Transcript: ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Media Conference Call


Transcript: ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Media Conference Call

Transcript: ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Media Conference Call

ESPN today held a media conference call with the new Sunday Night Baseball broadcast booth: new play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian, new analyst Alex Rodriguez and returning analyst Jessica Mendoza. Additionally, Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president, events and studio production, discussed the new team. Earlier this week, ESPN announced that Vasgersian and Rodriguez had joined the company.

To listen to today’s call: Sunday Night Baseball Media Conference Call.

STEPHANIE DRULEY: Thanks, Matt. Thanks, Ben. I wanted to thank everyone for joining us. We’re extremely excited to bring this group together.

In Alex and Jessica, we have two former athletes from diverse backgrounds who have achieved everything you can achieve in their individual sport. In Matt, we have an exceptional voice behind the microphone.

Together, we believe they’ll form the very best booth in baseball. And this will be a team that will educate fans, entertain fans and, more importantly, I think share their unbridled passion for the game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Fox Sports and MLB Network for supporting us and agreeing to let Alex and Matt moonlight with us a little bit. And we’re happy to have those kind of relationships and partnerships with MLB to allow this to happen.

So I’m sure most of the questions will be for the people who get paid to talk. So I will turn it over to them.

Q. Alex, two questions. One about ESPN, sort of why did you decide you wanted to take on a whole other job doing a whole other full season of games? And second of all, just on baseball in general, you’re a big Miami guy. I’m curious what your reaction has been to seeing the Marlins having their roster dismantled the way it has been the last couple of months?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Hi, thank you. Look, I think for me, I think it’s been well documented how much I love the game, the passion that I have for the game.

You know, my father played baseball. I’ve been playing baseball since I was in Pampers and I absolutely love it. And when you think about baseball Sunday Night Baseball, I grew up watching it. I grew up watching it with my mother every Sunday night, with my brother, with my sister and in many ways Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were the voice of baseball at a national level.

I’m very excited to be joining Matt and Jessica. And it’s going to be a really fun time.

Q. The other question about the Marlins, reaction how their offseason has gone and all the moves they’ve made dismantling that roster?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Obviously, I’ve been in Miami a really long time. I’ve seen this happen more than once. I know the fans down there are extremely hungry for a winner.

I think Miami has the potential to be one of the best baseball markets in the world. If you think about, in my opinion anyways, the greatest players in the world probably reside 500 miles within that stadium.

So just like Jimmy Johnson recruited in football, I think the Marlins have a similar opportunity, both to draft local players or perhaps to bring local players that go away, whether that’s Manny Machado or Hosmer, and bring them back to Miami.

There’s a lot of benefits that Miami has; they have a lot of super powers. They have a very diverse fan base that has a lot of knowledge and we saw it in the World Baseball Classic. I wish them the best. I’m always hoping that the local team does well, and I’m just watching like everybody else does now.

Q. Alex, how many games in the booth did you end up doing with Fox last year? And what do you think about — obviously you got good reviews with the studio stuff — what is it about the game booth that you kind of liked and think you could transition well there? And also for Jess, what you thought, what your reaction was when you heard about these two new partners you were getting?
JESSICA MENDOZA: Well, I was excited obviously. I met Matt back in 2004. He called my first Olympics that I played in in Athens of just small, small worlds.

And I remember seeing him again the first time I was in the booth in 2015, he made a point when he was with Fox on a Saturday game, just to come up. And kind of remind me of those days back in playing at a time when it was really nice to see a familiar face, I guess, in a season that was kind of a whirlwind.

So I’ll always appreciate that. So when I found out that he was coming over, I was really excited. And Alex, I’ve known Alex for a long time, back to my playing days at Stanford. And respected his career, his knowledge for the game. I’ve tried to pick his brain so much on hitting. And so I’m looking forward just to learn more from him and to sit next to him in the booth.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: For me, I did three games. Joe Buck and two with Kevin Burkhardt. And, again, you’re only as good as those around you. And obviously very fortunate to have two dear friends help me out and people who have been mentors to me in this space. So I feel very lucky to be along with Matt, who is like the Shakespeare of baseball. He’s a source.

