By Kurtis Seaboldt
Saturday night, millions of Chiefs fans in Kansas City gathered with friends and family and watched the clock tick down. When it hit zero, everyone cheered. There were drinks and hugs and expressions of joy.
Sunday afternoon, millions of Chiefs fans in Kansas City gathered with friends and family and watched two clocks tick down – one in San Diego, one in Denver. When they hit zero, everyone cheered. There were drinks and hugs and expressions of joy.
A year that almost everyone wanted to see end had finally ended and the New Year was already looking pretty good. The Chiefs had won. The Raiders had lost. The AFC West championship was on its way back to Kansas City and the team that brought it back gets to stay here for a little while.
After a week off to relax, the Chiefs will get back to work next Wednesday before hosting Pittsburgh, Houston or Oakland in an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Sunday, January 15. The rarity of a Chiefs playoff game at home is notable. The rarity of a Chiefs playoff win at home is historic.
Since moving to Kansas City in 1963, the Chiefs have hosted a total of seven playoff games:
1971 – Miami 27, Kansas City 24 (2OT)
1991 – Kansas City 10, L.A. Raiders 6
1993 – Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 24 (OT)
1995 – Indianapolis 10, Kansas City 7
1997 – Denver 14, Kansas City 10
2003 – Indianapolis 38, Kansas City 31
2010 – Baltimore 30, Kansas City 7
In the years that the Chiefs have been in Kansas City, only five teams have hosted fewer home playoff games than the Chiefs. Three of them did not even exist in 1993 much less 1963. They are the Ravens (5), Cardinals (4), Texans (3), Jaguars (3) and Lions (2). The Jaguars began in 1995, the Ravens in 1996 and the Texans in 2002.
Now. About those home playoff wins. Both of them.
Only the Lions (1) have fewer home playoff wins than the Chiefs since 1963. Just how bad is it to have just two home playoff wins in that time span? Well, 63 different teams have won two home playoff games in a single season. Think about that. Sixty-three teams have won as many playoff games in a single season as the Chiefs have in fifty-four years. The Steelers and Broncos have done it six times each.
Here’s a fun stat. If you count their 1962 AFL Championship as the Dallas Texans, the Chiefs have won more post-season games in Houston than they have in Kansas City.
The Chiefs can make some history next Sunday. Arrowhead Stadium could sure use it.
By Kurtis Seaboldt
That’s the distance the Tennessee Titans had to go to win their game against the Chiefs Sunday. Having scored a touchdown with 3:14 left, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey elected to go for two and the lead. The Chiefs defense held. All they had to do was kill the clock. And Titans were out of timeouts.
The Chiefs gained eight yards on two running plays and faced 3rd and 2 with exactly two minutes left. A first down and the Chiefs would win the game and stay atop the AFC West.
That’s the distance the Chiefs had to go to win the game. Alex Smith spun to his left and went to his right before being stopped for no gain. Still, the Titans had a long way to go in just over a minute with no timeouts.
You know the rest. Tennessee drove to the Kansas City 35 before stalling. Ryan Succop missed a 53-yard field goal that didn’t count before making a 53-yard field goal that did. For the second time this season, the Chiefs had lost a home game they felt they should win by a 19-17 score. Some three hours later, the Raiders walked through the door the Chiefs left open and regained the lead in the AFC West.
One might say that the Chiefs had this one coming. They’ve been flirting with disaster all season, relying on turnovers and returns touchdowns to make up for an offense that just can’t seem to put opponents away. Today, they got one but didn’t get the other and the end result is they are staring at another Wild Card Game on the road. And therein lies one big problem for the Chiefs.
Home teams don’t turn the ball over in the postseason.
Over the last ten seasons (2006-15) there have been 100 postseason games with a home team – this, obviously excludes Super Bowls. In 21 of them, the home team did not have a turnover. In 52 of them, the home team had one or none. In 74 of them, the home team had two or fewer. Seeing a trend here? Teams that rely greatly on turnovers have a hard time when they go on the road in January.
Only 25 of those 100 road teams have been plus-2 or better in a postseason game. The teams that are plus-1 or worse were 17-58 (.227). Teams that are between plus-1 and minus-1 on turnovers are just 16-35 (.314).
The Chiefs’ formula has been successful in the regular season but today’s loss showed its flaws and limitations. History suggests that it will get an even tougher test in January.
by Kurtis Seaboldt
It was one of the most memorable endings in Chiefs history. Cairo Santos’ bank shot field goal left Broncos fans at Whatever Field at Mile High in stunned disbelief and sent Chiefs fans into euphoria.
The Chiefs had done more than just pull one out of the fire, they had won a game they really had no business winning. The Broncos had outgained the Chiefs by nearly 200 yards (464-273). Over the last 10 seasons (2007-16), teams being outgained by between 190 and 200 yards are just 9-45 (.167).
