It has been a frenetic, turbulent, emotional month of April, even by Alex Rodriguez’s standards.
Rodriguez and fiancée Jennifer Lopez announced their break-up with the news jarring Hollywood.
He and businessman Marc Lore entered an exclusive letter of intent to purchase the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves for about $1.5 billion.
Rodriguez found out that Timberwolves rookie star Anthony Edwards never heard of him, but once he did, pleaded for A-Rod and J-Lo to get back together.
And Rodriguez took a six-hour flight from Miami to Los Angeles to catch a game with Magic Johnson where he’s scheduled to work Sunday Night’s ESPN Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
You talk about a roller-coaster of emotions.
“All’s good,’’ Rodriguez tells USA TODAY Sports. “It’s life. Honestly, we’re in a good place and good spirits.’’
And, hey, considering this whirlwind month, who wouldn’t appreciate a little levity when Edwards admitted he didn’t know Rodriguez’s identity, making him a bit nervous considering A-Rod could soon be his boss.
“I loved it. I loved it. I loved it,’’ Rodriguez said. “We exchanged messages. My daughters made fun of me over that.’’
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The NBA talks can wait. Rodriguez still has an ESPN broadcasting job to do, and was eagerly looking forward to baseball’s newest rivalry between the Dodgers and Padres.
“It’s got some of the same similarities of the Yankees-Red Sox,’’ Rodriguez says. “The Dodgers have been the king of California for a long time, but these guys (the Padres) are hungry. They’re talented. And they’re not afraid.
“That’s the one thing is that when little brother is coming up, and not afraid, you’ve got to be really careful because the intimidation is taken off the table.’’
Rodriguez, whose 10-year, $252 million contract in 2001 was the largest in baseball for nearly two decades, takes pride setting the stage for today’s golden era of shortstops. Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres became the richest shortstop in history with his 14-year, $340 million deal in February, only for Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets to eclipse it five weeks later with his 10-year, $341 million extension.
Why, with Corey Seager of the Dodgers, Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies, Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros and Javy Baez of the Chicago Cubs all eligible for free agency this winter – and Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals in a year – there could be a new money leader among shortstops.
“The shortstops today are unbelievable,’’ Rodriguez says. “It’s a galaxy of stars out there.’’
Rodriguez, who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year , says he appreciates today’s era of players, particularly with the courage to express themselves on social issues without feeling encumbered.
“I love that the players are not afraid to speak their mind and to communicate what’s passionate and important to them,’’ Rodriguez says. “I salute them that way.
“Times have changed, and that’s not a bad thing. Technology has changed, too. Back in the day, you’d have to or work with your team to make a statement. Now, it can be midnight and you can send out a tweet before you go to bed if you’re feeling it.’’
He’s glad to see baseball experimenting in the minor leagues to limit shifts, with infielders in Class AA being required to have both feet on the infield dirt, but to push the pitching rubber back a foot in the Atlantic League in a desperate attempt to increase offense, well, that’s a little goofy.
“I hate the idea of pushing the mound back,’’ Rodriguez says. “I think that’s ridiculous. Really, it’s crazy. If it’s a basketball issue, you’re not going to move the basket up to 10½ feet.’’
If you want a better game, Rodriguez simply says, play it the way it was originally designed.
“I think the way the game is being taught today is conducive to a slow, boring game,’’ Rodriguez says. “You got pitchers taught to throw as hard as you can while compromising movement and location. The art and science of hitting and pitching has gone away. It’s like golf. You drive for show, but putt for dough. But in baseball, if you can’t bunt a ball 40 feet or make contact, how are you helping your team?’’
These aren’t the basics and fundamentals that Rodriguez developed growing up in Miami, and becoming one of baseball’s biggest stars.
“We’re putting a lot of energy in all of the wrong places,’’ Rodriguez says. “Think about a game when you have starters get into the sixth or seventh inning. Hitters that can hit for average as well as hit for the long ball. We have hitters thinking about North and South. How about East and West, line to line?”
“All of this velocity and exit velocity is fine and cute, but the game would be better if we put away all of the electronics today. There’s a place for numbers and sabermetrics, but it can’t control the game. You have to make decisions in the moment. The game is played with emotion and a human heart, not a spreadsheet.’’
This is what makes Alex Cora such a brilliant manager with the Boston Red Sox, Rodriguez says. Sure, he has analytics at his disposal. He has all of the calculations and formulas. He also can relate to his players, knowing how to best optimize their talents.
There’s a reason why the Red Sox are sitting in first place in the AL East despite a team that was woeful last season with Cora sidelined for the year, serving a suspension from the Astros’ cheating scandal.
“Alex Cora is the perfect blend of a manager,’’ Rodriguez says. “He really understands analytics, the human element and has the confidence and autonomy from the front office to think outside the box.
“You’ve got to watch the game and make decisions. Look at the scoreboard. The scoreboard will tell you what decisions to make. You can make a decision at 9:15 p.m. instead of doing something that’s decided at 9:15 in the morning.
“Hopefully, we can get back to that.’’