And Jessica, where do you start? You have a master’s degree from Stanford. You have a gold medal. And someone who works extremely hard. I know that first hand because she would call me to ask me about certain situations, and I always appreciated her work and dedication.

For someone like me who has two daughters and comes from a single mother, I’m really, really grateful for Jessica breaking glass and ESPN giving her that opportunity because maybe girls like mine one day will have an opportunity to do the same.

As far as I go, I know I’m going to have a lot of work to do. And I’m really looking forward to it.

Q. Do you like one or the other better, the studio or the games?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I haven’t done enough games to really tell you that. I know I’m certainly looking forward to it. But the studio we had a blast. We have a great crew. We have unbelievable producers.

And it’s all about chemistry.

And to the point when the World Series was over, it was anticlimactic in a sense where we were all a little sad, a little depressed that baseball was over for at least four or five months.

Q. Matt, when this opportunity came about, was it a no-brainer for you or was it a tough decision? And also are you open one day to becoming a play-by-play guy for a team like you did back in the day with the Padres?
MATT VASGERSIAN: I would never say no to anything down the road, because who knows where any of us are going to be and what any of us are going to want to do 10 years from now.

And as far as this being a no brainer, it was pretty close. The Sunday night booth is just one of those coveted chairs. What made it tough was my relationship at Fox. And I had been doing games there one way or another since ’98. I felt like I had a lot of skin in the game there, as Alex did.

But the business kind of connecting more and more these days and that’s to say rights holders who are willing to share, as ESPN and Fox and MLB are here, it doesn’t feel like you’re leaving the family, because everybody as a baseball rights holder gets along pretty well. Which I think is pretty cool.

So the only reservation I had was just saying goodbye temporarily to some friends in the truck at Fox. But I know I’ll see them at the ballpark on weekends anyway.

And the ESPN Sunday night chair is such a coveted spot that, yeah, it was pretty close to a no-brainer for me.

Q. Alex, what is your opinion of the proposed 20-second pitch clock and limits on mound visits? And as you’ve watched the game since retiring as a player, are you frustrated at all by some of the slow-downs and lack of pace?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Boy, that’s a tough one. Look, we’re all trying to make the game better. I will say that we have tremendous leadership starting at the top with Rob Manfred and Tony Petitti and his whole entire staff.

These folks work literally around the clock on how they’re going to make the game better, how they’re going to engage with the youth.

The game had a lot of good parts, but obviously for us, how we want to keep the attention, especially of the youngsters, and I am open and I’m always open to new ways to try to make the game better. So I think there’s going to be a trial and error. Not everything’s going to be perfect.

But I think for all of us on this call who love the game, we have to have an open mind and understand it’s a very fluid time, and we’re competing for eyeballs when there’s more distractions today than ever before.

Q. Do you view it differently now watching the game as media or a spectator on pace issues than you did when you were playing the game?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I gotta tell you, Ron, I sit there and I love the game so much and it’s so much fun to watch, and you’re sitting there in the World Series and we have a front row seat. And, look, economically the game is doing fantastic — we’re nearing $10 billion as an industry. It was one when I entered in 1994.

So that part is great. There’s great young players — when you think about Carlos Correa, Bryce Harper, the Machados and Mike Trout — and then you have great players in their prime playing for major markets, obviously Clayton Kershaw and Aaron Judge.

But I don’t think the game’s ever been healthy and it’s fun to watch. I’m biased, I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I can watch a five-hour game. I know you guys will probably hang up on me now.