Denver, however, found out something the rest of the NFL has had the misfortune of learning: Andy Reid’s Chiefs aren’t really a “yards” team. It’s been as big a part of Reid’s tenure in Kansas City as his mustache, his play sheet and his love for looking forward to the challenge. Since Reid became head coach the Chiefs are 20-14 (.588) in games in which they are outgained. That is the most wins and the highest winning percentage in the NFL.
They are 15-12 (.556) when being outgained by at least 50 yards. They are 7-3 (.700) when being outgained by at least 100 yards. Only two other teams are .500 or better. The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL to be ranked higher in points than yards on both offense and defense in every season since 2013.
One final note: The Chiefs win over the Broncos Sunday wasn’t the only one this season by a team that got outgained by 190 yards. Another team did it just three weeks before that. It was the Chiefs. Jacksonville outgained them by 218 yards in KC’s 19-14 win on November 6.
Like I said, this isn’t really a “yards” team.
By Kurtis Seaboldt
I couldn’t wait.
It was almost four o’clock. I had just finished my day at Sports Radio 810 WHB and was getting ready to leave. First I would stop off for some food and drink – I believe a short end from Joe’s would do just fine – before heading home.
It was Tuesday, October 27, 2015. That night, the Royals would become the first team since the 1934-35 Detroit Tigers to host Game 1 of the World Series in consecutive seasons. After hard-fought battles with the Astros and Blue Jays, the Royals would try to finish the business they had left unfinished the year before.
I couldn’t wait.
As I picked up my cell phone, I noticed that I had missed a call from my older brother. Brian was born nine years before me, the second of Jerry and Jo Ann’s three boys, and was the artist and music lover. Gerry was the oldest, born 12 years before me, and was the athlete and sports fan. My mother died in 1998 and my father died in 2011 so it was just the three of us. I saw that Brian had left me a voice mail. Maybe he wanted to get together and watch the game.
“Hey, Kurt. It’s Brian. I think we may have lost our Big Bro.”
The words made my heart stop and then start pounding. Gerry and Brian still lived in the Raytown house that we all grew up in. Gerry had not been in good health for a while and Brian, just as he had done for my father in his later years, took care of him. Brian told me that he had found Gerry in his bed, unresponsive. His heart wasn’t beating. He had called 911 and paramedics had arrived quickly but were unable to get his heart started. He told me that they had transported him to Research Hospital.
I called Brian back and told him I would meet him there. When I arrived, I learned that, somewhere along the ride to the hospital, they had gotten Gerry’s heart going but they estimated that it had been stopped for nearly 45 minutes. The loss of oxygen had likely caused brain damage that could prove to be fatal. The doctors expected that his heart would stop again before the night was over and weren’t sure if he’d make it to the morning.
They got him into a room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and my brother and I, along with a couple of friends and family, went to the waiting room. We contacted Gerry’s oldest son, Kris, who joined us. Brian and I decided that Kris should and would be the one to make any and all decisions regarding Gerry’s care. A doctor came out and talked to Kris and updated him on what had happened, what would happen and what the very few options were. We went back with Kris to see Gerry and then returned to the waiting room.
There were probably 20 other people in the waiting room including a large group that had brought a crockpot and several different kinds of food and drink. They were all gathered around the TV in one corner of the room. And why not? It was almost seven o’clock. The World Series was about to start.
We sat about 15 feet away in our little area and watched as well, asking each other what we thought would happen in the game and the series. Alcides Escobar hit the first pitch he saw for an inside-the-park home run and our neighbors in the corner went wild. Well, kinda wild. We were still in an ICU waiting room, after all. Occasionally, a doctor or a nurse would come in and talk to us, jolting us back to the reality from which we never really left.
The mood in the room was decidedly quieter as the Mets gained a 4-3 lead and took that lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. The doctors had told us that there would be no change in Gerry’s condition for a while – he was on a ventilator – and that we were welcome to stay but that it might not be a bad idea to go home and try to get some sleep. We knew the coming days were going to be painful and exhausting so we all agreed; we’d leave as soon as the game was over.
Then Alex Gordon did his thing. Again our neighbors in the corner went kinda wild. We did a few fist bumps and high fives and decided we’d stay and watch it all the way to the end, right there in that room.
At about 12:18, Eric Hosmer brought the longest World Series opener in history to a close and we called it a night. Before we left, we went down to see Gerry one more time. At that moment, as we looked at him lying there, unconscious with tubes everywhere, the final score of a baseball game couldn’t have meant any less to us.
But we told him anyway. “5-4, Royals in 14.”
We made plans to meet back there the next morning, hugged, wiped away tears and left. It was the end of a day that I can’t even begin to describe. Sitting there with my brother and nephew watching the team I’ve loved for 40 years win a dramatic game on the biggest stage in the world. All the while, 90 feet away, the man who took me to my first Royals game, lay dying. You felt terrible. Then something good happened and, for a brief moment, you felt good. Then you felt terrible for feeling good. The swing of emotions was dizzying.
