If you have been following the playoffs on Fox Sports 1, you know that our very own Alex Rodriguez has been a panelist/analyst on the pregame and postgame shows during the American League Championship Series - he started the night of Game 3 - and that he will continue to work throughout the World Series. Lucky us!
The big announcement of his hiring was made last Sunday morning, and was a smashing success. Now that we are a week into his tenure on Fox Sports 1, I thought I would write a bit about what we've seen from him so far.
He knows his stuff
Alex Rodriguez is a baseball savant and anyone who covers the New York Yankees will tell you that. Even his detractors. Alex loves to talk about in-game strategy, pitching sequences, batting mechanics, etc., and so far, he hasn't disappointed in that department. And to go along with knowing his stuff, Alex has correctly predicted in-game situations three different times. Now, does he talk about obvious stuff that we all see? Of course he does, but he also gives an insider's view of what it is like to face some of the players currently in the playoffs, and that is something the other panelists can't do. He can tell you what it's like to be in the box when guys like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Wade Davis are pitching, and he can also talk about a team's strategy - both batting and hitting - and he breaks everything down in a way that is easy for the viewers to understand.
He's a natural in front of the camera
While the camera is focused on him and it's his turn to speak, Alex looks very poised and comfortable. The one gripe I do have is when there's a wide shot of the entire panel, Alex sometimes looks at the wrong camera, but he'll learn what to do in time. I am amused by how much he uses his pen when he speaks but I do like how he actually uses it to take notes while the other panelists are speaking. He pays attention and that's a very good thing because it helps him add to another panelist's point or starts a whole new conversation. Sometimes when you watch these shows, it looks like some of the guys are zoning out while their fellow panelists are speaking, hello Pete Rose. Alex's voice isn't stilted and he's relaxed.
Ad libs don't throw him off i.e. Pete Rose's interjections don't faze him.
I have watched the last three pre and postgame shows and have noticed that Alex reacts very well to Pete Rose saying things that your drunk uncle would say at the holiday dinner table. He is not thrown off in any way and, in fact, he has even made Rose laugh on a few occasions. My favorite of those moments being this one which happened during A-Rod's first night as an analyst:
A-Rod also has a good sense of humor. When the Cubs were down 0-3 to the Mets in the NLCS, his fellow panelists had no issues with jabbing Alex about the Yankees' infamous collapse against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. Alex, in turn, took it all in stride, and made jokes about trying to forget about it for the past 11 years.
In this clip he tells Pete Rose that's not always a good thing to be trending on Twitter which solicited a bunch of laughs:
Room for improvement
Aside from the camera issues I already mentioned, if I were a producer on the show, I would probably tell Alex to cut down on repeating certain cliches that he used during the more recent shows (namely the pre and postgame of Game 6 of the ALCS). It was kind of strange because he didn't start using them until his third night of work, so maybe he was told by someone to do it? I personally don't want A-Rod to fall into the 'overdosing on cliches' trap that a lot of current and former players sometimes find themselves in when they are on TV in an analyst position.
So far, the reviews on Alex's analysis have been mostly positive (from what I've seen on Twitter). In fact, some people - mostly Yankee haters - are shocked that they find him so likable on TV. One of those people being poor Bill Simmons who was almost beside himself on Twitter the other night when he confessed to his followers that he actually enjoyed watching Alex on TV.
I had told my non-Yankee fan followers and friends that they would probably be surprised at how well Alex would do in this situation and he has not disappointed. It is actually fun to see so many people impressed by his baseball knowledge. He is showing people a side of his personality that they never got to see before and his whole "pariah, worst person ever born" reputation is being destroyed by how well he's performing on TV.
Of course, there have been detractors. One being Christine Brennan of USA Today, who penned an oddly-timed piece about how wrong it is for A-Rod to be on the show. It was published on Thursday, well after Alex had already been on the air, and it had nothing to do with his actual analysis, but everything to do with the poor, innocent children who could be watching the show. Apparently, the message Fox Sports is sending by allowing A-Rod on the air, according to Brennan, is "Do steroids and you can be an analyst too!" which is just silly.
The bottom line
Alex Rodriguez has done everything that the Yankees and Major League Baseball have asked him to do this past season. He behaved (on and off the field), wasn't a distraction, played well, and he minded his P's and Q's. Did Fox Sports reach out to him because they thought it would be a spectacle to have A-Rod on their pre and postgame shows? Quite possibly. But the people at Fox Sports knew what they were doing hiring Alex, and in turn, Alex is proving to everyone that he belongs there, and who knows? Maybe after he retires, he will get a job as full-time analyst and continue his career in baseball.