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Friday Four: Lockout Update, Kaat, Streaming, Torii Hunter Saves the Day

I love baseball, but I’m beginning to believe most of the owners don’t.

MLB: DEC 02 Major League Baseball Lockout
This picture feels a bit dramatic, no?
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We made it through another week without baseball, and though the weather may be deceiving, spring training is right around the corner. It’s supposed to be anyway. In the meantime, I wrote you another edition of the Friday Four. If you stick around until the end, I brought Torii Hunter with me to tell you a story.

Lockout Update

Can you imagine how amazing Major League Baseball would be if we had owners who loved the sport? Gone would be the haggling over a few million dollars here, manipulated service time there, and we could simply get down to what we love: baseball. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in a preventable lockout with the owners, so far, being unwilling to give an inch.

In MLB’s first labor negotiation in six weeks (SIX WEEKS!!), the owners and players made little progress on the new collective bargaining agreement. At this point, it feels inevitable that the start of the season will get delayed. However, it’s important to remember that, historically, not much progress has been made in these types of negotiations until there was real money on the line. For MLB, that deadline is the start of the regular season. Spring training can be condensed or the season can be pushed back, but as soon as we are running the risk of games getting canceled, that’s when the rubber will meet the road.

Personally, I believe that there’s too much money on the line for both parties to have this drag out. There is a long way to go, but I believe that a compromise will be met that will make both sides content, if nothing else. At the end of the day, maybe the owners and MLBPA can take a note from Calvin and Hobbes: a good compromise leaves everybody mad.

Jim Kaat Joins The Legends

Jim Kaat is about to become the eighth Twins player (10th person when including TK and Jackie Robinson) to have his jersey retired, placing his prestigious 36 alongside Twins legends Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Joe Mauer, Kent Hrbek, Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett.

Now, maybe it’s because I wasn’t around in the 60s and early 70s to see him play, but Kaat isn’t even the first Twin that I think of when I consider the number 36. That honor belongs, of course, to the indomitable Joe Nathan. In fact, Nathan may be just as deserving to have his jersey retired as Kaat, as our wonderful Marea Anderson put it in our Slack channel.

“I know Kaat was amazing through his career, but Nathan was at least as instrumental for the Twins perhaps even more so.”

While Kaat is certainly deserving, the honor does feel like a small slight towards Nathan who was one of the best closers of the 2000s and early 2010s. It’s difficult to compare between eras or compare starting pitchers to relievers (made even more difficult by the fact that we don’t have as much data on Kaat as we do Nathan), but it’s worth noting that on a per inning basis, Nathan was a more valuable player than Kaat during his Twins tenure. Or, at least he is in the stat I cherry-picked.

Kaat vs Nathan

3014.1 30.60 0.01
463.1 18.40 0.04

There are plenty of stats that show Kaat is better than Nathan, not the least of which being his longevity, but the point isn’t to place one above the other. Let’s just make sure that by honoring Kaat, we don’t disrespect another all-time great Twin.

MLB on AppleTV

According to a report from the New York Post, Apple is on the verge of acquiring the rights to air weeknight MLB games. While the specific financials of the deal have not been reported, there are two key takeaways from this forthcoming cash influx.

First, let’s talk about game accessibility. When Sinclair acquired the regional sports networks, which they later rebranded as Bally Sports, they seemed determined to make watching your local team as big of a hassle as possible. For cord-cutters trying to avoid an expensive cable bill, watching the Twins became nearly impossible. The Apple deal itself would not solve the local broadcasting issue, but getting baseball in front of more eyeballs can only lead to more fans. More fans lead to more demand for Sinclair to work with the streamers, which leads to more people watching the Twins. With AppleTV+ itself being a prominent streaming network, that new audience is likely to be in the coveted younger demographic. Wins all around!

Second, the fact that the most valuable publicly traded company in the world is willing to make a sizable investment in MLB has to be a good sign for the future of baseball. As other broadcasting rights deals expire and the billionaires fight over who gets the honor of bringing sports to your home, the league, teams, and players should see advancement in their brands and their respective bottom lines. While it may not be America’s most popular sport anymore, the baseball we know and love isn’t going anywhere, lockout or not.

The rumors of baseball’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Torii Hunter Saves the Twins

I’ll let him tell the story. Torii is much more interesting than I am.