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Alex Rodriguez news hits on sleepy Saturday morning

Alex Rodriguez walks back to the dugout after

Alex Rodriguez walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. (Aug. 5, 2013) Credit: Getty

One of the oldest tricks in the public relations book is to wait until late Friday afternoon to release news that you want buried.

But Major League Baseball and/or the arbitrator deciding the Alex Rodriguez case took that a somewhat comical step further by announcing a ruling on A-Rod's appeal of his 211-game suspension on a Saturday morning.

And not just any Saturday morning, but the Saturday morning of the NFL divisional playoffs, one of the biggest sports television weekends on the calendar.

Oh, well. At least this phase of the drama is over, with A-Rod's suspension being reduced (somewhat) to 162 games - the entire 2014 season, plus any playoff games the Yankees might play.

(Random thought: It's going to be a heck of an Opening Day in 2015, when both Matt Harvey and Rodriguez return to the field. At least we know which team Harvey will be playing for then.)

While it had been widely reported that a decision from arbitrator Fredric Horowitz was imminent, it certainly appeared the folks at MLB Network had an idea when it was coming because they had a number of their top analysts and reporters in place in their Secaucus, N.J., studios, ready to leap into action.

That they did, with thorough reporting and analysis from every angle, and with no apparent pro-MLB bias, a trademark of the network since it launched in 2009.

(An MLBN spokeswoman said this about the network having so many people in place at such a weird day and time: "Since news reports all week were saying that the decision could be announced at any day, we put several of our on-air staff on call in the studio over the weekend so they could be in position to cover the story when the news of the decision broke. Obviously we also have writers like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, Joel Sherman and Tom Verducci working for us as they cover the story themselves, so they shared information with our producers as they got it. But we were prepared to cover the story at any point this weekend.")

ESPN and ESPN2 were tied up with live college basketball games at the time the ruling was announced, but ESPNEWS covered the story with its top baseball people.

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

YES rarely goes live with news developments, even those involving the Yankees, because it is not set up as a breaking news operation, especially in the offseason. Or so its explanation always has been.

So we might never know whether Yankees executives were popping champagne corks in the team's offices upon learning the team would not have to pay Rodriguez in 2014.

Maybe it was too early in the day for that. But let's put it this way: If those executives were planning to watch the NFL playoffs later in the day with friends and/or family, they figured to have a far better time than they otherwise would have.

New York Sports