We spent Wednesday there as they began a procedure in which they lower the body temperature to halt or at least slow down the progression of the damage. Then they slowly re-warm the body and reassess the situation. They expected the worst but wanted to make sure that everything had been done to bring him back. At about six o’clock they said that tomorrow would be the earliest that they would know anything and advised that we go home for the evening. I sat in my apartment and watched Johnny Cueto close out his Royals career with a complete game win. The Royals were half way to a World Series championship. I turned off the TV, went to bed and barely slept.
Thursday, we learned that all efforts to save Gerry had been exhausted with no success and we had to decide what we wanted to do. He had no measurable brain function. His internal organs were failing. His body was beginning to shut down. Kris’ mother and Gerry’s youngest daughter joined us and we all agreed with Kris’ belief that Gerry would not want to be kept alive in this condition. He was one of the toughest men we’d ever known. To be kept alive by a machine was as far from his style as you could get. We decided that he would be coded as “Do Not Resuscitate”.
Kris asked about organ donation – Gerry’s eyes were perfect as far as we knew – and he was told that they’d do a test in the morning to determine if that was possible. Then they would disconnect the machines that were keeping him alive and whatever happened next would happen next.
Friday morning, we learned that organ donation was not possible. They disconnected the machines at 10:00 and at 10:10 Gerry Lee Seaboldt was gone. That night, I went out with my friends, Matt and Liz, their daughter, Amanda, and her boyfriend, Jake, to watch Game Three.
I wanted to be with friends and, just as importantly, I wanted to do anything that I could to think about anything but what had happened the previous four days. It helped, even though my brothers, the one I lost and the one I still had, were never out of my mind. By an unbelievable and tragic coincidence, Jake’s father had been and still was in the adjoining ICU after suffering a stroke. Amanda, Jake and Jake’s mother, Diane, all asked to see Gerry. Jake and his mother held his hand and talked to him. It was amazing. In turn, I went down the hall and met Bob for the first time.
Two days after Gerry died, the Royals won it all and they did so in typically dramatic fashion. I watched the game at my apartment with my long time friends, Gary Barnes and Ken Haagensen, the same pair that had accompanied me for Game 7 against the Cardinals in 1985 and Game 7 against the Giants in 2014. For the first time in 30 years, the Royals were World Champions. My phone started lighting up with texts. In years past, one of the first would have been from Gerry. But not that night.
The 2015 World Series will live on forever in the hearts and minds of every Royals fan who saw it. It will live on forever in mine as well. But it will always be just a part of a much larger story.
by Kurtis Seaboldt
Not long after the Cleveland Indians ended the season of the Boston Red Sox with their ALDS sweep, someone on Twitter asked me who I thought was the best postseason hitter in baseball history. The question was clearly inspired by the final game in the amazing career of Boston’s David Ortiz, perhaps the most famous October hero.
I looked at some numbers before saying that I would give it to Ortiz but the brief exercise got me thinking about an all-time postseason team. So, here it is.
C – Thurman Munson (Yankees) His .357 BA, .496 SLG and .874 OPS are the highest for any catcher with at least 100 AB’s. He hit .529 in the Yankees’ loss to the Reds in the 1976 World Series.
1B – Lou Gehrig (Yankees) Yes, I know. Two positions, two Yankees. But Gehrig’s numbers are so good. His slash line in 119 career AB’s: .361/.483/.731/1.214.
2B – Chase Utley (Phillies, Dodgers) Utley’s 10 home runs are the most by a second baseman as are his seven home runs in the World Series. He and Reggie Jackson are the only two players to hit five home runs in a single World Series.
3B – George Brett (Royals) One of three third basemen to hit at least 10 postseason home runs and he did it in fewer AB’s (166) than Chipper Jones (303) and Alex Rodriguez (216). His .337 BA is second only to Pablo Sandoval (.351) among third basemen with at last 150 AB’s. He hit three home runs in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS at Yankee Stadium and I haven’t even mentioned Goose Gossage.
SS – Derek Jeter (Yankees) Another Yankee. I tried hard to find someone other than Jeter but it just isn’t possible. He dwarfs every other player in career stats. And there’s the throw in Oakland that saved the Yankees in 2001.
LF – Manny Ramirez (Red Sox, Dodgers) Not only does Ramirez have more hits, home runs and RBI than any other left fielder, his slash line (.338/.442/.604/1.046) is easily the best of any left fielder with at least 100 AB’s
CF – Carlos Beltran (Astros, Mets) Bernie Williams’ totals are much better but Beltran’s are pretty amazing and it’s unlikely that any player at any position has had as dominant a postseason as Beltran did in 2004 for Houston when he hit eight home runs and compiled a slash line of .435/.536/1.022/1.557.