Q. Alex, obviously you’ve opted to go into broadcasting rather than any of the other number of things you could do, including being part of owning a team. Was pursuing the Marlins, joining Jorge Mas’ group at all appealing or tempting to you last summer?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I’m going to echo what Matt said a little bit, I think you never say never because never is a really long time. I thought for someone who just finished playing, I have two daughters — and I know Jessica and Matt are very, they keep it as a high priority, obviously family always comes first. And I just wanted to take a breath before I got back into the game as far as at that level.

So I never thought about it too much. Although, I can’t tell you that it didn’t run through my mind for a minute because I did receive a lot of phone calls.

Q. Alex, for someone who is there for the early stages of the Yankee youth movement, I was curious what you would thought of their offseason and kind of the cohort movement of that? And also I know you still had a relationship with Hal last year as a special advisor and what’s the status of that going forward?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: So, look, for — I really, really enjoyed watching the Yankees beat David for a change — for the first time in probably over 25 years they weren’t Goliaths. They created an incredible clubhouse culture and they were well-balanced from top to bottom.

And 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 Aaron Boone. What does that do to the comfort level of someone like Aaron Judge? And now you shift from going from David back to Goliath.

There’s always great pros but you also have to look at what are the ramifications. What does it do to the DH spot? And how does that affect Gary Sanchez. It’s like an architect. There’s a lot of moving parts. And 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 that it elevates their game.

Q. Are you going to have a role with the Yankees going forward this year?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Look, I always want to be a Yankee, and I’m having conversations with Hal and right now I’ll keep those private. But they’ve been very positive.

Q. Alex, can you talk about how your TV work has helped turn around your image from three or four years ago? And then another question for Alex, Jessica and Matt, is there an opportunity here for baseball to gain some ground against the NFL as the NFL seems to struggle a little bit in the ratings and popularity?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: It’s funny, because I was actually talking to Matt a little bit about this not so long ago. And when you go on television and you go out and you 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, 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. I actually love more when people make fun of me. That’s why Matt and I get along so well (chuckling).

So, yeah, I think it’s just been a good thing, but, again, being myself and trying to show how much I love the game and convey that is what I try to do.

MATT VASGERSIAN: I don’t think any of us really think of competitively gaining ground on another sport. I’m an NFL fan. I mean, I’m an NBA fan.

I think there’s certainly room for all of us to grow and have a strong, vibrant fan base. You know, if anything, baseball competes with itself in terms of how much baseball our fan base can consume.

And with being able to spread out on multiple platforms like what they do on the dotcom side at MLB, through, Sunday Night Baseball. You can go anywhere for baseball now.

It’s much different than when I was a kid and I was that socially awkward guy that would sit home and listen to an A’s game on the radio while the other kids were out playing on the streets and dating and having a great time.

Now you can get it on your phone. You can get it everywhere. So I don’t think we’re competing with the NFL or the NBA per se. We’re just happy to be a part of growing the game that we like the most.

JESSICA MENDOZA: I just get excited about baseball. I watch other sports and I don’t think about how it compares. Maybe some of the TV side of it, like, oh, it’s a cool thing what Gruden might have just done with a write-up on a replay or something maybe we can incorporate into our broadcast.

But it’s more so from just learning from the TV side versus the sport and the ratings and how it’s growing, what it’s doing politically. To me it’s like how can we just get more people to watch this game.

I love this game but I come from a different background. So I like to think about it as how do we get the fan that didn’t grow up like Alex that just loves the game from the moment they were born. How do we get the woman, the man, whoever, the kid, that turns on the TV and just says this is a really cool game to watch?

So that’s my challenge. That’s the challenge that I love about this group, too, and moving forward, because I think we’re just going to keep progressing with it.

But my biggest thing is baseball has a really high ceiling for where the game is right now, and not just the talent that Alex spoke about, with so many guys that are exciting to watch, but also where we’re at with the knowledge, the information, with the numbers and how we can creatively as a television, being able to incorporate that so it’s educating the viewer, so everyone gets it and gets just as excited as us nerds who have loved it since we were kids.

