"MLB Now" Review: Surprisingly Good

Doug Pensinger

MLB Now is a new show on MLB Network featuring sabermetric enthusiast Brian Kenny and traditional-minded former player Harold Reynolds. Sounds fun and dumb, right? Well it was fun, but also surprisingly intelligent.

I really shouldn't have been so excited about MLB Now, a new series on MLB Network featuring Harold Reynolds and Brian Kenny. I don't like the scout-stats dichotomy, I don't like Harold Reynolds, and based on the advertisements, I did not think I would like the style of dialogue from an intellectual point of view.

However, from an entertainment point of view, I was all for it. Watching people argue is fun, and appeals to me personally. As much as I hate to admit it, I love watching pundits go at it on CNN or Fox News, and I love the presidential debates, not for the policy discussions - rarely is anything of interest added on that front - but for the fun of the debate. So I set my expectations low for MLB Now as far as actual interesting material was concerned, but still expected to be entertained by the fighting.

As it turns out, the show was essentially the opposite of what I had expected. Kenny and Reynolds discussed a wide variety of topics in a rational and interesting way, from whether the Yankees should re-sign Cano to whether the DH should be implemented in the National League. And, possibly even more surprising, I agreed with Reynolds on multiple points, including his answers to the aforementioned topics.

There was also much less fighting and yelling than I expected. I thought the show would be more entertainment than analysis, but I'm happy to say that I underestimated MLB Network. Though the two pundits did go at it a few times, the moderator (Kristina Akra) was quick to switch to a new topic. I actually found this to be somewhat frustrating at times, since the animated discussions were usually fairly interesting - though I suppose that may be the part of me that wanted to see entertainment over analysis.

The show featured a couple good guests, Orioles' manager Buck Showalter and Yankees beat writer Joel Sherman, neither of whom was afraid to challenge the two hosts (read: Kenny) on their views. Showalter was especially fun to watch as he challenged Kenny's belief that the Orioles can't repeat their 2012 magic. And though I agree with Kenny in the end, I think it's good for both myself and for the sabermetric community to have their beliefs questioned by those who are closest to the game.

All that being said, in the end, I can't say I learned a lot from the first episode of MLB Now. They didn't delve into new research or present arguments in a way that I hadn't already heard them. But that's completely okay with me. I don't really need to learn new things when I watch MLB Network for it to be worthwhile; good discussion can be very valuable even if no new information is presented.

I can't say MLB Now was perfect, but I see a lot of potential going forward. The best thing about the show, in my opinion, is its willingness to merge the two major trains of thought in baseball, and make them seem more compatible than we may have previously thought. Clubhouse Confidential is still the go-to show if you want to see real analysis from an analytical point of view, but all fans, sabermetric or traditional, can expect to see their views challenged on MLB Now.

I can't promise that it will continue being the surprisingly high quality show that I watched yesterday, but I'm optimistic that it can be both interesting and entertaining, and that Kenny and Reynolds can find a good balance between entertaining arguments and rational debates. If you watched the show yesterday, I'd love to hear with you agree with me in the comments below.

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