We are now in the “Sports Gap” in Kansas City. The time frame between the last Chiefs game and the start of Royals spring training. For more years than I care to remember, the gap was about five weeks because the Chiefs were either not in the playoffs or made an early exit if they were. But in the Mahomes era, the Sports Gap has shortened, first in 2019 when the Chiefs made it to the AFC championship game. Then, in the 2020 and 2021 Super Bowl seasons, the gap was reduced to a mere 10 days. I prefer short gaps.
Super Bowl LV: Yes, we lost. Final Score: Tampa Bay – XXXI, Kansas City – IX.
For me, the primary reason for the loss is best shown in this graphic from NFL data guy Michael Lopez. The wild flurry of lines in the top show the paths taken by Patrick Mahomes before his pass attempts in shotgun formation. The bottom lines are the Tom Brady paths. Red for completed passes, white for incomplete. When Mahomes paths are added up, he ran 468 yards. Brady, 37. It’s harder to find receivers when you are running for your life. Case closed.
If only the Chiefs had the right to STOP THE COUNT!
Kevin Harlan on Radio: For a record 12th year in a row, Kevin Harlan was the Super Bowl play-by-play radio broadcaster. As he has often done in the past, he gave us a memorable call. When the streaker came on the field, Harlan stayed in play-by-play mode until the streaker was tackled near the end zone (listen here). Harlan also had a memorable call during a Chiefs game last season when he called two games at the same time (great video here). If you want to see more, just Google “Best Kevin Harlan Calls” – there have been many.
Harlan has lived in Kansas City since 1982 when he became the broadcaster for the Kansas City Kings. Since then, he has called thousands of games for college and pro basketball and football. As the pandemic lingers, he is calling NBA games from a makeshift studio in his basement (click here).
Wait ‘Til Next Year: Las Vegas still believes in the Chiefs. Here are the early odds for Super Bowl LVI (to be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California). Put down your $100 on the Chiefs now and win $600 when they go all the way.
Quarterbacks in Baseball: After graduating from high school, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes were drafted by Major League Baseball. They demurred and went to college to play football. Wise decisions.
In high school, Tom Brady was an excellent left-handed hitting catcher. He was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round (507th overall) of the 1995 draft. The same year Patrick Mahomes was born. Brady would have likely been drafted earlier, but it was feared he would pursue football in college. He did so at Michigan and then was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots in the 6th round (199th overall). Patriots got a bargain.
There are several variations of baseball cards with Brady as an Expo. But they aren’t real baseball cards.
Measured by Super Bowl victories, Tom Brady is football’s GOAT (greatest of all time). His counterpart in baseball is Yogi Berra who, like Brady, was a catcher, the quarterback of a baseball team.
Patrick Mahomes, son of a major leaguer pitcher, was a hitting and pitching star in high school. At one of his games, 40 MLB scouts saw him toss a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts. He won 2-1 over Michael Kopech who allowed 1 hit and struck out 12. Check out this clip from the game from a local sportscast. Spoiler alert. The scouts were there to see Kopech, not Mahomes. Both were selected in the 2014 MLB draft, Kopech by the Red Sox in the first round (33rd overall) and Mahomes by the Detroit Tigers in the 37th round (1,120th overall). Like Brady, he no doubt was not taken higher because he was headed to Texas Tech to play football. The Chiefs took him in the first round (10th overall) in the 2017 NFL draft.
I could not readily find any fake baseball cards for Patrick. But the Toledo Blade did a mockup of him in a Toledo Mud Hens uniform. Toledo was the top farm team for the Detroit Tigers and could have been a stop on the way to the majors. Chiefs fans are glad it was not.
Many pundits have suggested that Mahomes ability to throw at various arm angles comes from his baseball background. As a kid, in addition to traditional pitching, he would fool around throwing sidearm and working on sinker-ball pitches. As AP writer Dave Skretta described it, “He’s thrown touchdown passes sidearm, like a third baseman quickly unloading across the diamond, and underhand, like a second baseman starting a double play, along with those deep downfield throws on which his mechanics are as finely tuned as those of his new Ferrari.”
Mahomes’ ability to pass from seemingly impossible spots was evident in the Super Bowl, although some gems were not caught by his receivers. The throw that amazed everyone is the one shown below. He threw a strike from that position, hitting his receiver in the helmet for what would have been a touchdown (click here). In baseball lingo, the receiver should have been charged with a passed ball for missing the catch. The Tampa Bay players called Mahomes a magician (click here).
Other Mahomes baseball notes. Last year, he became part of the Royals ownership group assembled by John Sherman. He showed off his batting skills at the Big Slick charity event for Children’s Mercy at Kauffman Stadium – don’t miss his bat flip in this video.
Baseball In 2021 : The season begins with two big clouds: (i) Covid and (ii) tense labor/management relations. Hopefully, vaccines will greatly mitigate the pandemic issue. Don’t know what it will take to avoid an impasse when the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the season.
For now, let’s enjoy that sound of the crack of the bat as spring training opens.
Royals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to take the field this Wednesday at their spring training home in Surprise, Arizona.
The Royals: Owner John Sherman and GM Dayton Moore have made some bold moves in the offseason (i.e., spent a fair amount of money for a small-market franchise). The most recent was a trade with the Red Sox to acquire Andrew Benintendi who was a key part of the 108-win Boston team that won the 2018 World Series. I well remember his heroics in that postseason, especially the game-ending diving catch to seal the ALCS for Boston (click here). And he likes Kansas City barbecue.
