By GYLE KONOTOPETZ
Twenty-four years ago, I remember interviewing a broadly smiling kid the day he arrived in Calgary to play his only 32 Triple-A games. Alex Rodriguez had just been demoted after a brief stint with the Seattle Mariners.
One couldn’t help but marvel at how bright, personable and well-spoken he was. If there was a hangover that is commonplace with players sent back to the minors, you couldn’t see it in the 18-year-old phenom.
I remember Cannons’ owner Russ Parker’s jaw drop the first time Rodriguez showed his silky smooth hands at shortstop, gracefully gliding into the hole between shortstop and third, backhanding a ground ball and effortlessly firing a rocket to first base on a play few major league shortstops would have even gotten a glove on.
These days, I am still marveling at Rodriguez two years after his retirement. He now shares his baseball wit and wisdom as a game analyst on Fox MLB broadcasts. The more I listen to Alex Rodriguez working MLB games as a game analyst on Fox the more I wonder why he has hasn’t been hired to manage in the majors.
In my opinion, the rookie analyst is already the best game analyst in baseball, a breath of fresh air. Then again, I may be a bit over zealous about listening to a true pro at the mike after too many hours listening to the mundane Blue Jays’ broadcast tandem of Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler.
Is there anyone on this planet more plugged into major league baseball than A-Rod? Is there anyone more articulate in analyzing the game?
I highly doubt it.
Rodriguez was one of the game’s all-time greats and one of the most electrifying players in the game for 22 years. Superstars often flounder in managerial roles but I believe A-Rod can be the next great manager based on his intelligence, innovative mind and personal skills. That is, if he chooses to manage.
Why do I consider him a hot managing prospect? No, it’s not just because one of the game’s great managerial scouts, A-Rod’s girl-friend Jennifer Lopez, was touting his gifts to manage in the bigs before the New York Yankees’ hired Aaron Boone, Alex’s predecessor in the Fox broadcast booth.
Here’s what A-Rod’s longtime Yankee teammate C.C. Sabathia has said about the prospect of Rodriguez as manager.
“I’ll tell you this, he would be a great (manager),” Sabathia said on a Players Tribune podcast before the Yankees hired Boone. “His baseball IQ is off the charts. I’ve never seen or played or talked with a player who is as smart as he is. From every aspect of the game he could manage, I think.”
Even Yankees’ Brian Cashman leaned on Rodriguez’s wisdom prior to hiring Boone, underscoring his respect for Alex’s knowledge of the game. Rodriguez is an instructor with the Yankees and has been known to work magic with Yankees like catcher Gary Sanchez, who busted out of a slump a night after having dinner with A-Rod.
It’s mystifying that many of today’s MLB managers, including Jays’ John Gibbons, seem oblivious to what defines winning baseball and I’m sure Rodriguez is as mystified as anyone.
Rodriguez gets it. I love listening to him expound on the virtues of what he terms “winning baseball.”
At a time when baseball probably boasts more gifted players than ever, Rodriguez has been reiterating about how today’s players haven’t really learned how to play winning baseball.
Bunting has gone out of style and some of today’s players don’t even know how to properly square to bunt but Rodriguez would not overlook this crucial aspect of winning baseball. I’m sure he would also hire a hitting coach who could teach pull hitters to occasionally exploit the extreme shift by punching balls through the vacant side of the infield.
There was actually a time when major league teams rarely missed opportunities to drive in runners from third with less than two out. Watch the Blue Jays as they swing from the heels with a runner at third and less than two out when they should be shortening their swings or bunting.
Rodriguez, an accomplished entrepreneur and owner of A-Rod Corp. with businesses in real estate, fitness and the media, hasn’t publically acknowledged an interest in managing but my bet is that he loves the game too much to decline an opportunity to get back in uniform as a manager even though he may be more interested in owning a team.
In April, Vegas installed Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter as the favorite to be the first manager to be fired this season and it wouldn’t be surprising if there were a vacancy or two before the All-Star break. But the most intriguing possibility is whether Miami Marlins’ CEO Derek Jeter would consider hiring his longtime teammate if another ex-Yankee superstar, Don Mattingly, were fired. Rodriguez has close ties to Miami and a home in nearby Coral Gables.
If the Blue Jays were to fire Gibbons, it appears that it would be a longshot that they would even entertain thoughts of Rodriguez as a candidate.
What is apparent is that with the Blue Jays playing horrendous baseball they desperately need to install a fresh face in the dugout to usher in a new era that features a few exciting prospects on the verge of stardom, including the magnificent Vlad Guerrero.
A-Rod could be the perfect fit to inject some life into Jays’ listless organization but there are two particulaar problems with that scenario.
Firstly, Rodriguez would probably not even consider managing in Toronto when it’s likely that he could be entertaining offers from more enticing marquee markets.
Secondly, the Jays’ stodgy front office may be willing to play out the string this year with Gibbons at the helm or even beyond this season (I would have fired Gibbons Tuesday when he called on a struggling reliever, Seung-hwan Oh, to squander a lead after Marco Estrada’s most impressive start of the year). Furthermore, Jays probably wouldn’t even consider a controversial figure such as Rodriguez, who was suspended late in his career for violating MLB’s performance enhancing drug policy.
Still, this marquee name and progressive baseball mind could be tailor made for an organization desperate to get back on the winning track and give their disgruntled fans at Rogers Centre something to cheer about.