Last year, unless you’re a diehard, you knew MLB Now as a show that  embodied sports debate culture brought to baseball. It was built out of the great Trout-Cabrera MVP debates, and it turned into an almost nightly referendum on analytics (of host Brian Kenny) vs. the “old school” approach (espoused by Harold Reynolds). Widespread attention given to the show came about due to the deep disconnect between the two that led to some heated moments.

“We wondered how long would that aspect of it last,” said Kenny.

With Reynolds now moonlighting as the lead analyst for Major League Baseball on Fox, Kenny will take the reins on what he calls “the next level.” MLB Now will return on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, with Kenny entrenched in the host chair (there had been a moderator for Kenny and Reynolds, Kristina Akra, in the previous format). Instead of Reynolds across the desk, there will be three panelists in a roundtable format that sounds like a baseball version of Bill Maher’s HBO show as we spoke over the phone on Wednesday.

Kenny describes the show as “state-of-the-art, a lot like” his off-season program dedicated to analytics, Clubhouse Confidential. Similar to Maher’s show, Kenny’s own personal commentaries and monologues will be included with the panel discussion frequently. The guests will include a former player/analyst (including Reynolds, Sean Casey and, on the first show, Mitch Williams), a journalist (Ken Rosenthal in Tuesday’s debut) and a member of the analytics community (Joe Maddon will be in that spot on Tuesday, but names like Ben Lindbergh, Vince Gennaro and Jay Jaffe were floated).

Going over the details of the show with Kenny, it sounds like it’s built out of the dream of bringing all of his worlds at MLB Network together. The series will feature the researchers, the analytics people, the journalists and the former players who make up the network all coming together to bring baseball talk into new territory. The show’s topics will be heavily researched, and then the information will be brought into the panel discussion.

The show developed from one of the key lessons Kenny’s learned at MLB Network. “One thing I’ve learned here is you need to listen to everybody,” said Kenny. “As sabermetric as I am and how much I read and devour and write essays on trends in baseball and competitive advantages and constantly moving forward with the game… I know if I wanted to know what’s going wrong with a pitcher, I’ll ask Mitch Williams. He knows more about that.”

“I’ve learned a ton from the players we have on the desk. They just know different things, whereas Ben Lindbergh or Rob Neyer will know much more about roster construction and allocation of resources. But a player will know much more intimately the mechanics of the pitcher, where the fielders were supposed to be, and lots of other things. I’ve been fortunate to kind of live in both worlds, and the baseball industry is kind of moving towards that,” Kenny said.

MLB Now will join a crowded lineup at MLB Network, which starting Monday will broadcast approximately 13 hours of regularly scheduled programming each day, including a new show from Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and the nightly six or seven hours of MLB Tonight. The question isn’t whether or not MLB Now can be successful on a network that broadcasts baseball all day. The question is if it will stand out, which Kenny believes it will with a nod to the future.

“Why can’t Sean Casey and Rob Neyer be sitting and talking baseball? They should be,” he says. “It shouldn’t be that ‘Oh, this is the sabermetric show’ and ‘This is the baseball players show,” it’s a baseball show. I think we’re going to have all of the different perspectives represented. It’s the next step.”

About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.

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