ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball KayRod Cast team of World Series Champion Alex Rodriguez and iconic New York sports voice Michael Kay, plus ESPN senior vice president, production and remote events, Mark Gross, answered questions on Tuesday ahead of the start of the 2023 Major League Baseball season.
KayRod Cast, ESPN’s alternate presentation for Sunday Night Baseball, airs on ESPN2 opposite the traditional game broadcast on ESPN. There are eight editions of KayRod Cast throughout the season, beginning on April 2 when the Texas Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies at 7 p.m. ET. KayRod Cast emanates from ESPN’s Seaport District Studios in New York, N.Y. and regularly features special guest appearances from the worlds of sports and entertainment, in-studio demos from Rodriguez and topical discussion about MLB storylines. For more information on the 2023 KayRod Cast schedule ESPN Press Room.
MARK GROSS: Thanks, everybody, for joining us. Super excited again for year two for KayRod. Had a lot of fun last year. No secret that when you put two guys together who are friends and have great conversations and are willing to agree and disagree with each other and have great chemistry, and you end up with a fun, entertaining show.
I think at the same time, we’ve been conscious on KayRod and some other alternate broadcasts that the game is still the priority. So we can have all the guests in the world, but we want it to be a true alternate broadcast where, yes, you can hear from guests, and certainly hear from Michael and hear from Alex, but it’s still about the game at the end of the day.
We’ve got eight shows. Same number as we had last year that these two guys, Michael and Alex, will host from New York. They will also be in London, which is frightening that they will be allowed out of the country to call a baseball game. Michael and Alex will call Cardinals-Cubs in late June, and more to come on that in the future. Then they will also do a Wild Card Series, which they did last year in St. Louis.
We had 36 guests last year over the course of eight episodes. We had [Barry] Bonds. We had [Roger] Clemens a couple of times. We had Billy Crystal. We had [Albert] Pujols, Matthew Broderick, Keith Hernández, Bob Costas, many others.
The key, at least our strategy when we’re looking at guests, is that there’s, generally speaking, some sort of connection to one of the two teams or one of the two cities that’s playing. We know that a large portion of the audience who watches baseball and certainly Sunday Night Baseball are fans of those two teams. So we think that’s what drove our success last year.
We made up about 11% of the Sunday Night audience last year, which we found to be a real great success story for us. I would say anything double digits when you are talking about an alternate broadcast feels pretty darn good. Again, looking forward to another great season.
A lot of fun having there’s two guys together. We were laughing and busting on each other before we got on. That will probably be the same drill as we put on the air Sunday night in New York.
Thanks again for calling in, and I’ll be on if God knows why somebody would ask me a question when you have these two guys, but I’ll be here if there are any questions.
Q: This question is for both Michael and Alex. Who are your dream guests and why?
MICHAEL KAY: Well, I’ll go first. I like mischief, so anybody that could maybe rile up Alex would be a dream guest. I don’t know. People from his past, not to name names. That would be a fun guest to have. So I think that would be cool.
Q: Let’s name names. Make it more fun.
MICHAEL KAY: Wouldn’t it be nice — I thought it was great to have Derek Jeter last year. There was a lot of anticipation about that. So someone along those lines.
If we could get people from Alex’s past, maybe people that he dated or whatever. Again, not naming names. I think that would be fun. Right, Alex?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Exactly. That would be awesome.
Q: Certainly. Can we get Madonna on there?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Listen, we love music. That would be —
MICHAEL KAY: We do love music. (laughing)
Q: For both Alex and Michael. Just your thoughts on the rules changes and how it might affect the broadcast this year.
MICHAEL KAY: I love them. You know, I’ve done six games in Spring Training. The pace is so much better. I don’t think there should be a complaint about pitch clock or anything like that. That’s how the game should be played.
And it’s not changing the game. It’s actually bringing the game back to when it was most popular in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s. So if we can get games that move quickly and end in 2 hours and 40 minutes, I think that benefits everybody.
I don’t think it’s going to impact television broadcasts that much. Maybe you won’t be able to see eight replays on a simple ground ball to short because there’s not much time between batters, but I think it’s going to have a big impact on radio broadcasts where the analyst simply is not going to have time to talk. They’re just not. There’s no pictures that you can talk over like in baseball. The analysts can talk to a couple of pitches, but in radio that’s just not going to happen. It can’t happen. I think that’s going to be a really different vibe, baseball on the radio this year.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I think Michael said it best. I think we had a pretty good taste in the WBC. The quality of baseball was magnificent.