Q. Quick question for Stephanie. Can you talk about the logistics that came about in having Alex work for both Fox and ESPN and if it had anything to do with the recent merger talks with Disney and Fox, or was it something more complicated than that?
STEPHANIE DRULEY: It was less complicated than that. It had absolutely nothing to do with merger conversations. That I can say.

From our side, wholeheartedly, it was pretty simple. We had an interest. I think Alex had a strong desire and he has a great relationship at Fox. And some conversations were had. And some conversations were had with MLB and with MLB Network about Matt, and it was not a giant hill to climb. It was a pretty easy thing to get done. And I think it speaks to our relationships.

And this is not unprecedented. We have shared talent with other networks. Beth Mowins, for example, did a few CBS NFL games this year. Jay Bilas has done CBS and Curtis Strange has done golf with Fox.

There’s a long list. It’s not unprecedented. It was not a hard thing to do. And that’s really a credit to our relationships and sort of everybody being all in on what’s best for the game and really nothing to do with merger talks from our side of things.

Q. Alex, I’m fascinated about how the media has contributed to your image and your brand transformation, rehabilitation over the last few years. Not just from you being on the air but sort of the media narrative that’s sort of been going on with you over the last three or four years. Can you sort of speak to how that, how you sort of get your head around that and seeing the power of the media and how it can help you in different ways?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Well, thank you for the question. First of all, I’ve changed. So it starts with you, right? And I think one of the things that — I changed and once I served my suspension and I had the whole year to sit down and reflect, I wanted to in many years turn the lens inward and try to figure out a better way, because I knew that I needed some type of paradigm shift.

And the suspension was long enough, unfortunately or fortunately, to allow me to think about changes and putting that change in motion. And I did not know at 40 coming back after suspension, after two hip surgeries, after two knee surgeries, if I was good enough to make the team or healthy enough to make the team.

But I certainly wanted to hang out enough to prove to myself and others around me that I was incredibly grateful and thankful to have an opportunity to put the pinstripes back on and to be one of 750 of the lucky people that get to wear a Major League Baseball uniform.

And I knew I could control that part. I didn’t think or I didn’t know I could hit 33 home runs and help us get back to the postseason. But the first part I’m probably even more proud of.

Q. You’ve seen how some people have rehabilitated their image by being in the media and getting a whole different perspective of their narrative. Is that any sort of long range strategy? I know as you think of the Hall of Fame and how things come up and how people vote for certain things and how you can sort of control your narrative from going on, is that any part of your thinking, or is it sort of a residual effect of that?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Look, I’d be sitting here lying to you if I said it wouldn’t be an absolute dream to get into the Hall of Fame. Of course I would want to get into the Hall of Fame. But I certainly don’t control that.

But I think what I can control is my behavior, my actions, what kind of father I am, what kind of teammate I am to people like Matt and Jessica and Kevin Burkhardt and Joe buck, whoever is my teammate.

So I think it’s not an image. This is a long ride and it’s a slow burn. And nothing’s going to happen easy. What I enjoy most now, to be honest with you, is visiting with high school or college kids and talking to them about the mistakes I’ve made, and hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes.

Q. For Alex, I wanted to know, when you retired, what did you think was going to happen and how different has it been in the couple of years since then with all the stuff that you’ve done?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Boy, I have no idea, Mike. I honestly have no idea. I knew this: I always wanted to be in business. I started my business about 18 years ago. To be honest I didn’t think I was going to have many options. I was at least mentally getting myself ready to be in the office and just be dad and be a local in Miami and spend as much time as I can with my girls. And that’s pretty much it. That’s the extent of it.

I didn’t have many plans after baseball besides family and just running the everyday family business.

Q. How do you decide what new ventures you’re going to take on, be it TV or anything else?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Look, it starts with passion. I mean, fortunately I’m in a position that I can do things that I love to do with people that I like and respect and surround myself with people I’m going to learn a great deal with and people that are going to inspire me and motivate me, too.

