You’re going to see and hear a lot from Alex Rodriguez this season. The former New York Yankees star stepped into an unprecedented role this season: He has joined ESPN as an analyst for “Sunday Night Baseball,” but he’ll also continue as a postseason analyst for Fox Sports. That’s how in-demand A-Rod is as a baseball analyst these days.
Millions of people have already tuned in to watch A-Rod, Jessica Mendoza and Matt Vasgersian — their Opening Day debut pulled 1.966 million viewers and the Sunday Night Baseball premiere was up eight percent over last year — but if you want to hear A-Rod talking about all the big storylines of the MLB season ahead, you came to the right place.
We peppered A-Rod with questions about everything baseball fans are talking about at the start of the 2018 season: From Giancarlo Stanton joining the Yankees and Derek Jeter taking over the Marlins to Shohei Ohtani, Manny Machado, pace-of-play and which player is the “face of MLB.”
Yahoo Sports: What piece of advice would you give you Giancarlo Stanton about playing for the Yankees?
A-Rod: He’s doing everything just right. He’s off to a great start. Those two home runs and double in the first game were absolutely awesome. In New York, probably less is a little more – let your bat do the talking.
What’s the main thing the Yankees have to do this season to beat the Red Sox?
A lot of people are underestimating the Red Sox. I think they’re better than people are giving them credit for. The [Yankees] have to stay healthy, both pitching and having Greg Bird back so they can split some of the righties. That’s a big key as well. If they can get quality starts from their starters and hand the ball over to the bullpen, they’ll be in good shape.
What’s the main thing the Red Sox have to do this season to beat the Yankees?
It always starts and ends with starting pitching. David Price is off to a good start, if they can get [Chris] Sale and Price going, get [Rick] Porcello split in the middle between those two lefties, they can become a handful.
What would Shohei Ohtani reasonably have to do for his season to be considered successful?
Just get reps. The more reps the better. Whether that’s a certain number of starts or a certain number of at-bats. Because I think at the end of the year, the Angel brass wants to know, what it is that they have. The more he’s able to play and perform, the better they’ll be able to appraise and project what they have moving forward.
To him and the Angels, it should be all about the process. Divorce yourself of any results. Even though we’re in a results-oriented business, this is truly a long game with this young man, having him learn the American game and learn the process. Especially with a guy who is trying to do what he’s doing — pitching and hitting — the process is everything.
How do you evaluate Derek Jeter’s first offseason running the Marlins?
I think you have to give it two or three years before you even start evaluating. I know Derek Jeter is a five-time world champion and I would not bet against him. For me, I hope he does great, I’m cheering for him. Being a Floridian, as someone who has grown up in the city in Miami, we all want to see a winner down there.
Do you think Manny Machado finishes the season with the Orioles? If not, where would you like to see him play?
Oh, I have no idea. I know that Manny wants to have a big year. Any time you’re in a position like him, the biggest thing that concerns you as a player ironically is not performance, it’s staying healthy because if you’re not, there’s nothing you can do about it. If he stays healthy, he’ll be in good shape and he’ll have good options.
What was the best move any team made this offseason?
I’m a huge Eric Hosmer fan. I think him going [to San Diego], becoming the face of that franchise puts them on the map. Eric’s a guy that is so much better than even what the numbers say. We love five-tool players, he’s like a six-tool player because he has that “it” factor. He’s a champion both on and off the field. He’s great a leader, a great spokesman, Gold-glove type defender, and he’s a proven champ. He brings a lot of swagger and substance to the Padres.
Name one team that you think will be better than most people are expecting.
I would never sleep on Buck Showalter teams. I have a lot of respect for him and the way he’s able to architect some of these rosters. He’s always dangerous.
Name one player you think is going to have a breakout season. Why?
The catcher, Willson Contreras, is going have a big year for the Cubs. I also think Jacob deGrom has a chance to have a bounce-back year. Just watching deGrom early on, he looks like 2015 where the ball is coming out of his hand so crisp. He looks like he’s in good shape. Secondary pitches look good. And then Contreras, he’s just a warrior, he’s a hard worker, he’s got a lot of heart and he’s hungry.
I know you don’t have a problem with MLB’s pace of play, I remember you said you’d happily watch a five-hour game but if you were commish and *had* to fix it, what would you do?
I think the commissioner is doing all the right things in his leadership to make the game crisper, faster. We all agree it’s just not about time, it’s about the pace and the movements. I think some of the new rules that they’ve implemented are great and they’re going to make the game better. Now we’ve got to sit and watch, right? It is a fluid time. You have to give these new rules implemented some time to work themselves out.
On that note: If you were commish what’s something else you would change to make baseball better? Anything you wanted.
I would love to see more access. I would love to see more cameras in the clubhouses, more like the NBA and NFL. I’d love to see cameras in the cages, almost at all times, weight rooms, more audio for the players. There are so many incredible players with awesome personalities and one way to grow the pie is to continue to promote our players. The more we hear from them, the more we see how hard they work. All of that, I would like to see more.
Who’s the “face of baseball” right now?
When I grew up watching the game, we had people like Rickey Henderson and Nolan Ryan and Darryl Strawberry. When I came up, it was Ken Griffey Jr. He was the face of baseball. But I think that’s changed some. My first answer is when you think about regions — you think about East Coast, you’re thinking Judge and Stanton. When I think West Coast, I think Mike Trout. So I kinda split ‘em into regions. I know that’s probably a weak answer with a hedge on it, but there’s my answer.
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