Sports media mailbag: Is this the end of Alex Rodriguez on Sunday Night Baseball?
You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: sports media.
Boog [Sciambi] and Chipper [Jones] sounds like an A-Rod/“Sunday Night Baseball”/playoff booth. Think they could get it? — Seth Goldberg
Good question. OK, let’s talk about A-Rod.
Alex Rodriguez is in his walk year as ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” analyst.
Though he is not great on games, as much of the reaction to him emanates from his tongue being tied or when he is smooching the commissioner’s backside or unusual math, he is liked by some important ESPN decision-makers so, at this point, it is his job to lose.
That said, you may have heard that he is currently trying to buy the Mets, which would remove him from the booth.
This winter, ESPN cut Jessica Mendoza out of its “Sunday Night Baseball” team, and she is probably better for it. She was on “Get Up” questioning Rob Manfred’s handling of the Marlins situation Tuesday. It was good stuff.
Mendoza’s absence and ESPN’s decision to pass on David Cone as a replacement leaves A-Rod exposed. His partner, Matt Vasgersian, also in his final year of his deal, is good enough for Sunday night but, at this point, still has to shoot too much instead of distributing because A-Rod lacks depth and range.
Rodriguez as a broadcaster is akin to the modern day “opener,” he has a good one or two innings of top material.
Rodriguez is better in studio. On Saturday, Fox had “A-Rod in 60,” a one-minute pretaped segment that fits his skill set.
This brings us to Sciambi and Jones. Sciambi is a true MLB play-by-player, who just makes for a comfortable listen because it is obvious there is no place else he’d rather be.
Since he and Jones have a friendship, they have a head start in the booth.
We need to give Jones some time, but he, like A-Rod, needs to demonstrate he is paying attention 24/7 to today’s game if he is going to excel as a game analyst.
If I were his or A-Rod’s producer, I would challenge them to limit the amount of “When I played …” references in their analysis.
If ESPN makes a change in the booth again for next year, it likely would consider Sciambi and Karl Ravech. It may look at someone like Michael Kay, while a younger candidate, like Ryan Ruocco, could emerge. Sciambi and Chipper definitely have a chance to put themselves in position to move in as a team.
Besides Sunday night, ESPN has added more playoff games for this season, and, if the expansion of the postseason continues, it is a good bet that when ESPN’s next MLB contract is announced, it will have more October baseball.
With Kevin Burkhardt’s ability to do play-by-play, studio and interviewing at a high level, do you think he’s the all-around best talent in sports broadcasting today? — TheRealHarley
I like questions like this because it feels like a “Mike & the Mad Dog” in their prime argument.
“Dawg, Burkhardt has a lot of a lot of talent, but I’d take Brent [Musburger].”
“I’d go [Bob] Costas, Mikey.”
To answer the question, what Burkhardt and someone such as Ian Eagle have is range and likeability. Besides play-by-play and the ability to lead a studio program, I think they could both successfully host a talk radio show. This takes a personality. So my list would have both Burkhardt and Eagle.
Joe Buck would fall into this triple-threat category, and Jim Nantz has to be considered because of his hosting and play-by-play résumé. Meanwhile, Mike Tirico has an amazing ability to move from a range of events as a play-by-player or host.
Andrew, do you know how the NFL media rights deals are progressing? Any timetable? Lastly, do you think the four broadcast partners keep their current packages? — Steve Drouin
I don’t know the exact timetable yet, but the NFL can choose to do a deal on its timetable, so the pandemic may not slow it down.
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If I were to predict, I think all four major networks will keep some rights. Could they change slightly? Yes, with ABC joining ESPN to add a Super Bowl the most likely. The NFL could dip its toe further in the digital water with a bigger deal, but not a main one, with someone like Amazon.
The major packages, though, I think will stay with CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN/ABC.