RF – Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees, Angels) The nickname “Mr. October” is deserved. He hit more home runs than any right fielder and he almost single-handedly crushed the Dodgers in 1977. He was also MVP of the 1973 ALCS for Oakland.
DH – David Ortiz (Red Sox) Another situation where the overall numbers are so dominant that they leave no other choice and that doesn't even mention his ability to pile up those numbers at the exact moment when the Red Sox needed them the most. Perhaps the best postseason hitter ever and certainly the best of his era.
SP – Andy Pettitte (Yankees) Easily the most wins (19) in the postseason – Tom Glavine is second with 14 – but it’s more than that. Twelve times Pettitte took the mound with the Yankees on the verge of clinching a series. Eight times the Yankees won and Pettitte was 6-2 in those games. He ended another team’s season six times.
SP – Curt Schilling (Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox) He might be on this list for that 2004 ALCS start at Yankee Stadium alone. His career numbers are astounding (11-2 with a 2.23 ERA with four complete games, including two shutouts).
SP – John Smoltz (Braves) Smoltz is not just third in wins with 13 but he’s third in winning percentage (13-4, .765) among starters with at least 10 decisions.
SP – Madison Bumgarner (Giants) Duh. His cumulative numbers may not knock you out of your chair (8-3, 2.11) but they are still great, especially when you consider his age. Simply brilliant when his team absolutely needs it, even on short rest as Royals fans will bitterly attest.
SP – Bob Gibson (Cardinals) Nine career starts. Nine complete games. Seven wins and an ERA of 1.89. He won all three of his starts as the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series and he struck out 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, a record that still stands today.
RP – Mariano Rivera (Yankees) The only possible choice. It’s not just the 42 saves – Brad Lidge is next with 18 – but it was his sheer dominance over an extended period of time. His career postseason ERA of 0.70 almost defies belief. The best closer ever was the best in October as well.
MGR – Tony LaRussa (White Sox, A’s Cardinals) He won a division title with the White Sox, three pennants and a World Series with the A’s and three pennants and two World Series with the Cardinals.
by Kurtis Seaboldt
Royals fans were scratching their heads.
It was Monday, August 1, and the team was in Tampa, Florida. They had arrived on a gloomy flight from Arlington where they had just been swept in a four-game series against the Rangers. They had lost eight times in nine games and had just completed their worst calendar month in four years.
And they were doing nothing about it.
The trade deadline was hours away and the Royals, with a handful of attractive, tradable pieces were doing nothing. Weren’t buying. Weren’t selling. It seemed inexplicable. Dayton Moore had vaulted himself into the upper echelon of general managers by assembling a team that had been to consecutive World Series but the last six months had not been stellar.
Big contracts to keep Alex Gordon and acquire Ian Kennedy and Joakim Soria were not paying off. Gordon was hitting .206 and had driven in 16 runs. He had hit seven home runs which meant that he had driven in nine teammates. All year.
Kennedy had just allowed one run over seven in a loss to Texas but his 6-9 record and 4.23 ERA was nothing to shout about. Soria had an ERA over 4.00. The team’s closer, Wade Davis, was hurt. They weren’t scoring runs and they were giving up plenty. This season was over. Why not begin the building process for next year?
Then Danny Duffy climbed the mound at Tropicana Field and pitched the greatest game in Royals history, striking out 16 batters in a 3-0 win. Royals won the next night but lost three in a row before Duffy stopped the skid with a win over Toronto. Counting that game and last night’s win at Boston, the Royals have won 17 of 21. Their record in August is 19-7, completely reversing their 7-19 July. They are the first team since the 2005 Oakland A’s to follow a 19-loss month with a 19-win month.
The Royals, 12 back in the division and 8.5 back in the Wild Card when August began, are now just 5.5 back in the Central and 3 back in the Wild Card. Danny Duffy has vaulted into the Cy Young discussion, Kennedy built off his last July start and has a 1.11 ERA in August. Soria has not allowed a run in 11 straight appearances. Even Alex Gordon had a ten-game stretch in which he batted .432 and slugged .919.
The capper to this amazing resurgence has been the Royals’ bullpen. Minus Davis and Luke Hochevar, the bullpen only ripped off the longest scoreless streak in half a century with only one member who was in the pen a year ago. Kelvin Herrera was joined by Soria, Chris Young, Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Flynn, Peter Moylan, Dillon Gee and Matt Strahm in pitching more than 41 consecutive scoreless innings. Look at those names again.
Suddenly, Dayton Moore’s offseason looks a heck of a lot better. And his decision to stand pat at the deadline looks like borderline genius. The Royals still have work to do and there is little margin for error. But the hardest team in baseball to kill the last two seasons is within striking distance and there isn’t a team in American League that feels good about that.