Alex Rodriguez shared insights hot off the presses on Wednesday, having just spent time in the Yankees clubhouse before their game against the Twins, and he reported all systems remain go — as he expected even during their sluggish start.
“I continue to be confident,” the ESPN analyst said in an interview with Newsday to promote his first “Sunday Night Baseball” game featuring his old team this weekend against the Angels.
“When you have that much talent in a clubhouse, the greatest thing in baseball is the journey of the season and how long it is. Ultimately, the cream rises to the top. We all know that they’re going to win close to a hundred games — 90-plus games, at least. That was a no-brainer.”
Rodriguez said as a broadcaster he has been and will remain as objective as possible, but he also remains a “special adviser” to the team. He said he had just spent “quality time” with Gary Sanchez in the batting cage.
“Really it’s just being a big brother to young guys, but also being available for a [Giancarlo] Stanton if he runs into a wall. I’m a sounding board.”
That includes counseling players to avoid “all my mess-ups,” which among other things cost him a season-long suspension in 2014.
Speaking of Stanton, Rodriguez said he is not concerned about his slow start.
“Not at all,” he said. “Stanton in a bad year is going to hit 40 homes runs. To think that he hit 59 homes runs last year in a pitcher’s park [in Miami], as the weather warms up he will, too. He’s already started.”
Rodriguez laughed when asked about fans’ harsh early treatment of Stanton.
“You’re probably talking to the wrong guy,” he said. “I can certainly relate to the challenges of New York.” But he said all Stanton has to do is win, and all will be well.
“I walk the streets, and everywhere I go doesn’t a day go by that I don’t see a Yankee fan who is thanking me and talking about 2009 [when the Yankees won the World Series].”
Rodriguez also had just visited with Didi Gregorius, the red-hot shortstop. Rodriguez said he is not surprised by Gregorius’ start, both because of his talent and character.
“Whatever he’s doing on the field — while that’s superstar-y what we’re seeing — he’s double that as a person in the clubhouse. He speaks five languages. He has a tremendous pedigree.”
Rodriguez has gotten generally positive reviews for his rookie year in the booth with Matt Vasgersian and Jessica Mendoza. Before this season, he had done only three games for Fox, for which he mostly has done studio work and will continue to do so for the playoffs.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going well. It seems like it’s going well. I’m getting a lot more comfortable. I keep reminding myself I haven’t even done 10 of these in my entire career. I’m learning and enjoying the process.”
Rodriguez said he tries to approach the job by speaking as he would if he were at a bar “having a beer with my buddies.”
One of Rodriguez’s trademarks has been trying to anticipate pitches or other strategy, much like Tony Romo has done in CBS’ NFL booth. He said the key is not to attempt mere guesses.
“I don’t think the game is guessing,” he said. “What you’re trying to do is either suggest what should be and why and if something else happens, why you don’t agree with it and here are the reasons. Predictions are hollow. You might as well go to Vegas and roll the dice.”
Rodriguez said it would be a “great thrill” for him to call his first regular-season Yankees game for ESPN, in part because this will be his first in-person look at the Angels’ pitcher/hitter Shohei Otani. But if he has a rooting interest, he promised not to show it.
“I’m going to call it as I see it,” he said. “That’s why ESPN and Fox hired me, to do that.”