If you think about it, we got both the pace — even though we didn’t adapt to these rules to the WBC, we got the pace and the time were actually shorter, and it seemed a lot more like ’90s baseball, and it was fun to watch. It was fun to commentate. There was just a lot of action.
I don’t know if analytics haven’t landed in Japan, but they still remind me of, like, late ’90s Yankees. It was a juggernaut. They put a lot of pressure on you. They don’t swing and miss. There was tremendous pride for striking out.
I just cannot get around striking out four times in a game and having some front office go, Yeah, in the long run you’ll get it. What? Lou Piniella would have sent me back to Tacoma in I struck out four times in a game.
I do like the changes, and I think the pace is going to be both better to watch and to announce.
MICHAEL KAY: I think you’re going to see the game be more athletic. Without the shift, you’re going to see people that have range make great plays up the middle, shortstop and second base. And I think you’re going to see a lot of running. The bases are four and a half inches closer than they were in the past because of the big bases, so I think that’s going to be a big, big factor in the game. They want the ball to be hit.
I think the stat that I saw, the last year in baseball there was a ball put in play every four minutes. That’s just unacceptable. You can’t have that. It can’t just be strike-out, walk, and home run. I think there’s going to be more of an emphasis on athleticism in baseball again.
Q: Will it affect your broadcast much because of the shorter innings and everything? Or since the game is the thing, not so much?
MICHAEL KAY: It might. It’s a good question, because usually we might keep on guests for an inning and a half. You know, in the past that could be a half hour. Now it might be ten minutes. So, you know, we’re going to have to adjust on the fly. If the guest is great, we’ll just keep he or she a little bit longer, but it could have an impact for sure.
Q: I’ve got two questions. One is for Alex, and one is about KayRod. Alex, being the Timberwolves owner, you’re in a unique position as a former player. What have been kind of the surprises or what have you learned in terms of being in that seat as opposed to being a player — obviously you anticipate a lot, I’m sure, but what have you learned?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: What I have learned is that the NBA is really an incredible, incredible league. The biggest assets by far are players and how dynamic they are. And then the other enormous asset, probably our No. 1 asset are our fan base and how global the sport is and how young it is.
To Michael’s point, I always say what’s great about the NBA is it’s predictable. You know you’re going to play in an arena. You know the weather. You tip off at 7:05, and you are sitting down at a restaurant at 9:20 ordering a nice steak or something.
So all those things play really well. It has a tremendous leader in Adam Silver and an exciting, dynamic league for sure.
Q: For you guys during the MLB investigation or suspension, you know, Michael was pretty — he criticized you pretty well. I think kind of the relationship maybe unwound a little bit. How did you guys get back together where you ended up doing KayRod last year, and where has that gone in terms of your relationship over the years?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, that goes back almost — shoot, almost a decade, right? It was simple. I apologized to Michael. I was wrong. I made a mistake.
I served the longest suspension in Major League Baseball history for PED use. In the meantime, the biggest fall of my life, I took it as an opportunity to turn the lens inward and do a tremendous amount of work on myself, and have been doing it for almost a dozen years now.
Michael was just part of my big issue, and I had to mend relationships. And it was my responsibility, not Michael’s, and a number of other people that I really love and respect in my life. I thought Michael was fair and straight.
MICHAEL KAY: I certainly understand. Alex and I had a really good relationship even going back to his days with Texas. And when all that went down, Andrew, and, you know, I have a radio show where I give opinions, and I was pretty straight with what I thought.
And I can understand why Alex was — we have a good relationship. Why didn’t you cut me slack? I think he has come to appreciate that I’m always going to be a straight shooter and that I wasn’t going after him in a personal way. It was just my opinion on what went down.
And I think, you know, he — I don’t know if he would agree with that. I think he is a completely different person from when that went down. He just has a different lens of life. Am I right, Alex? He is a different guy.
I mean, we have we now have a great relationship. We talk off the air, and we joke around. We’ll text about things that have nothing to do with sports.
I like his take. I like to talk to really smart people, and he is a really smart person and not just about baseball.
Q: I’ll start with Alex, and we’ll get to you, Michael. Alex, one of the great things that people don’t realize about you is that you know the game so well, but you also recognize talent at an early age. We had so many conversations in the clubhouse about players coming in, especially that big game named Judge before anybody knew him. What do you see in Volpe that makes him special, and are we looking at a new era of player where you get instincts maybe over analytics, and it’s great for the team in so many ways?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: To be honest, I haven’t seen much of him. Obviously, I have seen the news in the last few days, but I’m not really in a position to talk about him because I haven’t seen him intimately.
But it’s definitely — I mean, the last shortstop that came up this young did pretty well. He won five championships. So, obviously, there will be a lot of eyes and attention.
