Everybody loves A-Rod.
Well, not everybody, but the transformation of the once disgraced Yankee slugger to baseball media darling is stunning.
“I’ve got a Master’s at screwing up,” Alex Rodriguez confessed during a conference call to introduce ESPN Sunday Night Baseball’s new broadcast team where A-Rod will join new play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian and returning analyst Jessica Mendoza. But the infamous performance enhancer also announced that he’s a different person since his days as a Red Sox nemesis suiting up in pinstripes.
“I’ve changed,” Rodriguez said. “So it starts with you, right? And I think one of the things that — I changed and once I served my suspension [for the 2014 MLB season] 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.”
Rodriguez is hoping the image transformation could someday translate into consideration for baseball’s Hall of Fame, where most steroid users have been shut out in the last decade.
“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,” Rodriguez said. “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.”
A-Rod was also asked about being a fixture in the broadcast booth at Fenway Park where ESPN always offers up a heavy dose of Red Sox-Yankees Sunday night games.
“Part of my deal with ESPN was get extra beefy security when we get to Fenway Park (chuckling),” Rodriguez said. “I’ll be hanging out with Matt and Jessica there.”
Rodriguez also sounds more optimistic than most of Red Sox Nation regarding the prospects of Alex Cora’s 2018 squad.
“You couldn’t be in better hands than Dave Dombrowski,” Rodriguez said. “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.”
Rodriguez was also asked if he’s interested in being a part of owning a team and if he was tempted to pursue the Miami Marlins franchise which was up for sale last year and currently stewarded by his frenemy Yankee legend Derek Jeter.
“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,” Rodriguez said. “And I just wanted to take a breath before I got back into the game as far as at that level.”