ESPN has made headlines for the on-air talent it has let go in the last year in massive cost-cutting moves. So when the sports network added a high-profile name this week, it was probably glad to hear some positive feedback.

Alex Rodriguez has joined the Sunday Night Baseball crew. He takes the place of Aaron Boone, who left to become the New York Yankees' manager. Ironically, Rodriguez replaced Boone in 2004 as the Yankees' third baseman.

The ESPN gig represents the latest, and most significant, piece of A-Rod's redemption from sitting out the 2014 season after being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite hitting 696 career home runs, the fourth most all-time, Rodriguez's public image wasn't good. Fans saw him, along with all-time homer king Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens, as the faces of the drug scandals that have dogged Major League Baseball.

Not only that, Rodriguez also was viewed as a whiny superstar who was more worried about his personal stats than the teams he played for.

When Rodriguez retired from the Yankees in August 2016, it was assumed no one in the game wanted to touch him. But Fox Sports brought him in as a studio analyst for the postseason. Critics and fans were surprised by the way Rodriguez dissected the game and conveyed that to viewers, not coming across as arrogant but friendly and knowledgeable.

Rodriguez will continue working with Fox in the postseason along with his ESPN duties. Not that long ago, an arrangement like this never would have happened. Things are changing quickly in the media world.

The new voice of Sunday Night Baseball will be Matt Vasgersian, a host and studio announcer with MLB Network. Dan Shulman did those duties for the last six years before deciding to cut back on his travel schedule.

The first game for Rodriguez, Vasgersian and holdover analyst Jessica Mendoza will be Opening Day on March 29, calling the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants.

College BB: Virginia at Duke (CBS, 1 p.m. Saturday): Talk about a clash of wills? Virginia hopes to impose its defensive might against the high-powered Dookies.

PGA Tour: Farmers Insurance Open (CBS, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday): Although he won't contend for the title, Tiger Woods made the cut on the number in his first start in a year and looks healthy and happy.

NBA: Celtics at Warriors (ABC, 7:30 p.m. Saturday): If Cleveland doesn't figure things out, this could be a preview of the finals that Boston wouldn't stand a chance in. 

 

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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