So ESPN is right in the wheelhouse. This opportunity with Sunday Night Baseball, and to echo what Matt said, it’s one of the most coveted three seats in all of sports, not just baseball.

Q. Alex and Matt, Stephanie alluded to earlier the process of just being brought in by ESPN here. What was that like for you guys? And what pressure you might face with these high profile broadcasts especially never having worked together before?
MATT VASGERSIAN: As far as pressure, I don’t know, until you’ve made a bunch of mistakes on the air you’re going to feel more pressure. Look, I’ve boxed it so many times on the air, I can’t even keep track.

And until you fail a little bit, you don’t have the confidence to succeed. So in terms of pressure, yeah, there are more eyeballs on us here on Sunday night for sure. But the minute you let that get to the way you call a game is when you’re going to whiff.

And we’ve all done that before, I think, in little bits and pieces. I don’t know that I feel the pressure of the chair so much. I also know that we’re going to have tremendous support at ESPN. There’s no way we’ll go on the air for our first show without being completely ready to roll. I think we’d probably be ready to roll now because we all love it that much.

In terms of joining ESPN, it’s a thrill. As Alex said earlier, it’s the gold medal standard. Baseball Tonight and what ESPN did with Sunday Night Baseball back in the day led the way for MLB Network, for Fox to a degree. And to be a part of that now is exciting and it’s something of an honor as well.

Q. Alex, did you want to comment on the pressure?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Look, if Matt feels pressure, who has been doing this over 20 years, I’ve got a master at screwing up. So I’m certainly ready for that.

I think it’s just like getting your at-bats. I always tell coaches and executives, when they ask me about young players, you know, like the book, you need your 10,000 hours. As players, I don’t really like to make decisions on players, whether they’re going to be good, bad or indifferent before they have 2500 at-bats, which is five seasons. And there are a lot of reasons for that number.

I almost feel the same way about broadcasting — and hopefully for our sake it doesn’t take me 2500 hours or games — but I think there’s a certain amount of repetition that goes in, comfort level, and really getting to know kind of Matt and Jess’ super power and their strengths and where they like to go.

It’s like a fast break, and Matt’s point guard, he’s Magic Johnson running point. And his job is to set up Jessica and I as well as possible and hopefully we can finish.

Q. Wondering if you guys could talk about the process of getting to ESPN was like for you guys?
MATT VASGERSIAN: The process of getting there, is that what you’re talking about?

Q. Yes.
MATT VASGERSIAN: I forget as far as time date stamps when it actually began for me. But I know it was certainly on everybody’s radar when Dan announced his intentions to not return to Sunday Night Baseball.

And I think likewise when the Yankees chose Aaron boon to manage them, I’m sure there were a big group of former players turned analyst or players about to turn analyst who took notice of that.

So for me there were a series of discussions with producers and executives. There was a lot of getting to know you.

I think the folks at ESPN wanted to know who I was and how I liked to work. You can turn on the TV and watch any of us and kind of know what you’re going to get from an on-air standpoint. But I think people wanted to know who I was because I was coming to a party as a virtual unknown in Bristol. I don’t really have a lot of connections there, so to speak.

Most of the folks I met along the way I was meeting for the first time, and that was pretty cool. I still think there’s something cool to being on the campus there that as a long-time viewer and sports fan myself, it’s not lost on you that it’s kind of cool to be a part of that.

So I think the process was them getting to know me and I kind of wanted to know them, too, because you hear a lot about ESPN, and it was nice to put faces to names and meet people for myself.

Q. I wanted to ask about the Astros, what they’ve done in the offseason and what they have to do to succeed this next season?
JESSICA MENDOZA: I actually just left West Palm yesterday and was with Jose Altuve and Marwin and Dallas and Justin and a bunch of the guys that are there training right now. It’s funny because you always think about, and just talking to them about how they can get better, what they could add, what they could subtract. The biggest thing that has always stood out to me, even since 2015 with that team is their chemistry.

