Alex Rodriguez's banishment creates a media frenzy

Alex Rodriguez signs autographs as he arrives at Alex Rodriguez signs autographs as he arrives at Major League Baseball headquarters in New York. (Nov. 19, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Alex Rodriguez confronted two forces over the weekend that would have been impossible to overcome for a lesser media phenomenon:

One was the juggernaut that is the NFL postseason. The other was the public's profound boredom with the subject of performance-enhancing drugs.

But A-Rod is A-Rod, and thus did the matter of his banishment from the 2014 regular season and postseason hijack the media agenda, certainly so in the media capital of the world.

Adding to the degree of difficulty was what appeared to be one of the oldest tricks in the public relations book, in which entities that want news to be obscured announce it late on Friday or, in this case, Saturday -- hours before the NFL's divisional playoffs began.

Adorable!

But MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the timing entirely was in the hands of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who informed the principals that morning.

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"Announcing the decision was purely driven by us getting the final written decision Saturday morning, and by the belief that there was no way that we would be able to keep the news quiet for 48 hours," Courtney said.

No matter. There is no avoiding an oncoming A-Rod train, as he proved when he distracted America during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series when news leaked that he had opted out of his Yankees contract.

The big media winner Saturday was the MLB Network, which usually toils in cable obscurity at this time of year. The network, which historically has avoided a pro-MLB bias, offered thorough reporting and analysis from every angle.

It helped that the network magically had many key on-air people in studio in Secaucus, N.J., ready to pounce the moment the arbitrator's ruling came down.

Hmm. Advance notice for an MLB-owned outlet, perhaps?

An MLBN spokeswoman said that with media reports indicating a decision was imminent, the network had staffers on call in studio ready to go live at any time during the weekend.

ESPN and ESPN2 were busy with college basketball, but less widely distributed ESPNEWS covered the story with its top baseball people.

The partly Yankees-owned YES Network? It was showing a replay of Friday's Heat-Nets game, but it did put the A-Rod news in a crawl on the bottom of the screen.

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YES rarely goes live with breaking news because it is not set up for that sort of thing, especially in the winter. Or so its explanation always has been. But a live shot of Yankees executives popping champagne corks would have been a neat touch.

On Sunday, the NFL and A-Rod became a media tag team when 46 million people watched the final half-hour of Chargers-Broncos, immediately after which CBS' "60 Minutes" unveiled a report that featured interviews with Tony Bosch, MLB's star witness against Rodriguez, plus commissioner Bud Selig and chief operating officer Rob Manfred.

MLB and CBS had an understanding that it would not air the report until the Rodriguez decision was announced.

It was worth the wait. Too bad it was too late for the Golden Globes, being awarded at the time on NBC, to consider Bosch, Manfred and Rodriguez attorney Joe Tacopina for best performances in a prime-time soap opera.

Monday dawned with Tacopina making a typically colorful appearance on WFAN's morning show, during which co-host Craig Carton made allusions to what he considered overly friendly past treatment of A-Rod on Mike Francesa's program.

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Rodriguez did not appear with Francesa come afternoon, but many ears were tuned to how the afternoon host would handle the never-ending saga. (Delicious subplot: There now are only three weeks left of his YES simulcast.)

Those hoping for fireworks were disappointed. Francesa stuck to his take that Rodriguez has been unfairly singled out as Selig tries to rewrite the narrative of his legacy, but his tone mostly was calm.

The next round of melodrama would have to wait for another day. How about Super Bowl Sunday?

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