Alex Rodriguez, the Fox pregame-show version of himself, was sitting on a black couch in a trailer outside Citi Field on Friday night talking about the World Series. This is a new role for Rodriguez, an unexpected diversion in a journey of athletic greatness tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, and one he is excelling at. So he looked happy to be talking about baseball as he peered into his interviewer’s eyes, answered some questions, avoided some others and posed a few of his own. He discussed his love of preparation, his note-taking, his working with Pete Rose (“When it comes to baseball, he has an Ivy League mind”) and his admiration of Keith Hernandez.
Rodriguez previewed what he would later say on the air about the physical strength of Mets starter Noah Syndergaard and the possibility that the Mets could beat the Kansas City Royals, who were up by 2-0. If the Yankees could sweep the Royals in the Bronx earlier this season after dropping two of three, he said, the Mets could win.
This has been a rather remarkable evolution: Rodriguez, a noted baseball transgressor, working for one of baseball’s network partners, talking to a national audience in the lingua franca of baseball before and after each postseason game. He’s probably been more observational than analytic — describing, with bat in hand, how the Mets’ hitting coach, Kevin Long, has rebuilt Daniel Murphy’s power stroke (before his home run skein ended); how making contact with Matt Harvey’s fastball “feels like a bowling ball”; and how Syndergaard’s bench-pressing power has helped him add torque to his slider.
Mike Weisman, a former top baseball producer at NBC and Fox, said that Rodriguez had been very effective in the “protected” studio setting, where comments can be rehearsed and there are “all sorts of expertise around him.”
Rodriguez was, after all, suspended for the 2014 season after an investigation by Major League Baseball of the Biogenesis scandal concluded that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. He denied those accusations. He fulminated. He sued. Then he backed down, ended the spectacle and returned to the Yankees. He made a sort-of admission of his sins and played at an unexpectedly high level (33 home runs, 86 runs batted in), given his time off and his age.
And over the last two weeks, he has performed so well for Fox that it is reasonable to assume that his TV work is an exercise in image rehabilitation.
Here, then, was someone who instinctively understood how to act in a studio; how to easily engage the people he worked with; and how to analyze baseball succinctly.
“At heart,” he said, “I’m a teacher.”
But this is, after all, A-Rod, who has a way of evoking suspicion about his actions. You want him to spill the strategy behind gauging Fox’s interest in him and his assessment that if he excelled at talking knowingly about pitching and hitting, he would be able to extend the era of good feelings he generated by having a surprisingly strong season, performing unusually well and saying nothing that could provoke or upset anyone. That won back some fans and a bit of the heart of Yankee management and, perhaps, offered hope that he might be a productive hitter in the final two years of his contract.
If that was the plan — if there was any television plan at all — he was not saying.
“I’m the wrong guy to talk about image,” he said. He willingly brought up the terrible image choice he made in 2009, when he was asked the other day by Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” what the 40-year-old A-Rod would say to his younger self.
“If you ever do a photo shoot, don’t kiss any mirrors,” he said, referring to the one he did for Details magazine that portrayed him as a narcissist.
Working for Fox was not Rodriguez’s idea. Fox approached him. It was willing to accept his past and move on — a decision like the one the network made when it hired the (still) permanently exiled, bow-tied, white-booted Pete Rose to the show. Rose arrived during the season and has played the cranky coot to A-Rod’s smooth straight man. Fox clearly saw the benefits in hiring stars who were making news this season: Rose’s reinstatement is being considered by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and Rodriguez had a very good season.
“We certainly considered the pros and cons of what Alex has gone through, but at the end of the day it really wasn’t going to be a part of the decision to make him part of the broadcast,” said John Entz, president for production for Fox Sports. “Whatever he did and went through is in the past. We feel we’re trying to make a show that’s informational and entertaining, and we feel that we’ve done that and Alex is a huge part of it.”
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Mike Tirico, Tom Brady, Manningcast Win Sports Emmys
The annual Sports Emmys were handed out on Tuesday night, and some usual names and new names ended up taking home hardware.
Among the usual names were NBC’s Mike Tirico, who won for Outstanding Personality/Studio Host, and soon-to-be Sunday Night Football broadcast colleague Cris Collinsworth, who was named Outstanding Personality/Sports Event Analyst.
But among the new names as Sports Emmy winners include Tom Brady and both Eli and Peyton Manning.
Brady’s Man in the Arena saga won Outstanding Documentary Series, while the Mannings were rewarded for their work on the Monday Night Football Manningcast, which won Outstanding Live Series.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key Sports Emmy winners:
Here is a full list of winners and nominees for the 2022 ceremony.
Joe Buck Says He Won’t Miss World Series
“This is the first time since I was 18-years-old, and I’m 53, that I’m not doing a baseball game.”
Among the bigger chain reactions set off by Joe Buck leaving FOX for ESPN was the sudden vacancy in FOX’s main MLB broadcast booth.
The 2022 World Series will mark the first time since 1995 that Buck will not be on the microphone.
Speaking to Chris Long on his podcast Green Light, Buck hopes to be in a more exotic location watching World Series games this fall.
“I would like to be in Cabo San Lucas with a margarita in my hand and a half-smoked cigar watching Game 7 of the World Series,” Buck said. “Cheering on Joe Davis and John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal, and Tom Verducci, and Pete Macheska and Matt Gangl and right on down the line.”
Buck added he’ll take pleasure in turning the broadcast off if it’s Game 7 and there’s an insurmountable lead. But the broadcasting legend said even on a bigger scale, not calling any baseball games at all this season, let alone the World Series, is a bit surreal after covering the sport for so long.
“This is the first time since I was 18-years-old, and I’m 53, that I’m not doing a baseball game,” he said. “And that’s really weird to me, but I walk away really proud of what I and we did.”
He added that he will not miss the opportunity, because he does not feel like he will “leave any unfinished business” in FOX’s MLB booth.
Buck further praised his FOX colleagues and said it was time for a change. He knows Joe Davis will thrive in the opportunity.
NFL Likely To Launch NFL+ Streaming Service This Summer
“A source tells Fischer that a $5 per month price has been discussed for NFL+.”
According to the Sports Business Journal, consumers could be downloading NFL+ by July. Now, just what NFL+ will be is still yet to be finalized.
Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal reported in the site’s newsletter that live games will certainly be at the center of the league-owned streaming service. It is likely to only be available on phones and tablets with no option to stream to a larger monitor.
The viewing options would be limited. No out of market games would be available on the app. It is meant to replace the deals that recently expired with Yahoo and mobile phone carriers that recently expired.
The app could also include other content. Radio calls, team-created digital content, and league-owned podcasts are all options.
A source tells Fischer that a $5 per month price has been discussed for NFL+. The pricing structure can and likely will change before the app hits the market.