ESPN has found its new Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team, and it will prominently feature the most polarizing man in the sport.
Per Michael McCarthy of Sporting News and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com,
ESPN announced Tuesday it has tabbed Alex Rodriguez to work as an analyst alongside incumbent Jessica Mendoza and will also bring aboard Fox’s Matt Vasgersian to call play-by-play. The news was first reported by Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy.
“I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my broadcasting career,” A-Rod said in a statement. “It’s an exciting time in baseball and now I get that front row seat to tell that story every Sunday night on ESPN as well as calling my fourth post season on Fox where I started this journey.”
Rodriguez will replace Aaron Boone, who accepted a job as New York Yankees manager, while Vasgersian will step in for Dan Shulman, who said last year he wants to “strike a better balance between my personal life and professional life.”
The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel reported earlier this month that Rodriguez specifically requested that ESPN bring aboard Vasgersian, with whom A-Rod called a game last year.
A-Rod has emerged as a popular broadcaster after a career as quite an unpopular player. Over the past two postseasons, he has received high marks for his analysis, his camaraderie with colleagues on set (especially Pete Rose in 2016 and David Ortiz in 2017) and his ability to laugh at himself. His deal with ESPN will reportedly allow him to continue as a postseason analyst at Fox, which McCarthy reports might have been made by possible by Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox assets late last year.
The talent-sharing relationship became possible, said media sources close to Fox, after ESPN parent Disney agreed to pay $60 billion to acquire most of 21st Century Fox’s assets, including regional sports networks such as YES Network in New York. But sources close to ESPN said that the proposed Disney-Fox marriage didn’t play a role in the A-Rod hire.
“It’s a brave new world with Fox sharing talent,” said one source familiar with the talks. ESPN declined to comment.
In an email to Awful Announcing, an ESPN spokesperson denied that A-Rod’s arrangement had anything to do with the ESPN-Disney deal.
ESPN’s decision to hire from the outside for the Sunday Night Baseball team is a bit surprising. Insiders Boog Sciambi and Karl Ravech were considered front-runners for Shulman’s old spot, while Rick Sutcliffe, Eduardo Perez, David Ross and Mark Teixeira were floated as possible in-house candidates to replace Boone. But Vasgersian is considered a rising star in baseball broadcasting, and Rodriguez is both a big-name and an obvious on-air talent, so the booth appears to be in good hands.