Why you should care
Famed baseball shortstop and third baseman Alex Rodriguez enjoys success — a second time around.
Alex Rodriguez is used to being center stage in New York City on sunny July Saturdays. But that was on the baseball field, his sanctuary amid a tempestuous career, not as the opening act at OZY Fest 2018, where there were no anxious fans, no Bronx cheers and no pitchers throwing fastballs.
The circumstances couldn’t have changed more for Rodriguez. After leaving the New York Yankees as somewhat of a pariah — baseball lovers pointed to his aloof persona and perceived lack of production — A-Rod turned himself into one of the best broadcasters in sports, a successful businessman and a public figure with a burgeoning second act fans can support.
“New York is home. I was born right down the street in Washington Heights,” Rodriguez told an enthusiastic OZY Fest audience. Festivalgoers broke into applause at multiple points during the discussion between A-Rod and OZY CEO and co-founder Carlos Watson.
I finally looked in the mirror and said, ‘There’s no one to blame but you.’
Even so, he’s never felt like the homegrown son for Yankees fans. His arrival in pinstripes was hardly greeted as the prodigal son returning home. Ask a person in Midtown with a Yankees cap two years ago who would be more relevant in 2018, A-Rod or Derek Jeter, every one of them would have said “The Captain.”
But now Rodriguez undoubtedly holds the higher media profile and more regular space in current sports conversations. For two men who have always been nearly as famous for who they were dating as for what they were batting, Rodriguez’s relationship with A-list superstar Jennifer Lopez dwarfs Jeter’s marriage to model Hannah Davis in tabloid appeal.
The second-act revival includes a personal approval rating the three-time MVP hasn’t seen since he was a phenom for the Seattle Mariners, years before the record-breaking contracts, PED scandals and a contentious relationship with the New York media.
To hear Rodriguez tell it, that’s not a coincidence. “The arc of the two best years of my life being as a 19-year-old and a 40-year-old told me all I needed to know, that I didn’t need any crap. What I needed to do was focus, out-work people and go out and do the best I can, and that was enough.”
Such revelations didn’t come easily — it took the longest suspension in baseball history for A-Rod to bottom out. Referring to his now-famous denials of PED use, A-Rod said, “I screwed up in a big way. Second, I doubled down and acted like an idiot.” He realized he was lying to himself and others. “I finally looked in the mirror and said, ‘There’s no one to blame but you.’ And I needed to apologize to people.”
It would be easy to dismiss such a revelation as a media stunt. But Rodriguez did mash 33 home runs the season he came back from suspension, which he says came after a New York media poll in which just 4 percent of respondents expected him to even make the team.
Since then, the A-Rod business has boomed. He’s already the most charismatic and compelling baseball analyst on television, and one of the best in all of sports. His off-the-field and out-of-the-booth business ventures in real estate have grown, and though his personal life may be tabloid fodder, he and Lopez are undoubtedly one of the most famous couples in the world.
Jeter might be the most beloved recent Yankee, but right now A-Rod is arguably the most culturally relevant. He traded in teams fighting over his services for sports networks. And now he’s so in demand, he’s worked out a deal to do work for ESPN and Fox Sports at the same time.
And the biggest indicator of A-Rod’s second act having promise? When he was announced at OZY Fest, the audience at the sold-out New York City event cheered — rather than booed.