To make it clear, developing in New York City and trying to make yourself a steady Big League player is totally different than any other market. That’s for sure. So all eyes will be on him.
Q: Right. One other question for you, Alex. Being the star of the team, do you see — because I have a theory about one of the reasons why Judge came back is because he was getting more input into player decisions. I know you’ve been — haven’t seen much of the team this year in Spring Training, but do you think Judge has more impact now? And also when it comes to a guy like Volpe, that Judge is maybe — you know, Hal is listening to him, which is very important because you used to align yourself with owners as well. Talk about that.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I don’t know. I can’t speak for Aaron Judge. I was in Tampa, I was telling Michael, just a few days ago. I had a great interview with Aaron.
Look, I think Aaron is just the dream for any organization. When you talk about makeup, he has wonderful parents. He is Madison Avenue-worthy. He is just a great guy. Dependable, predictable.
To see him over the last nine years develop of who he was as a 20-year-old versus who he is in his 30s, it’s beautiful to watch both personally, and as his development on the field.
I don’t think that he gets enough credit for being able to transform his swing when you are 6’7″ versus 5’7″. It is a completely different sport when you are trying to master that swing versus if you were really a small guy.
As far as his influence, I do remember my time in New York. I met extensively with Randy Levine about CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Teixeira. I give Randy a lot of credit. I think he was really the architect along with Cashman, of course, and Hal’s pocketbook, to make that year happen.
So I don’t know his influence, but that was my experience when I was there.
Q: Michael, over to you. Has Alex gotten over the fact that it’s KayRod and not RodKay?
MICHAEL KAY: It was funny. When I was offered the gig, it was by Norby Williamson, one of the head guys at ESPN. I jokingly said, Wow, “KayRod.”
He goes, I don’t know if I like that.
I said, Okay, but why?
He is a big Met fan. He said “KayRod” wasn’t really great for us. Then he came around, and he said, you know, it’s really growing on me.
I don’t think Alex has an ego about this. And, as you said, “RodKay” doesn’t really roll off your tongue.
Alex, you okay with “KayRod?” We can change it.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: It’s too late now, Michael (laughing).
Q: Secondly, Michael, I think I was there the day that Alex actually broke up with Madonna. I think I was in his apartment that day. Remember that, Alex?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I forget. I forgot.
Q: Yeah, there was quite a crowd outside, including writers from my former paper. But you talked about how had Alex has changed. I think no one has evolved in the business more than you starting as a writer, and to going into broadcasting and now this and, you know, everything you do. How have you changed personally through the years with your job changing?
MICHAEL KAY: I hope I haven’t changed that much as a person, to tell you the truth. I mean, I certainly have been fortunate in the things that have happened in my career.
I guess the one thing, we worked for the same paper, and there was a lot of pressure to break stories at the “New York Post” and then at the “Daily News.”
When I first started doing the radio with John Sterling, I felt that same way. I was on the air, and if I saw something broken in the papers, I felt like, wow, I just failed. But I had to get to the realization that that wasn’t my role anymore. I still want to be on top of things, but in terms of being, like, this dogged Jimmy Olsen sort of reporter, I just don’t think I have that, although it’s still in my soul. I’ll always be a newspaper guy and try to bring that same sensibility to television and radio.
I hope I do, but I don’t think I’ve changed much. People that have known me from when I was at “The Post” and I was a clerk getting people lunch, they still think I’m the same big oaf as I was then.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Let me jump in there. I think Michael is being modest. He doesn’t get enough credit.
Going back to the question about ownership and being a player, I think this collective group is really one of the most important parts of sports. You are the bridge and conduit between what happens in the clubhouse and a great fan base amongst all sports.
When you look at Michael’s career, right, the fact that him and Mike Breen were sitting at Fordham as freshmen and both said, imagine, one day I would love to be the voice of the Yankees. And Mike goes, well, one day I would like to be the voice of the Knicks, and they both kind of chuckled. Here they are many, many years later just being No. 1 in their sport.
I tell you, as a Yankee player and a Yankee fan, when you look at the conglomerate of the New York Yankees, maybe take Judge aside, I don’t see a more important figure to the Yankee universe than Michael Kay.
You can say the same thing about Vin Scully with the Dodgers. You can say the same thing about Jack Buck for the Cardinals back in the day. But you’re tied to the fabric of the fan base.
Look, we brought over Michael Grady from the YES Network, and he has done a phenomenal job, and he is the voice to the fan base, as all of you are. Michael is very important not only to the Yankees, but to the game of baseball.
