If the history books about the era of Major League Baseball from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s wind up being written without the inclusion of Alex Rodriguez because of his admitted use of PEDs, an important and vital chapter will have been omitted.
A rookie call-up with the Mariners in 1994, Rodriguez made the All-Star team five times for Seattle before moving on to the Rangers and earning All-Star honors during all three of his seasons in Texas as well as nabbing the American League MVP award in 2003 at the age of 27. Traded to the Yankees following his MVP season, A-Rod, who has teamed up with OraPharma as part of the Cover Your Bases national awareness campaign about the prevalence and impact of gum disease, was an All-Star eight straight times for the Bronx Bombers and picked up another two MVP awards along the way.
A member of the 3,000-hit club with a lifetime batting average of .295 with nearly 700 home runs and 330 stolen bases, Rodriguez has Hall-of-Fame stats as a ballplayer. He isn’t quite there yet as a broadcaster, but he’s had a good deal of success as an analyst for Fox and ESPN since he moved out of the batter’s box and into the studio. Ahead of the first pitch of the MLB playoffs, InsideHook caught up with Rodriguez to talk all things baseball.
Bound for Cooperstown, David Ortiz Reflects on 20 Years of Repping BostonWe spoke with the all-time Red Sox slugger ahead of his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday
InsideHook: There’s been a lot of talk about the rule changes MLB implemented prior to this season. Now that the year has played out, what’s your overall feeling about how they’ve worked out?
Alex Rodriguez: Over two years prior to 2023, there were almost 600 games that lasted more than three hours. That’s hard to watch. In 2023, there have only been nine. The game is getting better. It’s more dynamic. It’s more athletic. When you think about the playoffs we’re forecasting for a very, very exciting October. It’s hard to believe that the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets are all going to be out. I think it’s good because some of the lowest payrolls in the game are gonna be front and center. When you think about the Orioles and Rays, that’s a good thing for baseball. You have Goliaths in the Dodgers and Braves and then you have some Davids in Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
IH: Could it be a good thing for MLB that teams like the Red Sox and Mets aren’t in the playoffs?
AR: It’s a tremendous opportunity for some of these teams. It’s going to highlight that there’s a real value in having a team, not just a collection of players like it’s fantasy baseball. It’s hardcore old-school baseball with an emphasis on good starting pitching, great defense, athleticism, running the bases, a little bit of long ball and small ball and having a good bullpen. I think that has been missing for the last handful of years.
IH: Any predictions for the playoffs?
AR: If you’re in the American League, you have to be rooting hard for Astros to get eliminated. No matter how they’ve played down the stretch, their level of play in October over the last seven or eight years has been second to none. I think experience is best utilized in October. The Astros have been incredible there. The Dodgers have also been great. When you look at the best three teams over the last five years, you have to pick the Astros, Dodgers and Braves. The Braves and Astros have basically the same lineup every day. The Dodgers, with the exception of Mookie Betts moving around a little bit, have basically the same nine guys when everybody’s healthy. Those teams are the perfect hybrid of very pioneering, progressive, analytical front offices and the human element.
IH: Do you think analytics have become too prevalent in MLB?
AR: Analytics do not quantify or have a barometer for character and heart when things get tough in October. In clutch situations, does your heartbeat speed up or slow down? All these things are very important. I’m a huge advocate of analytics, but I’m also a huge advocate of having people in the room like Reggie Jackson and Gene Michael who built the championship run in the ’90s with the Yankees. I’m not saying you need one or the other. I think you need both and to have leadership that understands how to maximize both sides.
IH: With that in mind, do the Mets or Yankees get back to the World Series first?
AR: The conundrum of the Yankees is Giancarlo Stanton. I love Stanton, but I just don’t love him on that roster. I don’t think he fits now and I don’t think he’s going to fit in the future with Aaron Judge there. With the Mets, I think Steven Cohen will continue to use his tremendous resources. He’s also a very smart guy who is not afraid to make tough calls. I’m leaning toward the Mets on that.
IH: Where do you think Shohei Ohtani ends up?
AR: That’s the $64,000 question. Not only is he the biggest story in our sport, but he’s one of the biggest stories in sports around the world. He’s in a two-man class: him and Babe Ruth. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, one of the best hitters in the game and arguably the most valuable asset in our game because of his international reach. In a weird way, his injury has given the Angels [a shot]. All the things that he has to do to get himself ready to pitch every five days are complicated. Southern California has great weather, and I think weather will be really important to keep him healthy as he gets older. I also think that a place like Seattle is a sneaky underdog because of the Japanese connection. From a monetization point of view, you can make an argument the best ROI for any team is the Mariners because of the proximity to Japan.