Alex Rodriguez was watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest on July 4 when it dawned on him that Major League Baseball was missing a major opportunity.
The NFL owns Thanksgiving. For years, the NBA has had a stranglehold on Christmas — though the NFL has taken a sizable bite out of that apple too. College Football has New Year’s Day.
A-Rod, speaking to The Post on Saturday morning over coffee at the Four Seasons in St. Louis where he called the Cardinals-Phillies Wild Card series with Michael Kay for ESPN, laid out his plan.
“You feed all your national partners — ESPN/ABC, Fox, TBS — and feed them with four national games,” he said. “They have to be huge, dynamic matchups. You can’t set the date two years ahead of time. You have to be able to get the greatest matchup.”
Whereas the NFL and NBA wait not just until their season ends but until after free agency and the draft to schedule their upcoming seasons, MLB announced next year’s schedule — in August.
A-Rod is of the belief that this way of doing things leaves commerce on the table.
“As an example, when [Albert] Pujols left the Cardinals, I thought it was a missed opportunity that it took eight years to get him back to St. Louis. You have to be able to dynamically flip that schedule,” he said.
He pointed out that the league should want championship rematches or other key matchups centered around times like Opening Day, July 4, London and Field of Dreams.
“If the Dodgers play the Yankees in the World Series, maybe that’s how you open the season or program July 4. Be really strategic on it. Create these heavyweight battles,” he continued.
“Baseball has so many great battles, but if you set up the trip to London two years ahead of time, and those teams end up going south … you should have the opportunity of being dynamic. You look at Field of Dreams this year. Cubs-Reds many years would be great! It might be great in two years. It wasn’t great this year.”
MLB is taking steps where marquee matchups should be more frequent. Beginning next season, every team will have at least one series against every other team in the league per year.
With 162 games in the regular season, baseball has tricky logistical issues to work around. First, there’s the travel. Further, big concert acts like Metallica, Lady Gaga and a list of several dozen others play baseball stadiums on their summer tours, which are planned up to a year in advance.
Nevertheless, A-Rod would like MLB to be more nimble with these hurdles.
“You can probably set like 50-60 percent of the schedule early, but leave yourself some time to be dynamic. For example, if you go to London next year, why not go with our very best? It doesn’t always have to be the Yankees or Dodgers. There are other great matchups where you can put your best foot forward all the time,” he said.
“Having the flexibility as an organization to always lead with your best — July 4 is the easiest low-hanging fruit that the networks would want. There’s no NBA. No NFL. No soccer. Back to Pujols — if you send his team to play in St. Louis the year after he signs, it’s three guaranteed sellouts. But if you wait eight years … [you’ve missed an easy opportunity]. If your goal is to grow the game and bring popularity to it, you have to make it a priority.”
What follows is a Q&A — encompassing sports media, real estate and various silly questions — that has been edited for clarity.
The Post: You had your first year with Kay-Rod this season and worked the Cardinals-Phillies series with him. What was it like to work with him after knowing him for so long?
It’s been awesome. I love Michael. It’s funny, we did a great game on Friday, and I did not feel that I was working. First of all, Michael and I text each other 52 weeks out of the year, right? We’re always in communication. I’m a huge fan of his. We’re good friends. There’s a lot of trust and chemistry there.
I think you see that in our work. To me, it’s almost as if we’re at a bar, having a beer, talking about the game that we love.
What’s your first memory of him?
I just always remember him being a superstar. One in a million. Just thinking about even the early days, when he made the transition from writer to radio, from radio to TV.
One of the things as a kid that’s framed in my mind forever is when he’d do the radio, and I heard him a few times when I was young, and he’d say, “And the Yankees, wearing the classic blue pinstripes, with the NY interlock on their left chest” — he has such a way of describing, and I think he makes you feel something every time he describes a game.
As a player, it was really important that in the big moments, if we ever won a championship, or it was a big home run, like the one for my 3000th hit, that he was on the call.
You’re a big investor. What are your takes on the investing environment right now? And anything you’ve invested in recently that you’re excited about?
I’m spending most of my time on two things: The Timberwolves and real estate.
If you look at the real estate environment, for the first time since 2008-09, we’re starting to see a crack in the market. There are opportunities that haven’t been there in over a decade.
When you look at the debt environment, there’s billions of dollars of debt that’s going to come due, and I think that’ll create immense opportunity where you’re buying 50-60 cents on the dollar on great assets.
In real estate have you bought any properties recently, or are you just eyeing right now?
We’re always buying and selling. Over the last five years, it was a seller’s market. We might buy 1,000 units, sell 2,000-3,000.
I think it’s still early. The market is still kind of correcting itself. Think of someone with a 2.5 percent mortgage on a property. If he has to refinance, it’ll be 6.5-7 percent. That’s when he’ll have to find some religion.
One of the assets we’re excited about is we converted Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C. [purchased for $375 million] into a Waldorf Astoria.
What do you do to pass the time on planes?
I sleep or catch up on my shows. Right now, I’m watching “Succession,” “Yellowstone” and the Lakers legacy documentary.
Who do you consider to be the single-season home run champ, Aaron Judge or Barry Bonds?
I think Aaron Judge said it best. I agree with Judge.
[“Seventy-three is the record,” Judge told SI in September. “In my book. No matter what people want to say about that era of baseball, for me, they went out there and hit 73 homers and 70 homers, and that to me is what the record is. The AL record is 61, so that is one I can kind of try to go after. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it’s been a fun year so far.”]
What’s the happiest you’ve ever been?
When my daughters were born, and the 2009 Yankees championship.
One of my daughters is a freshman in high school, and the other one is a senior.
Do you know where the older daughter is going to school yet? I saw you scouting Michigan.
She has a long list of about 20 places. It’s so competitive these days to get into good schools. Some of her top places include Michigan, NYU, Yale, Princeton and Syracuse. She is interested in Econ and Broadway.
What’s your favorite city in the world to travel to?
Domestically, New York. Internationally, London.
I love the vibe in London. It’s one of the financial capital markets [capitals] of the world. The fashion. I like the people.
What’s your cheat meal?
That’s not a meal! That’s a snack! A meal, like you’re really going all out, like The Rock on Instagram, with his stack of eight inch pancakes.
Pizza and wings.
What are your favorite pizza and wings?
The Big Cheese in Miami for pizza, and Miami wings.
Do you ever get pizza from one and wings from the other, together?
I have. Especially when we have BBQs and bring people over to watch football or basketball at the house.
I’ve heard you drink a lot of coffee. How much do you drink a day?
Six cups on a normal day, maybe 12 if it’s a long work day.
What happens to your brain if you go a day without coffee? Could you do it?
I probably could do it, but I wouldn’t be that happy.
Who are your favorite color commentators in sports?
I love Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. I love Cris Collinsworth.
Tim McCarver is my all-time favorite. I’m a huge fan of him because I grew up watching him with the Mets, with Ralph Kiner.
I’m also a huge David Cone fan. I think he’s a modern day McCarver. He’s the best in the game.
If you could accomplish one thing in the rest of your life, what would it be?
To continue to be a present father.