MICHAEL KAY: Alex, what’s that Venmo number so I can get you that money? (Laughing)
Q: For both of you guys, what did you learn about the show as it evolved last year, and, you know, how you tweaked it as you went along? What do you see for this year?
MICHAEL KAY: Well, I think the most difficult thing to navigate is how much you pay attention to the game, and that’s one of the great questions you get on social media. Why are you guys ignoring the game? We’re not really ignoring the game. I try to tell people, the game is on ESPN. They’re doing the game. This is called an alternate broadcast.
I think it evolved over time, Neil, that, you know, when it became, for lack of a better phrase, nut-cutting time, Alex and I broke down the game towards the last couple of innings.
But during the game with the guest, it’s kind of a talk show wrapped around a game, if that makes sense. I think that took a little time to grow because, you know, in the 32 years I’ve been doing Yankees games, the game was the thing. As Mark said earlier, the game is still the thing, but with a little dressing around it, if that makes sense.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: That’s right, Michael. For us what we’re trying to really duplicate is if I invited you to my apartment in New York City, and we ordered a pizza and wings and a couple of beers and we’re just watching the game. We’re not necessarily doing the play-by-play, but we are talking big picture reference. We might even talk about other sports. And just trying to duplicate that. Or if you go to Michael’s palace in Connecticut. It’s the type of thing we’re trying to duplicate (laughing).
MICHAEL KAY: Boy, the Timberwolves go off on a four-game winning streak, and Alex is just flying (laughing).
Q: Alex, I wanted to ask you, you know, you’ve had unique relationships with the media being on the other side of it, being a part of it, the transitions and everything. You started that relationship at a different era of the game of baseball. What have been your biggest surprises as the media coverage has transitioned over the years in the game?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Wow, that’s such a great question. You know, again, I know Michael Kay, Kevin, the Joel Shermans of the world, Jack Curry going back to my early days in Seattle, going back to the mid-’90s when I was just a child at 18 years old.
I would say that back then it was a little bit more of a camaraderie. You could actually go to a bar and have drinks with reporters, believe it or not, and talk about, you know — and everything was pretty much off the record.
I remember when Sports Illustrated would come out with a story, you would have six or seven days to talk to the magazine and, like, clear something up. That ship has left; right? I think it’s just a lot more Twitter, get out there first. Fact check later, but shoot first.
As a result, I think it’s made players and everybody a little bit more aware, and I think relationships that go back almost three decades, like Kevin and I and Michael, there’s a trust there that — that doesn’t mean Kevin is not going to be fair because he has been hard on me and so has Michael, but it’s never been under the belt.
What I appreciate about guys like Joel Sherman, Bob, Jack Curry, all the people that I mentioned, they’re going to call it straight as an arrow. Every once in a while they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt because there is a human relationship, but they are not going to cover for you, and they shouldn’t cover for you because it’s not their job.
I think in a long-worded answer, I think relationships that go back many years I think win in the long run, that trust.
Q: Michael, for you, have you noticed something similar as far as the journalistic — I don’t want to say journalistic integrity, but the relationship because you, yourself, you said you’re letting go of breaking the news, which once you do that, I think you can have a beautiful mentality. When you are able to maintain those relationships, do you feel like that’s more important than anything else?
MICHAEL KAY: It’s so different now than when I was a writer. I mean, I covered the Yankees for five years for The Post and the News, and it was like animalistic how all the beat writers went at each other and tried to break news.
I just think the way it’s set up now, you can’t get relationships with players. They’re hardly in front of their locker. The locker room is not open as much as it used to be.
You can’t sit in the manager’s office and shoot the crap the way I used to with Billy Martin and Buck Showalter. You just can’t do it. I think it’s a much more homogenized product that you get in newspapers.
That’s not a knock on the people that are covering it. It’s just not set up for you to do that. I understand why the teams and the leagues want that, but I think that fans miss out.
I also think that with the advent of social media, so much hot takes. I mean, we have to get it out yesterday. I don’t know if I could have operated. I thought I was a pretty good reporter when I was a writer, much better than I was as a writer. I could break news, but to be on — I mean, there’s no deadlines anymore. It’s a 24-hour deadline.
As long as Twitter exists, if something happens, you have to put it out there. As Alex said, I think we’ve almost turned the corner and let’s be first and check out whether we’re right later, and I don’t like that. So I don’t know if I could operate in that ecosystem anymore as a writer.
Q: The first question I have is for Michael and Alex, and I have a separate one for Alex. MLB hasn’t had a repeat champion in 23 years since the 2000 Yankees. I wanted to get your thoughts on what chance you give Houston to repeat this year, and what may keep them from winning another World Series?