I know that sounds so cliché but they’re ridiculously talented. And they’ve got so much all over the board. But what really worked was when they brought in the veterans this last season and had that blend to kind of allow those younger guys to grow up a little bit under the spotlight and be able to handle it.

Just sitting there watching them — and this time of year is fun, because there’s no one out there. It’s January. And just the way that they’re teaching each other, they’re talking — and Alex knows this because he did it for so many years. But that’s the kind of stuff to me, when I look at this team, and granted, you’ve got to get the whole team together again, but it’s the way that they enjoy the game together.

It’s the way they understand each other. They pick each other’s brains. They’re picking each other up. They’re stand in on each other. And Justin and Dallas, throwing to those two, and being able to kind of be that team.

As much as they are talented, and I’m sure they could add a lot more — when I look at them, what they needed to do this offseason it was just spend more time together and keep doing what they’re doing, even though I’m sure the hangover won’t be a little more apparent. I’m still excited about this Houston team.

MATT VASGERSIAN: I think that you add Gerrit Cole who was a top-of-the-rotation guy for a pretty good Pittsburgh team, and that rotation that he’s joining is so good that he becomes a No. 4. I mean, that speaks volumes for the depth they’ve assembled there.

They are loaded, in my mind, for a number of years. This is not going to be a one-and-done, one-hit-wonder thing. I think they’re sustainable. I think to kind of get back to what Alex was talking about earlier regarding the Marlins, you gotta kind of tear it down to the studs and then build the way you want to.

And I know that’s not exactly a hot take. Everybody said the same thing about building a championship-caliber team. But they did it the right way. I mean, you can have that blueprint and still miss on the guys. They didn’t miss on anybody.

And it started when Jeff Luhnow took over and that first awesome draft he had in, I think it was 2015, was it ’15 when he got Correa and McCullers? They’ve nailed it at every step. And as Jess mentioned, they bring in the veterans. They kind of zigged a little bit off their stats-driven sabermetrics build and brought in some character guys. And I think a lot of the old-time baseball people with salt in their caps liked seeing that. And, yeah, they’re going to be good for a long time.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: So, I mean, kind of echoing what Matt and Jessica said, I think, look, Jeff Luhnow, he’s an interesting guy because he was the architect of the Cardinals in 2006 and the ’11 championship season, but much like Theo Epstein, while sabermetrics sits very high in their priority, both Theo and Jeff understand that it’s a human game, and essentially end up playing 200 games in 232 days and those 232 days, half of them you’re flying cross-country and whatnot. And to have kind of the feel to then bring in players like McCann and Carlos Beltran, it’s really beautifully done.

And if you think of what Beltran did for that team, essentially they had a two-headed monster managing that team. It was A.J. Hinch, but you also had Alex Cora and you had Carlos Beltran really being almost like a big brother/father figure to a lot of the young players like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. And if there was ever a pitcher that even thought about tipping a pitch, boy, is it nice when you walk into the clubhouse and Carlos is waiting for you and he says, Jose, the pitcher, if he does this it’s a fastball; if he does that it’s a curveball. And I just cannot tell you how much confidence that brings into a clubhouse at 3:00. At 3:15 you already know the game is won and it’s still four hours from the first pitch.

Q. Jessica and Matt, I wanted to know if you’ve seen Alex on the air, and if so — or him behind the scenes preparing — what you could tell me about Alex that makes him so special on the air and anything you’ve noticed or taken note of over the years that he’s been doing it on the air. And Alex a question for you: I just wanted to know what this year has meant to you and if your head is spinning in some way given you’re on magazine covers and now you’re joining ESPN and you’re doing Shark Tank. Anything like that that you can talk about?
JESSICA MENDOZA: I would say the biggest thing that stood out was the prep. That’s something I always appreciate, especially when you’re someone of his name and stature. And a lot of times — and Matt’s probably seen this more than I have — is you’ll see players that when they have a name they can roll in and people just want to hear their opinion regardless if they prepared or not.

