The Newly Likable A-Rod Has a Plan to Fix Baseball

F. Scott Fitzgerald be damned, Alex Rodriguez is headlong into his second act in American Life and proceeding with a self-confidence verging on impunity. Over the course of his 22 seasons as one of Major League Baseball's indisputable greats and most infamous PED cheats, A-Rod amassed historic numbers, record-breaking paydays and a reputation for an unscrupulous disregard for the admittedly hazy rules of the sport. The true story of the steroid era remains unwritten, and posterity may well eventually cast those players enmeshed in that grievous spectacle in a more sympathetic light. Nevertheless, by the end of A-Rod's playing career in 2016, which saw him physically broken, sanctioned and suspended, and still drawing a massive salary from the Yankees, he was widely viewed as venal, mercenary and totally unrepentant. Few all-time great athletes have ended their career on such a bitter note of public antipathy.

But here is the weird thing: we are a year and change into A-Rod's retirement, and no one seems mad anymore. Rodriguez took a job as a studio analyst at Fox Sports and immediately evinced a palpable and heretofore unseen charm while breaking down games with the careful expertise of a passionate and knowledgeable fan. Always shifty and nervous in dealing with the media as a player, A-Rod has seemed remarkably comfortable in his own skin since switching sides. He is insightful, telegenic and even self-effacing. In some ways I am reminded of an ex-president returning to the public eye after leaving office. Now that they're out of the arena, no one can quite remember why they loved or hated this guy so much. He's just a guy after all.

And now this guy has a plan to fix baseball itself! In a testament to his rapid evolution from MLB pariah to trusted elder statesman, A-Rod yesterday published an op-ed in the New York Post delineating his four recommendations for evolving and improving the sport going forward. And it's actually not terrible! Lets take a closer look.

A-Rod Recommendation One: Hot Cameras. 

Hot Cameras. That's what A-Rod recommends first. In this formulation viewers would have extra access to players in the weight room and batting cages pre-game. I honestly don't know why they are called "hot cameras" and not "weight room cameras" or "batting cage cameras", but maybe it's an industry term. This is supposed to induce younger viewers who currently represent a worryingly small portion of MLB's demographic, because baseball apparently is not showing them enough cool stuff on their phones. A-Rod stipulates that this will change things.

Is This A Good Idea?

Of course it's a good idea! A hot camera on Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge taking BP? Am I made of stone? Obviously, if they do this I'm watching it on my phone.

Will It Work?

Sadly, I don't think this will work. Even in this era of unprecedented over-sharing, the clubhouse and team facilities remain a sanctuary for players to attend to their weird baseball rituals outside of the prying eyes of the media and public. This kind of incursion into that secret cabal feels unlikely to pass muster.

A-Rod Recommendation Two: An MLB-Google Partnership

This one is a little confusing, so I'll just quote the man: "Perhaps there’s a partnership between MLB and Google. When players take their turn at bat, MLB Google Search could display favorite songs or hometowns, flash their social media handles or show their social media posts"

Is This A Good Idea?

Yeah! I mean, I think so. I'm sort of surprised something like this doesn't already exist. Google already seems aware of everybody's background, beginning with their date of birth and leading right up to their most recent arrest. Or maybe that's just me. But sure! Google plus MLB? Favorite songs and hometowns? Social media handles and posts? In the business world they call that "synergy."

Will It Work?

Totally. Of all of A-Rod's suggestions this seems the most workable. Somebody call Google.

A-Rod Recommendation Three: $10 Tuesdays

A-Rod strongly recommends a $10 dollar ticket price for Tuesdays, or at least one day a week at home ballparks in order to make live baseball viewing a possibility for lower and middle-income families eager to introduce their young charges into the majesty of the MLB experience.

Is This A Good Idea?

This is actually, legitimately, an outstanding idea. Even for those shopping for cheap seats, ticket prices can be onerous and downright disqualifying for families lacking a pretty good swath of discretionary cash. Live baseball is a ton of fun and a crucial rite of indoctrination for budding little leaguers and stat nerds. Anything we can do to get impressionable youths through the turnstiles is something I heartily endorse.

Will It Work?

I don't know if it will work, and we will never know, because, as A-Rod concedes, team owners aren't going to go for it. In fact, A-Rod is so certain that this loss of revenue will be fully unacceptable to baseball's overlords that he even begins this proposal with a sort of apology: "I already hear the 30 owners yelling at me. I definitely won’t be getting any holiday cards this year!" Somewhere on the Eastern shore of Maryland, Peter Angelos has just crossed A-Rod off his Christmas card list.

A-Rod Recommendation Four: On-Field Mics

Simply put, A-Rod wants more microphones. I'm not completely sure, but I think he might be suggesting that all of the players, coaches and managers be miked during the game, so we can listen in on their conversations. A-Rod says: "Imagine listening in on the conversation between Derek Jeter and me before the last three outs at the 2009 World Series. Now that's great content for any fan." Is it though? It's not like they were having the Lincoln-Douglas debates. I have a feeling this is just A-Rod's way of subtly reminding us that he won the 2009 World Series.

Is This A Good Idea?

I strongly suspect this is not a good idea. The NFL does stuff like this sometimes, and it's pretty interesting, but they only put it on the air after games and presumably following some heavy editing. While I will freely admit that I often fantasize about the conversations that take place between first basemen and opposing base runners between pitches, that's different than saying I DESERVE to hear them. Plus, you have to figure the discourse gets a little salty at points. Like Mamet-level salty. Let's just let the guys talk amongst themselves.

Will It Work?

I can't see it. Seems like a high risk-low reward proposition for everybody involved. It's a baseball league, not a surveillance agency.

Conclusions

So there you have it! A-Rod has taken four big swings at revolutionizing the sport. It feels kind of like 1-3 with a double and a walk, which pretty much comports to his lifetime numbers. In the meantime he has not addressed some of the other percolating narratives regarding baseball's future, including controversial proposals for the addition of pitch clocks, the shortening of extra inning games and the implementation of automated calls on balls and strikes. Presumably, Barry Bonds has some thoughts on these matters.