MICHAEL KAY: I think Houston has to be one of the favorites, if not the favorite to win. I mean, they’ve got it all. If you are asking what could keep them from winning, I mean, losing Verlander is big. They certainly have the depth in terms of their pitching, but there’s only one Justin Verlander. And although he never really pitched that great in the postseason, at least in the World Series, until this past one, you know, he was a horse to get there. It was important.
You knew every time he took the mound, he was going to give you seven or eight innings, but that team is a beast. Losing [José] Altuve for the first two months, I think it’s like stubbing their toe because I think they’re so much better than everybody else in the West, and they’re built to win. They’re built to win big games because they have great bat-to-ball skills. They’re very athletic. They have a manager that they seem like they love playing for.
So I would say that they’re one of the favorites to win it.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I agree. I think they’re head and shoulders above any team. I mean, watching them against the Yankees — Michael, did they sweep them?
MICHAEL KAY: Yeah.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: It was just like they went through water. It was impressive to watch. Not all wins are created equal. That was — you felt like they could have given them three or four runs per game and still swept them. It was pretty impressive.
Q: Second question, Alex. As a former shortstop, what are your thoughts on Jeremy Peña’s rookie season, particularly the way he came on in the playoffs?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I mean, again, I think that the one name you have to think about is Jeter early on; right? He was a darling from day one, ’96. Wins a World Series against Atlanta. Even though he was 20 years old, he looked like a 30-year-old veteran the way he played and how poised he was.
You could say the same thing about [Jeremy Peña]. Yeah, pretty impressive. And then his composure. Obviously, he was raised the right way and very smart.
I think Dusty — Jeremy was just here in our office just a few weeks ago, and he really talked about how important Dusty [Baker] was to his development. I think what people don’t understand is, like, I don’t think that the Yankees win five championships over the last 25, 30 years without the Stick Michael’s, the Reggie Jackson’s, the Yogi Berra’s.
All that experience is so — it was so important to my development as a young player, and it was so refreshing to hear Jeremy Peña talk about Dusty Baker and how that experience really helped him mature and ultimately helped him be a world champion and be an MVP.
Q: We’ve had so much talk about New York. Someone just used the word refreshing. It will be refreshing to hear a Boston Red Sox question. I’ll start with Alex. Especially in light of what the Yankees did this past offseason and given your history with the Red Sox too, given the Sox are a big market team with a history of signing big players, big free agents, charging high prices — ticket prices actually went up this year — do you think the Sox have an obligation to their fan base to acquire higher profile players, which they haven’t done the past couple of offseasons?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I’m not sure about that. Here’s what I will tell you is they have one of the most impressive, dynamic ownership groups when you think about John Henry, Tom Werner, you know, Sam Kennedy. It does not get any better than that. They have one of the fine, young great managers in the game in Alex Cora.
When you think about the last two decades, not just in baseball, but in sports, I think they are the gold standard because to win four championships, they have built a lot of equity in that city and in that town. I would not bet against the Red Sox, I will say that.
MICHAEL KAY: It’s weird, though. I look at them, and I think they got caught kind of betwixt and between. They bring in Chaim Bloom. I think they tried to get some of that Tampa Bay magic, and it hasn’t translated up to Boston.
I don’t know about going out and getting star players, but I will tell you this. I think they have a responsibility to keep guys like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Those were big losses.
I think losing Bogaerts to the Padres, I think that shook them. Now you are starting the season with a really fine player, but is he a starting shortstop on a team that’s going to win a World Series? That’s Kiké Hernández.
I think they tried to pivot. Then they got nervous, and they obviously had to give [Rafael] Devers all of his money to keep him. It looked like they were trying to reset and not have as high a payroll, and then I think the fans kind of got into it with John Henry. You know, why are you doing this when you have such high prices and you own NESN?
What Alex says is true. They’ve won their championships, but then I guess they use the equity of the championships and then they finish last, too. There are teams that never ever finish out of the playoffs, but the Red Sox have these great moments. They’ll win a championship, and then they’ll drop to the bottom of the American League East and the fans say, ‘Okay, that’s cool,’ but now it’s been a couple of years where have they been the team that the fan base expects and deserves?
I’ve got to be honest with you. I can’t figure out what the Red Sox are doing. I look at their roster. I can’t figure out what they’re doing right now.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: One more thing on that is that one of the challenges that I’ve seen big market teams make is that they try to win by being like Tampa. When you are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Dodgers, the Mets, you have to lean into your superpowers, which is the big market, the resources. Let Tampa be Tampa, right?