And I think what stood out to me from the beginning was just seeing him the day before a game out there in the field talking to guys and learning and asking questions. Anyone that knows or has been around Alex as a player that’s how he approached it. But you don’t always see that transition into television. I think it’s something that I feel like is so important to get to know the guys that are on the field and not just the game that you understand.

And to see that from him from the beginning, and it comes across when he’s on air is — even right now answering different questions — he doesn’t necessarily have to. There’s so many athletes that can just rely on the name and who they are. And I’ve always appreciated the fact that he goes well beyond.

That’s what I’m looking forward to too, to kind of understand where his brain goes, where he wants to learn more and understand and then taking it from there. But it comes across on air and it has from the beginning.

MATT VASGERSIAN: Yeah, I think that’s perfectly stated. When I watched Alex the same thing struck me in that you just don’t find a guy who is one of the best players to ever play a sport who, A, likes it as much as Alex does, and, B, is so detail-oriented that it makes it clear why and how he got to be as good as he was on the field, because I don’t think he was ever one of those guys that played and just kicked it into, “whatever, I’m Alex Rodriguez” gear.

If it was somebody that could do that as an analyst would be Alex, just to kind of default to clichés and broad statements and you just don’t get any of that from him. You get the sense that he’s watching. He’s researching and talking to people and doing the layered kind of analysis that you might not get from somebody who has accomplished as much as he has as an athlete.

For me, though, I’m blown away that he has the time to do that given the frequency of Instagram posts he sends out. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know where he finds time to do anything given all the Instagram posts. By the way, in the Sunday Night booth, one of my unstated goals here, Alex, maybe you could make this happen. I’m not on Instagram. If we can top the Kardashian Instagram total —


MATT VASGERSIAN: Yes. We’ve got until the end of October. If we can send out more Instagram posts than the Kardashians, it’s a job accomplished for me.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I love it. We’ll have to do at least three every Sunday.

JESSICA MENDOZA: You don’t realize what you’ve signed up for, Matt. You have no idea what that entails (laughter).

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Matt, you’ll meet my daughters. They’re great teachers.


ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, they’re the best.

MATT VASGERSIAN: If they can get a kind of reluctant social media 50-year-old like me to jump on board, then they have a great future in the industry ahead of them (laughter).

Q. Alex and Matt, curious how intrigued you are of the Angels signing of Ohtani? And both of your comments from anybody from the NL West, particularly the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, what are you seeing from those two teams and of course Ohtani?
MATT VASGERSIAN: I’ll go first on Ohtani. I think we’re all waiting with baited breath to see what this guy’s going to become. And, look, we’ve seen it before, players that come from abroad with big billing, some of them hit, some of them don’t.

So the fact that he’s been renowned as one of the best power hitters in the Japanese professional league and we know about what he can accomplish on the mound, too, we want to see not only if he can do both in the big leagues, but if he’ll be allowed to do both. And I think depending on who you listen to and what you read he may or may not have a chance to DH frequently or pinch-hit frequently.

I’m not sure if he’s going to turn into a one-side-of-the-scorecard-only guy down the road, but it’s one of the great storylines and some of the great intrigue of the season to see what Ohtani becomes.

And there’s going to be pressure on him immediately to be that guy. It’s not going to be much of a learning curve there. I think people want to see it in April.

In terms of the West, the NL West, the team that I think is really interesting out there is the Diamondbacks, because J.D. Martinez meant so much to them in the second half of the season. I think it’s a shame that it sounds like he’s priced out from returning there. You never say never. But it’s not what the tea leaves are telling us now.

Had he returned, you’ve got to consider them one of the favorites and a completely loaded division where the Rockies have added great bullpen depth. The Padres could be a little bit better than last year, still perhaps a little ways away.

