Matthew Emmons –– USA Today Sports

A-Rod's horrendous performance on 'Sunday Night Baseball' was his worst ever showing at Fenway Park

Alex Reimer
August 06, 2018 - 11:35 am

Alex Rodriguez’s worst ever performance at Fenway Park wasn’t when he tried to fight Jason Varitek. It came Sunday night, when his verbal diarrhea rendered ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast nearly unwatchable.

In theory, the prospect of A-Rod calling a big Red Sox-Yankees matchup is infinitely interesting. He was one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the rivalry, and initiated two of the most indelible moments during the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series run: the aforementioned Varitek brawl, and slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand in the ALCS. But on Sunday night, viewers didn’t hear many remarks from A-Rod about his past. When they played the clip of him trying to rip off Variety’s face mask, Rodriguez grinned sheepishly, and said that was a "younger, more aggressive and dumber A-Rod." You could hear the embarrassment in his voice.

It’s understandable if A-Rod wants to distance himself from his loathsome past. But his controversial history factors into his appeal as a broadcaster. Just five years ago, Rodriguez was suing Major League Baseball over his unprecedented 211-game suspension for his ties to an anti-aging clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to its clients, including A-Rod. And now, he’s the lead analyst for MLB’s marquee game of the week. The dynamic is inherently odd. It would be great if Rodriguez addressed it a little more. He certainly has no problem talking about himself.

ESPN brought Rodriguez aboard last offseason in an effort to overhaul “Sunday Night Baseball.” So far, his presence hasn’t translated to ratings success. “Sunday Night Baseball” is down eight-percent in comparison to last year. Though matchups play a big role in the final ratings number –– Sunday's telecast, for example, was the highest-rated edition of "Sunday Night Baseball" in four years –– it's apparent A-Rod hasn't brought people to the broadcast to watch his commentary. 

There were several opportunities Sunday for Rodriguez to provide some interesting perspective about his experiences at Fenway Park or playing against the Red Sox. When the cameras panned to show John Henry in the owners’ box, for instance, it would’ve been compelling to maybe hear Rodriguez’s perspective about the infamous three-way trade that almost brought him to Boston in 2003. The deal was so close to completion, he even agreed to rework his contract for less money.

But A-Rod didn’t do that. Instead, he lavished Henry with praise during a fawning monologue that would’ve made Jim Nantz blush. 

In a recent conversation with me, “Sunday Night Baseball” play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian talked about his desire to overhaul the broadcast and make it more conversational. It’s apparent that A-Rod has taken Vasgersian’s wishes as a directive to never stop talking. Too bad he had nothing to say, save for awkward references about “Boston Red Sock Nation” and “David Price 2.0.”

As a player, A-Rod’s overly polished and seemingly phony demeanor was easy to see through. It’s the same in the broadcast booth.

This post has been updated. 

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