Tampa is probably worth maybe $1 billion. The Yankees, I read they’re worth north of $7 billion. The way you got seven championships was the George Steinbrenner way. You go out, and you draft well. You dominate the international market because you can with Bernie Williams, Posada, Gary Sanchez of the worlds. Then you develop them really well. And then when you have an opportunity to go out and get a David Cone or Roger Clemens or David Wells, you do it.
The way you win 27 championships is by essentially being a bully. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t get two championships if you do it the smart way. You should just keep winning championships. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
MICHAEL KAY: Right. So Alex walks into a club. He is the best-looking guy in the club. He doesn’t have to show everybody how smart he is. I walk into a club. I’ve got to give them the Pythagorean theorem. It’s a big difference.
I always do wonder why the teams with all the resources feel that they have to be smarter than everybody else. It doesn’t quite make sense. It’s good to be both, but to just try to be smart when you have other assets. It doesn’t make sense.
Q: Before we go back to baseball, a question about Alex. I just think it’s fascinating you’re wearing the Timberwolves sweatshirt. But the PFL, fastest growing company in mixed martial arts, backed by several bluechip investors, airs live primetime in the U.S. on ESPN and ESPN Plus. I’m just curious since we have you, what made you so interested in investing? And I know that Jake Paul has that Super Fight Division. Any chance we’ll see you competing?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: In the octagon (laughing)? No. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten in a fight in my — well, I actually got in one fight in my life, which was well heralded in Fenway, but that’s definitely not my thing.
Look, I think when you look at UFC, PFL, when you look at soccer, when you look at basketball, I think you are looking at three of the most popular sports in the world. Probably soccer, basketball, and UFC type fighting, martial arts. It’s an enormous market. All you have to do is look at all the macro trends.
There’s an incredible amount of scarcity in the sport, unlike baseball, basketball, and football where you can watch games all the time. There’s probably only 30 to 40 good fights per year, and there are thousands of games in baseball, basketball, football across just — not just Major League Baseball, but all the leagues. Think about soccer and all the leagues they have.
I’m not an expert by any means in PFL, but I do think that Donn Davis was a great leader and CEO of that company. Yeah, we hope for the best.
Q: Just want to bring you into this, Mark, while you’re there. As far as the general production, can you talk a little bit about the production of the regular broadcast as far as there being some new innovations that might be seen on Sunday Night? Also, can all three of you discuss the preparation process for this type of a broadcast versus a more traditional calling a game and how it’s different and sort of what the challenges are there compared to the usual ball game?
MARK GROSS: Obviously, arguably the most important enhancement is showing the clock, which we will show within the mini-board. You will see the pitch clock throughout, whether it’s 15 seconds or 20 seconds. That’s one thing.
Q: Then as far as just the production — the pre-production process, I’m curious how that works compared to a traditional game. Michael, maybe you can start with that.
MICHAEL KAY: It’s probably a little bit more intensive that just, like, I’m doing the Yankees and Giants for YES on Thursday. I obviously know the Yankees, and I have to go to school on the Giants.
When we do the Phillies in Texas on Sunday, I’ve got to know both teams, but I also have to know the guest. It’s not a talk show, but you certainly have to have things that are happening in their lives that are current and that you want to get to if the game is a little slow or the game is not moving.
So you’ve got to prepare almost for a talk show and a baseball game, although I don’t think you have to have as much intimate knowledge of the two teams as you do if you were just announcing the game straight, although I go into it as if I was announcing the game straight.
Another aspect is we all don’t have to worry about when we do games, just doing the games, about guests and how they fit and where to put them and stuff like that. So that’s an aspect of this that does not come forward in a straight broadcast.
Q: Alex, start with you and then a question for both of you. You obviously assimilated into broadcasting and were a member of the Sunday Night baseball booth. Now you are seeing Derek Jeter get into it on Fox with certain games. Tom Brady rumored getting into the booth. What advice would you have for them as former athletes getting into broadcasting?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I don’t know if I’m in a position to give anybody advice, but if anything, I would just say continue to do what you have been doing your whole life. These guys are two of the biggest champions of any generation, and both of them are friends, and both of them — I’ve seen them firsthand on how they prepare.
My advice to any athlete that’s pivoting to — or piloting to some other career is usually you don’t just throw your glove in and hope that things are going to work out. If you have good work ethic in your sport, you better have great work ethic in something else because it’s new, it’s not as natural. You know, I’ve always thought about being — better be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Q: We see so many alternate broadcasts coming up in the other sports. What do you think baseball is more conducive perhaps for these types of broadcasts?
