The first week of baseball has officially ended, with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees finishing the week off in their usual four-plus hour playtime on Sunday Night Baseball. The game provided for some back and forth scoring, but the ultimate takeaway was not the game itself, but the Kay-Rod broadcast.
Now, ESPN, and baseball more so, have embarked on a journey to make baseball younger and “hipper”. Sometimes, not caring at what cost. Broadcasting games on Apple TV and Peacock, really? But regardless of there being more ways to consume the games, the commentators must still be worth listening to. ESPN struck gold when they began the Manningcast, a simulcast where both Eli and Peyton Manning narrate the football game of the week, have guest stars on, and occasionally tease each other.
So it is no wonder that baseball, seemingly obsessed with growing the game, would venture into the same medium, with the Kay-Rod cast, a simulcast featuring Yankees longtime play by play broadcaster, Michael Kay, and former Yankee, Alex Rodriguez.
Early takeaways from the broadcast
Now, let’s start with what went well. Kay shined as usual. Kay is always providing helpful commentary, even providing some backstories for opposing players. His research and journalism always shines bright. Over the years on YES Network his counterparts have varied in their approach to baseball. Whether it be David Cone who is heavily analytic, or Paul O’Neill, “a players player”, Kay has always been able to seamlessly navigate the interests of his counterparts and put it into digestible enjoyable pieces for the YES broadcast.
Early into the Kay-Rod broadcast, that seemed to be missing. Now, of course, this is a simulcast, we don’t need a play by play, and at times, Kay caught himself doing just that. However, a simulcast should also provide for more helpful insights into the game, some backstories, and maybe what the hitter or pitcher is thinking. This happened a few times with A-Rod often guessing wrong. But the ultimate takeaway was that it was the A-Rod show.
Kay would ask A-Rod many questions about A-Rod’s playing days. To which A-Rod would revel in the attention. We were forced to watch random clips of A-Rod homering against the Orioles, a segue that seemed to serve no purpose other than to stroke A-Rod’s ego. Part of Kay’s greatness is his ability to simultaneously appease his cohosts while also talking about the game. That was missing here. Instead, it struck more as a CenterStage, with a baseball game in the background for sound fillers when A-Rod didn’t have an anecdote of his career to mention.
A-Rod provided his usual commentary that he has been doing for years on Sunday Night Baseball–nothing seemed to be different. His insight is always appreciated, but between the guests of David Ortiz and Roger Clemens, it seemed more like just how the guests interacted with A-Rod, and not the franchises on the field.
Part of what makes the Manningcast so great is the ability to roast each other, and bring in fun guests. While the guests were fun, they didn’t provide much new information. Maybe I am too close to this game, but between Ortiz and Clemens, their conversations seemed like ones I’d heard in year’s past regarding them and the rivalry.
As far as the “roasting” went, it was seemingly nonexistent. A-Rod has arguably been ripe for jokes, between his relationship, steroid saga, and Jeter scandals, he never seems to avoid controversy. Yet the whole show seemed to be catered to his ego, with Kay navigating new ways to compliment him. The show had one exciting moment in it, and that came when Kay alluded to an exciting time of the year, between weather, baseball, and engagements – clearly hinting at A-Rod’s former fiancee, Jennifer Lopez, getting engaged to Ben Affleck.
A-Rod was clearly ambushed by this, providing just a few short giggles, followed by a long silence. He didn’t seem to enjoy the joke. Which, even if you find the joke went too far, A-Rod had no problem laughing while Jeff Passan teased Kay for the size of his head.
A simulcast like the Manningcast works because they joke around, roast each other, and can understand it’s all in good fun. This is not to say nothing is off limits, but when you venture to bring in an older athlete, that many of the fans baseball seeks to expand to have never even seen play, you have to make that same player approachable and likable. While Kay was likable, A-Rod continued to feel stale and forcing his emotions.
A-Rod’s questionable commentary continues
And finally, this wouldn’t be an ESPN broadcast without some egregiously wrong stats and statements. Lucky for us, the foolish statements came early, with A-Rod making the statement that Aaron Judge will be the most decorated free agent in decades. What? This free agent year alone featured Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young winner, and World Champion, with his ticket already punched to Cooperstown. Then you have Corey Seager, a World Champion and young elite shortstop. And that was this year alone, so does not include the Bryce Harper or Manny Machado free agency years.
Point is, A-Rod continues to be a questionable person at the helm to grow the game when he seems to make such odd statements. Aaron Judge will be an elite free agent, there is no denying that. But to say he is the best in decades is just a bit too much puffery, that any true fan should recognize as just false. People already grow annoyed with the ESPN broadcasts as being too biased for the Yankees. Statements like that don’t help deny it.
A-Rod has always seemed to adore Judge’s ability to handle New York and the media, and that opinion shined bright in some of his statements.
Yet A-Rod’s commentary wasn’t all cringe worthy. I enjoyed watching his analysis on the Judge contract talks, and the graphics of players with similar values and pay. That A-Rod said he, too, would turn down the contract was interesting to hear as well. I know many people will be watching this contract closely, so having a former superstar player’s perspective on it was refreshing after reading every journalist’s take on the matter for the past four days.
A-Rod has always loved the game, there’s no denying that. I know this is the first Kay-Rod broadcast, but going forward I hope to see a bit more roasting and a lot less of the A-Rod highlights. It will be interesting to see how good Kay really is, when next week he watches the Atlanta Braves take on the San Diego Padres, two teams he is not as familiar with. Kay will likely continue to provide fun backstories on the players, and A-Rod, hopefully, will loosen up a bit more. If not, there’s always the radio or the even worse ESPN broadcast.