ESPN hits with new ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ team, whispers badly on A-Rod


As talented as he was on the field, Alex Rodriguez often seemed out of place to watch baseball games as a broadcaster. Wilfredo Lee/AP file photo

I can tell you just one thing that ESPN found quite right in the shuffle last week of its “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast:

Hiring David Kohn from YES Network and teaming up with play-by-play voice Carl Revech and analyst Eduardo Perez in his traditional booth.

Cone, what some Yankees will continue to call sports, is a brilliant analyst – witty, anecdotal, and clever, while also having the curiosity to develop a solid understanding of analytics.

Perez is another friendly former player who has the ability to speak analysis in layman’s terms – he has been a part of ESPN’s alternate “Statcast” broadcast.

I remember Dan Schulman’s pride in the “Sunday Night” booth as he left the play-by-play role after the 2017 season, but Ravech, a Needham native who’s been a staple on ESPN’s baseball coverage for nearly 30 years. Used to be. , there is more choice than suitable.

ESPN is launching a long-term broadcast rights extension into the 2022 season. With Ravech, Coen and Perez in the booth on Sunday night, it finally has a compelling broadcast team that deserves to be the premiere MLB broadcast package.

Which probably won’t work, well, let’s put it this way: ESPN hasn’t given up on trying to make A-Rod.

When “Manningcast” became a phenomenon this season as an alternative to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcast, it was only a matter of time before imitations began to sprout up in other sports.

And so here comes the first, and no one outside Bristol, Conn., asked: “Sunday Night Baseball with K-Rod.”

The broadcast, featuring Alex Rodriguez and Yes Network play-by-play voice Michael Kay (there’s certainly a lot of Yankees ties in this new arrangement), aired eight times during the season on ESPN 2 as an alternative to the traditional broadcast. Will happen. -Profile rivalry game.

Rodriguez and Kay will be on site for some games, and live from their home studios – such as setups for Peyton and Eli Manning – on others. According to ESPN, the broadcast will “integrate fantasy baseball, predictive analytics, and special guests associated with the game.”

The “K-Rod” broadcast serves a worthwhile purpose: It kicks Rodriguez out of the traditional “Sunday Night” booth after four weird seasons.

Despite a long list of offenses, Rodriguez remains one of baseball’s most accomplished players. He is also a true fan of the game. But he struggled to come across as authentic during his time in the main booth — he sometimes seems like an alien confused by these ridiculous humans — and it’s hard to understand how that would turn into the new format. , especially when the format is more appropriate for the pace of an NFL game than the 4-hour-45-minute Red Sox-Yankees slogan.

If anything, his awkwardness can be amplified, and not in a flashy way as is the case with Mannings.

“Manningcast” works for a number of reasons unique to them. Peyton is almost as natural a host as he was playing quarterback. Allie comes across as the goofy baby brother, who likes nothing more than to push his more structured older brother’s buttons. They give each other needles. They are self-deprecating. They act like brothers. And they also happen to be football connoisseurs who can’t hide their disgust for playing the recreationally incompetent quarterback.

And Mannings, popular among his peers, has an A-list guest list. Who will have the A-Rod, means Kevin, the bald man from “Shark Tank”?

“K-rod” broadcasts can’t match that dynamic. There is no chance of him coming close. It’s not really A-Rod or even K’s fault.

It’s common knowledge that the only baseball combination that works at the “manningcast” level is Dennis Eckersley and Pedro Martinez, isn’t it?

It is understandable if the sports-reading public assumes that newspaper journalists are supporting The Athletic’s failure. After all, one of its tech-bro founders, Alex Mather, secretly told the New York Times in 2017 that the site’s goal was to shake up the sports section of essentially every newspaper around the country.

“We will wait for every local paper and let them continue to bleed until we are the last one standing,” he said.

Of course, there was some delicious irony in Thursday’s news that The Athletic is being sold to The New York Times—a newspaper! – for $550 million. Athletic was – is – a quality product with a compelling approach to sports coverage, and Mather and co-founder Adam Hansman certainly hit the jackpot in sales of their creation. But they can now take the seat. Many others are still standing.

It should also be noted that every writer in the industry should have rooted for The Athletic. As a standalone site, it offers well-paying, lucrative jobs. It gave newspaper writers something they had rarely gotten to in the past few decades: leverage. If Athletic chases you, it’s not embarrassing to suddenly ask for a pay raise.

Here’s hoping that the Times, the overlord of its new newspaper, believes it is appropriate to keep the Athletic in its current format and structure. This is a wonderful product. You know, a lot like the sports section of the newspaper.