MICHAEL KAY: I think baseball is the perfect sport for this broadcast. You know, after we did the first two last year, I got a call from a really — I’m not going to say his name — from a really high-placed person in the baseball world who said that’s the future of baseball broadcasts right there, what you guys are doing because before the pitch clock and things like that, the game did move really, really slow.
As Alex said, if you had somebody over watching a game or even if you are at a ballpark watching the game with buddies, you are talking about stuff. You’re not just saying, here’s the 2-1 line drive to left center field. You’re watching it develop. We’re giving you the picture and talking around it.
I think that alternate casts are going to become very, very popular, and of all the sports I think baseball is probably most suited to having an alternate broadcast just because of the way the game is played. I’ve always said that in baseball, when nothing is happening, a million things are happening. There are wheels turning and decisions being made when there’s inaction on the field. When you are doing an alternate broadcast, you can probably touch on those things a little bit more than you would in a regular broadcast.
So, I think this could be the future of baseball broadcasting. I’m not sure as the main broadcasts, but I could see even a lot of regionals having secondary channel with an alternate broadcast.
Q: This is for both Michael and Alex. As someone who covers the Yankees, obviously you guys have big Yankees ties and last year you called three Yankees-Red Sox games. You know, in certain pockets of social media somebody who is on it every day that garnered some criticism due to the perceived Yankees bias. If you guys caught wind of that, how did you deal with it? And if not, how are you able to adapt to calling such a heated rivalry in an objective fashion when you were doing stuff outside of the KayRod broadcast with the guests?
MICHAEL KAY: It’s funny. If people say they’re not aware of what’s being said on social media, they’re being disingenuous. Obviously that’s like the bull horn. People have a voice now.
People that say that I have a Yankee bias, all they can do is read Yankee fan sites and say that I’m negative Yankees. Then there’s other sites that say I’m Yankee boy.
Joe Buck once said it, when he did the 2009 World Series, he got out of a car in Philadelphia and they all cursed him and said he was rooting for the Yankees. In New York they all cursed him and said that he was rooting for the Phillies.
I think I’ve always done a broadcast for the YES Network that’s down the middle. Not really a rooting sort of broadcast where the Yankees are the good guys and the opposition is the bad guys.
I am just thrilled that Alex and I had an opportunity to do that playoff series at the end of the year to show that that’s — there’s no bias with just doing something straight down the middle. I love the compliments we got from that. Philly fans thought we treated them fair, and Cardinal fans thought we treated them fair.
I just don’t think that you can make everybody happy, but I don’t think I have any bias towards the Yankees. I know them better that I know because I live with them every single day, but in terms of, like, rooting, I have never done that and I have never done that while working for the YES Network, so I don’t think I’m doing that on KayRod Cast.
I can’t speak for Alex. Alex, obviously, was a Yankee for a long time, but I think he was pretty critical of the Yankees during this past season, right?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I’m a Yankee fan, and I root very hard for them, and I watch every game that I can on the YES Network.
With that said, I think two things are actually funny. One, as a Yankee for almost 15 years, I would hear it over and over again in our clubhouse, on the team plane, in our cafeteria in Tampa. ‘Boy, Michael, isn’t he supposed to be cheering for us? He hates us.’ That’s pretty funny, right? That goes along with Joe. You can’t win either way.
Then on me, I’ve been — while I love the Yankees, I think I’ve — I get frustrated just like the fans. I’ve been, I feel, overly critical in some mark and do it in the biggest platforms in the postseason and World Series time. That’s okay. Look, the more people talk about it, the better it is for our sport.
Q: Michael, you mentioned earlier that Alex has a different lens on life after his suspension. Obviously, his post-career life. Alex, I was curious, what are some of the biggest lessons you have learned when overcoming adversity during your career and personal life?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, good question. I think, for me, baseball has really been secondary. It’s not even like — it’s not about baseball. I think it’s really about doing the work as a human being. You know, being a father.
I had a very big blind spot, and the work that I have done over the last dozen years I think has created a lot more self-awareness, a lot more empathy, a lot more compassion and transparency. This stuff is important, but it’s not — these girls are way more important than baseball or anything. Before my suspension baseball was everything, and it was absolutely, completely not in balance, and it had too much importance in my life.
You know, I have one that’s going to college next year. The other one is a rising sophomore next year. Two girls. That’s what’s most important to me.
Q: Then just super quickly for you both. What are your favorite moments from the Red Sox versus Yankees rivalry?
