The Yankees no longer are paying Alex Rodriguez and he no longer has a “special adviser” role with them, although he said he has had “very positive” talks with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner about maintaining ties to the team.
But Rodriguez still will be seeing a lot of his former team now that he has joined ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” booth as an analyst.
What might he and the rest of us see from them this season? Rodriguez, who was there at the beginning of the current Baby Bomber era, cautioned that the addition of Giancarlo Stanton could be a delicate chemistry experiment.
“I really, really enjoyed watching the Yankees be David for a change [in 2017],” Rodriguez said Friday on a conference call to promote the new Sunday night booth, which also includes returning analyst Jessica Mendoza and new play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian.
“For the first time in probably over 25 years, they weren’t Goliath. They created an incredible clubhouse culture and they were well-balanced from top to bottom.
“Obviously, you would always welcome a talent like Stanton. There’s a lot of pros to that. The question is, what does that do to a clubhouse? How does that shift the pressure on [manager] Aaron Boone? What does that do to the comfort level of someone like Aaron Judge? Now you shift from going to David back to Goliath. So there’s always great pros, but you also have to see, what are the ramifications?
“What does it do to the DH spot? How does that affect Gary Sanchez? It’s like an architect. There’s a lot of moving parts. You can’t put six garages on a 4,000-square-foot house, or eight garages. So it will be very interesting to watch, because what they had last year was so special. As a Yankee fan, you obviously hope it elevates their game.”
That is the sort of discussion that made Rodriguez a rising TV star at Fox during the past three seasons and prompted ESPN to work out a deal whereby he works Sundays during the regular season and returns to Fox for the playoffs.
Rodriguez, who last played in 2016 and was under contract to the Yankees through 2017, worked three games in the booth for Fox last season — one with Joe Buck and two with Kevin Burkhardt. He said he feels ready to make the leap to more regular game-booth work. Most of his appearances on Fox have been as a studio analyst.
Joining ESPN’s showcase baseball production is the latest step in Rodriguez’s rapid image rehabilitation, from a PED cheat who was suspended from baseball for the entire 2014 season to one of the most visible voices of the game.
He said the suspension gave him time “to sit down and reflect. I wanted in many ways to turn the lens inward and figure out a better way, because I needed some kind of paradigm shift.”
Television clearly has helped that process along in terms of the public’s perception.
“When you go on television and you go out and talk about how much you love the game and you’re talking about great players and you’re trying to describe things to our fans,” he said, “I think you have an opportunity to essentially take the helmet off and reveal a little bit more about who you are and make fun of yourself a great deal, which I love to do.”
With Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens having fallen short of the Hall of Fame for the sixth time earlier this week, there would appear to be little chance for Rodriguez when he is eligible for induction in 2022, at least in the current climate.
“Look, I would be sitting here lying to you if I didn’t say it would be an absolute dream to get into the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Of course you want to get into the Hall of Fame, but I certainly don’t control that. I think what I can control is my behavior, my actions, what kind of friend I am, what kind of father I am, what kind of teammate I am to people like Matt and Jessica and Kevin Burkhardt and Joe Buck.
“I think it’s not an image. This is a long ride and it’s a slow burn, and nothing is going to happen easy. What I enjoy most now is visiting with high school kids and college kids and talking to them about the mistakes I’ve made, and hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes.”
Rodriguez said he expects to make some television mistakes early on and is ready for the pressure that comes with his new job. “I’ve got a master’s at screwing up,” he said.
With Yankees-Red Sox games a longtime staple of the Sunday night schedule, what does Rodriguez expect when he visits Boston in his new job?
“Part of my deal with ESPN was to get extra-beefy security when we get to Fenway Park,” he said jokingly. “I’ll be hanging out with Matt and Jessica there.”