favorite player, Stan Musial, play his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals. I, too, wanted to play my entire career with the same team.

When I reported to the A’s in Mesa, Ariz., I was really disappointed. The A’s had won the World Series in 1972 against the Cincinnati Reds, and my first reaction was that I just got traded to the World Champions.

But why not the year before? I thought I was a year late and the team would not repeat.

I was wrong.

With the season soon to begin I asked Dick Green, our second baseman, why A's were just going through the motions and seemingly not too serious about the upcoming season.

"We are ready to go," he simply said. "We know we are going to win our division, play a team from the Eastern Division, beat them, play the National League representative and be World Champions, again.”

I was stunned by his comments, but everything he said came true. Not just in 1973, but also 1974. Three consecutive World Series championships: 1972, 1973 and 1974. The New York Yankees are the only other team to win at least three straight World Series.

There have been many great summers in Oakland since the club moved from Kansas City before the 1968 season. Each year started with the “dream” on Jan. 1 and then getting in shape in the warm sun in spring training. First in Florida, and then in Arizona where the club currently trains.

The A's always knew they would be starting the regular season in Oakland, in front of the best fans in baseball. The real grass at the Oakland Coliseum, warm summer days where families could get away and enjoy their favorite sport and team -- this is what everyone misses about sports, especially at this time of the year. The thought of a winning season always is on the minds of the A’s fans, too, even though there are some years they know they probably won’t see October baseball.

I have been very fortunate, both as a baseball player and broadcaster, to experience the highs and lows of a season. Even though the “dream” arrives every Jan. 1, there are certain years that the “experts” say your team does not have a chance to be successful.

The year 2012 stands out as one.

The A's celebrate winning the 2012 AL West title. Image courtesy

It started with the A's flying to Japan to begin the regular season against the Seattle Mariners. It was Bob Melvin's first full season as manager. Yoenis Cespedes had just signed with the A’s, and he hit his first MLB home run in his second game. The A's unexpected journey to the playoffs when the team returned to the Bay Area.

There were a number of walk-off wins, and Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge were the team's inspirational leaders. Inge, on two different occasions, separated his shoulder, manipulated it back in place and continued the game: Once getting a clutch two-out hit and the other staring a double play to end the inning. Gomes, when taken out of the game for a pinch hitter, would be at the top step cheering for the player hitting for him.

There was no “I” in that team.

The remarkable season came down to the last three games of the season, all against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers needed to win one game to clinch the AL West, and the A’s needed one to win the Wild Card.

The A's clinched a playoff spot by winning the series' first game on Oct. 1, and they celebrated in the clubhouse. I asked Melvin how the team would be ready for the next game against the Rangers.

"[Then-A's bench coach Chip Hale] will get everyone ready,” Melvin said.

Hale did, and the A’s beat the Rangers in the second game.

They won the third game, too, on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in front of a sellout crowd at the Oakland Coliseum. It was winner-take-all, and the A's clinched the AL West -- with the help of a dropped fly ball by Josh Hamilton -- in a 12-5 win.

The A’s were in first place for one day of the season: Game No. 162. They proved the "experts" wrong and did something very rare in baseball. Oakland celebrated twice in three days!

The A's lost in five games in the ALDS to the Detroit Tigers, even though they ultimately forced a Game 5 after losing the first two in Detroit. Oakland scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 4, but the A's couldn't repeat the magic in Game 5 and the Tigers headed to the ALCS.

Something very strange happened after that 6-0 loss. With the Tigers celebrating on the field, A’s fans didn't leave the Coliseum.

Instead, they stayed and cheered their team.

The great A’s fans were so appreciative of the way their team played all season that they didn't want to leave. The A's did not immediately leave the field, either.

Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick embrace after the A's lose Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS. Image courtesy AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

It was the best celebration for a team that “did not win” that I have ever seen. As a matter of fact, the Tigers said the cheering by the A’s fans, in a loss, helped prepare them to play -- and eventually beat -- the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Baseball, like all sports, is played in front of wonderful fans. Everyone wants to support a winner, but that does not always happen.

At the end of the game, win or lose, everyone involved leaves with something special to talk about with friends and family. It is a memory that will last forever.

Those memories have been taken away from us at this time, but as a great country, we will be back and the memories will be even greater.

I miss sports, like everyone. But please, be safe and know we will all be together soon.

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