ST. LOUIS (USA Today) — The two of them cringe at the memories, reminded of their anguish virtually every day they step inside the San Francisco Giants clubhouse.
There are beautiful World Series championship rings everywhere they look, nine of their teammates owning a ring for either hand from the Giants' 2010 and 2012 championship seasons.
Veteran pitcher Tim Hudson still can't believe he never won a title with all of that talent a decade ago in Oakland. And any thoughts of winning a ring in Atlanta quickly vanished when the Braves barely showed interest when he became a free agent.
"It was made pretty clear to me the Braves didn't want me back,'' Hudson, 38, tells USA TODAY Sports, noting the Braves' initial offer was so low, he didn't even bother to counter.
"After what I had done for them, it was kind of a slap in the face.''
Left fielder Michael Morse believed he could get his ring in 2012 with the Washington Nationals. The Nationals shut down ace Stephen Strasburg before the playoffs, and they were out in the first round, which still haunts Morse and several of his former teammates today.
"A lot of people don't realize you might only get one shot,'' Morse says. "One shot. That could have been the only shot. I just wish we could have given it everything we had, but we didn't.''
Hudson and Morse are now taking matters in their own hands.
Together, they may be the biggest reason why the Giants could be headed to their third World Series parade in five years, winning again Sunday, 8-0, over the St. Louis Cardinals.
There's no need to look further than Giants GM Brian Sabean's dual winter signings to understand why the Giants, 37-20, have baseball's best record, while running away with the NL West.
Hudson, who signed a two-year, $23 million contract, dazzled once again Sunday, pitching seven shutout innings against the Cardinals and improving to 6-2 with a 1.75 ERA.
"I'd be lying if I said I thought I'd start off (this) consistently,'' says Hudson, who's yielded two or fewer runs in nine of 11 starts. "It's really been satisfying, not just personally, but for the team.''
Morse, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract, has been the Giants' offensive savior, particularly after first baseman Brandon Belt broke his thumb May 9. He leads the Giants with 11 homers and 38 RBI, hitting .393 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
"He's been a godsend,'' says Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who had only five homers from his left fielders last season. "When we lost Belt, that could have been devastating.
"He's just what we needed at a time we needed him the most.''
Really, the Giants are just what they needed too.
Morse, who hit just .215 last season with the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles, plagued all year by a sore wrist, questioned whether his career might be over. Hudson, who broke his right ankle last July when Mets outfielder Eric Young stepped on him running to first base, wondered whether he would be back.
"I was thinking, "Man, this is a hell of a way to go out,'' Hudson said.
Said Morse: "When my wrist started hurting, and it started affecting my swing, I kind of thought, 'Well, this is it.' You always heard about guys who hurt their wrist, and they kind of ride off in the sunset. I thought that was going to be me, too.''
Well, a funny thing happened. Hudson's ankle started healed just fine, and he has never commanded the strike zone better in his career. Morse underwent wrist surgery in October, and, despite playing in hitter-unfriendly AT&T Park, is now even a more productive hitter than in 2011, when he 31 homers with 95 RBI for the Nationals.
Hudson, whose teams have been winless in seven postseasons, and Morse, whose only postseason was played without a most dominant starter, now can change their fate.
"I think of all of the players I've played with and against over the years,'' Hudson says. "I'll say, 'Man, look at that guy, even he has a ring. Look, that guy, too.'
"There were a couple of years in Oakland (2001 and 2003), the years we lost to New York and Boston in the playoffs, and I thought for sure we were going to win. I swear we were the better team, but couldn't get past them.
"So not only don't I have a ring, I've never been past the first round.''
That's got a real chance to change. Hudson's averaging a major-league low 13 pitches per inning, yielding just 8.32 baserunners per nine innings.
"We have a lot of fun with him,'' Giants pitcher Matt Cain says. "We ask him how it was pitching in the 1930s, and what was it like facing Babe Ruth?''
Hudson, baseball's active wins leader with 211, says: "I don't know how much longer I have in this game, but the reason why I'm still playing is to get that ring. When Atlanta was no longer an option, one of the main reasons I came here was the fact they're committed to winning.''
It was the same rationale that lured Morse, 32. He hated the idea his only chance at a World Series ring may have been taken away once the Nationals decided to preserve Strasburg's arm. He still refused to believe it right up to the final inning of the final game of the 2012 Division Series, when the Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth to win, 9-7.
"It was such a weird feeling,'' Morse says. "I kept watching Stras throwing bullpens, still running, still doing his thing. I thought, 'Man, maybe he's going to come out of the bullpen.' Or in Game 5, the lights are going to turn off, the spotlight is going to come on, he's going to run out.
"I remember talking to guys like Mark DeRosa, and they said, 'This could be your one and only shot.' It made sense what they were saying to me.''
Morse made sure to give himself another opportunity.
"I'm not only proving what I can do,'' Morse says, "but showing them they made the right choice. I'm playing for a Hall of Fame manager on a team that knows how to win, wants to win again, and has what it takes to win.
"Really, what more could we ask?''