Baseball Prospectus predicts 71 wins for the Royals in 2021 (this was before the Benintendi trade). BP famously missed badly on their Royals projection in 2015 – by 23 games. But more recently, they have been a little high. Below are the BP projections for all teams in the AL Central:
Prognosticators on the Hot Stove Nostradamus Panel are more optimistic. Here is what we say for Royals wins: Steve Roling – 74, David Matson – 76, Bob White – 77, Jeb Bayer – 80, and Lonnie – 81. We all hope we are guessing way too low.
A big problem for the Royals is that three other teams in the AL Central look much better on paper. One or two of them will need to falter to allow the Royals to squeeze out a wild card berth. But it can happen. My wish list:
(1) Reliable starting pitching from Mike Minor and the college boys. (2) Greg Holland and Wade Davis relieve like it was 2014 when they were part of HDH (no Herrera now). (3) Salvy Perez hits like he did in the short 2020 season. (4) Former Indian Carlos Santana repeats 2019 (34 homers, 4.6 WAR). (5) Mondi plays like the last half of 2020 (brilliant) rather than the first half (horrible). (6) Hunter Dozier repeats 2019 (3.2 WAR). (7) Michael Taylor and Nicky Lopez save many runs with their defense. (8) Whit is Whit. (9) Benintendi repeats 2018 (4.5 WAR). (10) Soler leads the AL in homers like he did in 2019. (11) No major injuries.
Is this too much to ask?
Kansas City Monarchs: The Kansas City T-Bones began playing in Kansas City, Kansas in 2003. In a cooperative agreement with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the franchise has been rebranded as the Monarchs. The new owner of the team has also changed the name of the stadium to the Field of Legends, a nod to the field and player statues at the museum. The Monarchs will play in the independent American Association which is designated as an MLB Partner League.
The Monarchs have announced that they have signed Christian Colon. That name has great memories for KC fans. In the 2014 wild card game with Oakland, Christian knocked in the tying run and scored the winning run. It was his only at bat in the 2014 postseason. He had two at bats in the 2015 postseason. One was a successful sacrifice bunt. The other was a hit to knock in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning of the final game of the World Series. Very efficient heroics.
Covid Vaccine: Hallelujah! Rita and I received our second Covid vaccine shot last week. Feels like being released from jail. We have been mostly quarantined at home since St. Patrick’s Day of 2020. Some grocery store runs (that would be Rita), occasional outside dining and lots of walking. We still plan to be careful and sensitive to others (mask inside the stores, etc.), but it’s a great feeling.
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell did a good promo on getting his vaccine shot (video here). Bill turned 87 three days ago.
Tom Brady and Yogi Berra lag behind Bill Russell as title GOATS. Russell was a star on teams that won two NCAA titles, one Olympic title and eleven NBA titles. That’s more than the combined NBA total for Michael (6) and LeBron (4).
Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Mary Wilson: The Supremes were the most successful artists at Motown in the 1960s. The trio of Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross had 12 #1 hits. Ballard left the group in 1967 and died in 1976. Ross left for a solo career in 1970. Mary Wilson continued with other singers as the Supremes until 1977 and then embarked on her own solo career. Wilson died earlier this month at the age of 76, leaving Diana Ross as the sole survivor of the original group. Below, l-r, Florence, Mary and Diana.
Selections for today, three of their #1 songs:
“Baby Love” (1964)
“Stop! In the Name of Love” (1965)
“The Happening” (1967)
Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – Monday Night Football (Lennon and Cosell): One more football story before we segue into the baseball season. During the news coverage in December about the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, I was reminded of the reach of Monday Night Football. Lennon was shot on Monday night, December 8, 1980. Many people found out about the killing from Howard Cosell who was on the air broadcasting MNF. It was not the first time Lennon was associated with Cosell.
In October of 1974, Lennon was on Cosell’s radio show to promote a new album. It was a far ranging interview from Lennon’s immigration issues to the potential of the Beatles reuniting. For serious John Lennon fans, the full interview is here (27:20).
On December 9, 1974, Cosell’s broadcast partner Frank Gifford ran into Lennon at a hotel and offered him tickets to the game that night. Lennon went, and when Gifford and Cosell saw Lennon talking with Ronald Reagan in the stands, they got Lennon to come into the booth for a half-time talk. Lennon, on the madness of football crowds, “it makes rock concerts look like tea parties” (video here).
Cosell was hoping he could be a facilitator to reunite the Beatles. He raised the issue several times with Lennon, but got nowhere.
Then came the fateful night in December of 1980. The booth got notice of the shooting and likely death, but held off until ABC could confirm. When they got clearance, Howard delivered the news (video here).
Lennon was in Lonnie’s Jukebox in a recent Hot Stove (“Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance” with the Plastic Ono Band). Today, I’m going with a couple of Beatles songs plus a solo by Lennon covering a rock ‘n’ roll classic.
“Twist and Shout” (1964) – John sings the lead on this Beatles’ cover of the Isley Brothers’ hit from 1962. The video is of Matthew Broderick lip-synching John’s words in the joyous parade scene in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I promise you will smile.
“A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) – This song was written by Lennon after hearing a comment from Ringo about how hard the band had been working into the night. Lennon and McCartney share lead vocals, and you know the song is coming when you hear the iconic opening chord by George Harrison. The link is to the opening scene in the movie of the same name.
“Stand By Me” (1975). The Beatles early gigs featured covers of early rock ‘n’ rollers from America. After Lennon left the Beatles, he released a solo album in 1975 (Rock ‘n’ Roll) covering songs made famous by Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, etc. One of my favorite tracks from the album is this cover of the 1961 classic by Ben E. King.
Batter Up! Go Royals!