Kovacevic: Comings, goings on busy day
You know it'll be one of those days in the sports news biz when it starts the way Tuesday did ...
12:34 a.m.: Email alert dings. It's from a source I've trusted a long time, and it's just two words: "Bedard released."
Wow. He's been awful, but I didn't see that coming.
Kind of late. No point trying to call anyone to confirm.
8:56 a.m.: The Pirates dispatch, also by email, that they've "unconditionally released LHP Erik Bedard."
First thought: Need a coffee.
Second thought: Bedard has stunk for so long — 7-14, 5.07 ERA — it's surprising he stayed in the rotation as long as he did.
Third thought: Of the 16 free agents Neal Huntington has signed for $750,000 or more, an astounding 10 — Byung-Hyun Kim, Ramon Vazquez, Eric Hinske, Craig Monroe, Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz, Nate McLouth and now Bedard — were released or dumped in negligible midseason trades.
Fourth thought: Coffee. Now.
10:47 a.m.: Initial word tweets out - then keeps tweeting to the point the laptop sounds like an aviary - that Mike Wallace is in town and headed to the Steelers' complex.
Within minutes, a dozen reporters stake out the entrance to the players' lot. An ESPN producer in a candy-striped shirt goes further, a block up the road, presumably in search of the hot exclusive. He even steps into the path of passing vehicles to see which might be Wallace.
Finally caffeinated, I wonder: Is Wallace even among this team's best handful of players?
Nope. I can come up with six better, easy: Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey and, yeah, another wide receiver, Antonio Brown.
But this is Pittsburgh, so ...
11:41 a.m.: Wallace arrives alone, piloting a white Range Rover. As he steps out, decked out in Miami Heat gear — was he taking his talents to South Beach or the South Side? — he is escorted by a security officer and team media relations man.
If he'd blown off a fifth week of work, maybe he'd have gotten a motorcade.
11:55 a.m.: All of us, even the candy-stripe guy, get beaten for the exclusive. Harrison uses his iPhone to interview Wallace and tweets it out.
Safe to say No. 92 hits harder in the field than with his questions.
The icebreaker: "We want to know how it feels to be back, you know what I'm sayin'?"
12:21 p.m.: Harrison's assessment of his journalistic work: "All I know is I beat y'all."
Time to head over to PNC ...
1:14: Car radio has word out of New York that the NHL and its players' union can barely look at each other, let alone have talks.
Honestly, people. Mess with my two trips to Winnipeg, and the elbows will be high.
3:10: The Pirates' clubhouse opens, and Bedard's stall is as clean as the bases after he gives up a homer. But unlike some trades that prompt teammates to chirp or light candles, this gets about as much reaction as the lost-in-space Bedard might have given it himself.
"Erik was quiet, but he was a competitor," closer Joel Hanrahan says. "I wish him well."
Oh, Bedard will do fine. He'll get $1.19 million to do nothing the next five weeks.
3:14: Infielder Chase d'Arnaud claims a stall in another corner. He's the latest of a Mendoza-line parade marching from Indianapolis, his average at .247 even after a two-week tear.
A middle infielder is needed with Neil Walker out, but man, is solid bench help that rare?
The Pirates' reserve bats this year: Gaby Sanchez (.250), Drew Sutton (.243), Josh Harrison (.238), Alex Presley (.234), Casey McGehee (.230), Matt Hague (.229), Jordy Mercer (.208), Yamaico Navarro (.160), McLouth (.140), Gorkys Hernandez (.083) and still-hitless Jeff Clement.
4:51: Time to check the phone for updates from the South Side, where Wallace offers no regrets: "Nah, that's the past. ... Whatever I do, that's what I did."
Was he trying to defuse tension or confuse tenses?
7:05: First pitch between the Pirates and Cardinals. In the press box are a few of those ESPN types, presumably having used GPS to find PNC. They'll air the series finale Wednesday.
Unlike at the Steelers' place, that's quite a novelty.
"Hey, Pedro Gomez! ESPN Deportes!" shouts Rod Barajas in an exaggerated Spanish accent.
Poor Pedro turns beet red.
Bedard would have howled.
8:43: Another Pedro, Alvarez, mashes the longest home run by any Pirate at PNC, one of two monsters on the night.
"I just wanted to put good wood on it," Alvarez said.
Right. And Josh Harrison just wanted to politely nudge Yadier Molina out of his way.
9:35: Pirates 9, Cardinals 0.
It was out of nowhere, one of their finest games, speared by Alvarez and a suddenly smooth-again James McDonald.
9:48: Clint Hurdle, as only he can, sums it up with perspective: "It's the most important game we'll play all day."
He then walks out of the room.
9:55: The stadium empty, the main bank of lights blinks off.
But the lights on this stubborn season remain flickering, no matter the house-on-fire abandoning of this team by the city, as seen with only 17,492 on hand for this one?
How many will show up when PNC is lit up again, partly by the rare glare of the national spotlight, partly by the weight of the biggest baseball game in these parts in two decades?
The next 24 hours loom even larger than these.