MICHAEL KAY: For me, it was growing up in the Bronx. Just the ’70s rivalries, everybody hated each other. I mean, it was a real true rivalry. Now, I mean, I guess the last great hatred would probably be Alex and [Jason] Varitek, but to be honest with you, I think everybody gets along now. People talk behind the batting cage, but just Bill Lee and Graig Nettles and Lou Piniella and Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson. That’s what kind of set me in motion of being a big-time baseball fan. Because of the intensity and the emotion.
Well, you know, I would try to sit in the bleachers or the upper deck as a kid in those games. It was unbelievable. It was off the charts. That emotion is still unbelievable for fans. I don’t know if it’s the same thing for players as it was then, but that’s what I take away from it.
I mean, if every baseball game across 162 for all 30 teams could be as intense as Yankees-Red Sox usually are when they’re both good, I’ll sign up for that. It would be great for the sport.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and for me it’s a little bit later. I don’t think, at least in my recent memory, you can really underscore how incredibly important and heightened that 2000 to 2008, specifically the Aaron Boone home run, the euphoric feeling in New York, and then us collapsing after being 3-0 the following year. Like, that up-and-down was wild. It transcended sports. It was painful. I lost a lot of hair and a lot of sleep over losing in ’04. It also made ’09 a lot more rewarding.
But, yeah, I do think that that era, for me, was — I’ll never forget this. Michael, I don’t know if you remember the first time in ’04 and, Kevin, you may have been there as well when we went to play at Fort Myers for the very first time and, of course, that was coming off the heels of me almost being with a signed contract with the Red Sox a few months before that.
I had a buddy of mine that paid, like, $5,000 for Spring Training tickets, and he bought two of them. It was a standing room only, and at least as player it felt like — it felt really big. It was fun to be a part of that.
Q: You ended last season watching Philadelphia. You’ll start this season watching Philadelphia. I’m curious, do you think they’re the team to beat in the National League, and how devastating is the Hoskins injury to their lineup this year?
MICHAEL KAY: I don’t think they’re the team to beat once [Rhys] Hoskins goes down. Hoskins is a big part of what they do. I think they’ll be competitive. I mean, they weren’t even the team to beat last year. They just went on a run at the perfect time. They just got in the Wild Card.
Then they clicked behind Rob Thompson. They love playing for him. Alex and I both have a great relationship with Rob.
I think they’re going to be really good, but I think it’s going to be a three-way battle in the National League East. But to say they’re the team to beat, I don’t look at them that way.
I think that Atlanta is unbelievable. They’re really put together, and the Padres as well. If the Mets can overcome the Edwin Diaz injury, they’re another 100-win team as well. I think the Phillies will make the playoffs, but I don’t look at them as the team to beat.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: We haven’t said this in, I don’t know, maybe four or five decades where the strongest division in baseball is the NL East, and that’s fun to see.
You know, if you had Hoskins healthy, if you had [Bryce] Harper on day one, and with the addition of Trea Turner, you could make an argument that it’s a three-headed monster as all favorites with the Mets, the Braves, and Phillies. The Hoskins injury really hurts. It hurts even more because any time you take your second and third hitter out of the lineup and you are going to be without them for at least two or three months, that’s a big deal. Obviously, Hoskins is longer. I agree with Michael, but you’ve got to watch them for sure.
Q: I wanted to ask you guys both, you guys obviously have very extensive and impressive résumés, but I’ve got to ask, is there still something on your bucket list? Is there still something that you want to say, hey, let’s check this off for both of you guys?
MICHAEL KAY: I’ll go first. I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish since I was 9 years old. I wanted to be the Yankee announcer, and there was something always in the back of my head, I wonder how my act would play nationally?
I’m a New Yorker, so it fits that I’m the Yankee announcer. That’s why doing KayRod was such a great thing for me last year and then getting a chance to do that game, the playoff series. I looked around at Alex and even said to him when we were sitting in the booth in St. Louis, We’re on ABC today. We did a game on ABC.
I guess because I can’t be greedy, I have lived out my dream, I’ve always thought what it would be like to do a World Series on TV, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think Joe Davis is 35 years old. He is going to have that job for the next 40 years, and I’ll be 102 at that point, so I don’t think it’s going to happen. My bucket list is pretty full.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I would say the same. Look, I mean, I filled my bucket list probably a really long time ago. I’m definitely — one thing about post-suspension, it makes you a lot more grounded and grateful for everything that I have had.
Sometimes I pinch myself because I’m, like, I cannot believe that I get some of these opportunities. One of them is to do this eight times a year with a very good friend in Michael and Mark Gross and people that I like and trust.
My bucket list really are honestly around my daughters and to continue to raise them with good self-esteem in a very challenging world today, that there’s a lot of distractions. But I’ll give you one sports one. I would love nothing more than to bring a title to the Timberwolves.