La Velle E. Neal III
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La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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It's tough being a Twins fan at the moment. There's no television deal for next season and there have been no impactful roster moves by a team that won the American League Central in 2023.

As temperatures drop into the single digits, fans need reasons to look ahead to spring training, which begins next month in sunny and warm Florida. Instead, everyone is waiting to see how this mess with the Diamond Sports Group, parent company of the Bally Sports networks, plays out.

I'm here to offer reasons to remain optimistic, for the short- and long-term. Diamond's bankruptcy is one reason Major League Baseball is looking to change how local television revenue is being distributed.

A hearing scheduled for last Wednesday in U.S. bankruptcy court in Texas was postponed 10 days to next Friday. It's being viewed as a sign that the sides are closing in on a settlement. That could mean the Twins would be on Bally Sports North for one more season while a long-term plan is constructed. Diamond has contracts with 11 other teams, so the hot stove league has cooled off because many teams are unsure of what television revenue they are getting, or not getting, to boost their spending power. The Twins are exploring other options if the Bally's option falls apart. Don't worry. Clarity is coming.

Here's the bigger picture. While national television revenue — from ESPN, Fox, etc. — is distributed equally among teams, local television revenue is not. That disparity gives larger markets an advantage from a payroll standpoint. For instance, the Twins received $54.8 million from their Bally deal last season. They anticipate a drop in that revenue this season, which will led to them reduce payroll by around $25 million. The World Series champion Texas Rangers reportedly made about $111 million from their local TV deal.

Those numbers were learned through court proceedings. Just think what the Yankees and Dodgers, who own their own television networks, are pulling in.

I have long advocated for teams to share local revenue equally. There would be less disparity among payrolls while no one has to utter the dirty words — salary cap — to the player's association.

This idea is now being kicked around the league. In addition to reacting to the regional broadcast problem, some owners have grumbled about the Mets carrying a $370 million payroll into last season and the Dodgers signing Shohei Ohtani to a heavily deferred $700 million free-agent contract.

Convincing the big dogs to sign off on sharing local TV revenue will be challenging. But the little dogs are yapping more than ever.

So there is hope. The Twins will be on television somewhere this season. And the league is ready to pursue a new economic model. It's about time.

Cine still developing? Or a bust?

Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is correct in that player development is not linear. But when it comes to first-round picks, most of them should be plug-and-play pieces.

So I grimaced when Adofo-Mensah discussed the development of safety Lewis Cine during the Vikings' end-of-season meeting with reporters Wednesday.

"Lewis Cine pretty much didn't have a rookie year, right?" Adofo-Mensah said. "He got the injury and now he comes to learn a new defense with Brian Flores."

Cine suffered a compound fracture of his left leg in October 2022 and missed the rest of the year. If we reclassify that as Year Zero, then what was this year, when Cine was on the field for only seven games, mostly on special teams? Cine's future is more than foggy at this point, and he looks like a first-round pick that was a big miss. Missing on first-round picks can set franchises back years and put GMs on the hot seat.

Won't miss Minnesota

Here's a tip of the cap to former Twins nemesis Michael Brantley, the longtime major league outfielder who announced his retirement last week. Brantley batted .299 in his career against the Twins and foiled them time after time with big hits.

Brantley liked hitting in Target Field, but he didn't always have the best of times here. In 2015, he tore a labrum after diving for an Aaron Hicks hit. He tried to return the next season but was shut down and missed Cleveland's run to the World Series. In 2011, he played in both games of a doubleheader here in 90-degree temperatures then missed the next three games due to heat exhaustion.

Brantley was stunned when, in 2017, I reminded him of his Minnesota capers. "I've had some really good times here and some not-so-great times here," he said.

Brantley was a no-nonsense guy who had a productive 15-year run in the majors. Well done on a great career, Michael.


Gophers' week ahead

Things are looking up for the Gophers men's basketball team. They will blow out Iowa at home on Monday but lose a close game at Michigan State on Thursday.

Lions, yes; Packers, no

Look for the Bills to squeak by the Steelers (now on Monday), the Cowboys to rout the Packers and Lions to whip the Rams. The upset will come on Monday, when Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers beat a slumping Eagles team.