The Dodgers are the vanguard of the division. And while the Giants have added significantly to their median age, they have also put some pop back into a lineup that really suffered from a lack thereof last year.

If you were to tell anybody that we’re going to give you — we’re going to add, not give you, because they had to pay for it, but we’re going to add Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria in the same off-season, you’d say, wow, we’re instant contenders. And if Bumgarner’s healthy again, which he should be, Samardzija coming off a career year, Cueto with plenty of gas left in the tank, Melancon has to be better than he was last year — the Giants are going to be a force again in that division. So the NL West is fun.

Ohtani is going to be must-see TV for a long time I hope. And I love the fact that the game is healthy in all three quadrants of the country in both Central Divisions, both Eastern Divisions and particularly out West.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Look, as a baseball fan, I am incredibly intrigued to see how Ohtani both does in hitting and also as a starter. I will say this: I think what makes Major League Baseball not only the best league in the world, but also the most challenging, is how long it is. It is a marathon.

And it will be really interesting to see the residual. I wouldn’t judge it really the first three or four months that he plays. I think it’s month eight, nine, ten, somewhere in the middle of the second season, the amount of work, preparation, rotator cuff, weightlifting exercising, running that you need to do to get yourself ready for 35 starts, boy, that’s a really long season. So I’m super interested to see how that develops.

From the National League West, it’s always interesting to see how Goliath does and how they come back.

If you think about one of the best World Series I’ve seen in a really long time and some really exciting games, it ended in a very anticlimactic way in Game 7, the game was over basically eight or nine, 10 pitches into the game of Yu Darvish. It’s interesting how they come back, how they bounce back.

And San Francisco they’ve been out of it a little bit. They’ve been in many ways the gold standard behind Bruce Bochy in how they play baseball, the kind of players they get. Obviously one of the most incredible playing atmospheres in all of baseball. They’ve loaded up again. Bumgarner is back healthy. I’m interested to see if they get back on the horse.

Q. Alex, ESPN Sunday Night Baseball always serves up a heavy dose of Red Sox/Yankees on Sunday night. You’re going to be in that booth. You’ve got quite the storied history as a nemesis of Red Sox fans and being there. What is it going to be like for you now to be calling those game at Fenway? And talk about your relationship with Boston and how it’s evolved. And also how you see the Red Sox as a team who has really not replaced your friend, David Ortiz, since he retired; the offense has slipped. And where do you see them in their standing coming into the season?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Part of my deal with ESPN was get extra beefy security when we get to Fenway Park (chuckling). I’ll be hanging out with Matt and Jessica there.

As far as the Red Sox. You couldn’t be in better hands than Dave Dombrowski. I really think when it comes to baseball executives he’s the gold standard. He’s won. All he understands is winning. He’s a very creative, out-of-the-box thinker. While he understands sabermetrics and welcomes it very well, again, much like Jeff and Theo Epstein, he understands the human element.

He’s a big fan of baseball players. And I think in the world today we have over 15 teams that have Ivy League-driven front offices. There’s an incredible blind spot out there that if you can think of a contrarian, whether you’re Buck Showalter or you’re Dave Dombrowski, I think there’s a great opportunity to find some unbelievable value for 50 or 60 cents on the dollar.

And I think as far as David Ortiz, look, it’s impossible to replace Tom Brady or Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, whatever iconic player who has won multiple championships. You’re not going to replace David. So you have to figure out other ways, through speed and defense and through health of the likes of David Price and Chris Sale. I think the Red Sox in good shape. I think the Dodgers, the Yankees — anytime we have Goliath, the big market teams playing to their capability it’s good and healthy for our game.

Ben Cafardo

I lead communications strategy and execution for ESPN’s NBA, MLB, FIBA and Little League World Series properties. I’m also a proud consumer of all things ESPN.
Back to top button