Thursday, November 19, 2009

Charlie Better Not Quit, that's All I'm Sayin'

Nationals fans lost one of the best damn things about being a Nationals fan (not much competition, but still) today, as Washington Post beat writer Chico Harlan announced he's leaving the job.

Chico had the job for less than two full years, but by the time he hit his stride this season, he was a real pleasure to read. He was well known for his excellent writing and story-telling ability. Harlan's stuff was at least three grade levels above the rest of the Post.

And he clearly took a "student of the game" approach to the job. He knew plenty about the game when he started, but close readers couldn't help but notice that he was a sharper analyst and observer with each passing month on the beat.

But what I really came to love about Harlan's gamers was his blunt willingness to tell it like it is. With the absurd, eye-rolling optimism that you hear from guys like Bob Carpenter, Byron Kerr, and Johnny Holliday, with all their arbitrary end points analysis and willingness to repeat the StanSpeak unfiltered--you could always count on Harlan for a straight shot of truth.

He wasn't mean or biased, he just refused to polish that turd. And let's be honest--you had to have a special talent as a storyteller to accurately portray how awful the Nationals have been the last two years and really bring it to life. For me, it was like therapy.

Good luck, Chico. And make sure to leave the next guy your copy of Baseball Between the Numbers. I don't want to have to start over on why RBIs are a dumb stat.


Anonymous said...

ya and all those stories he broke were really amazing. Chico was king of cut and paste of Nats press releases. He took vacations during Spring training for god sake Steven.

Chico did as little real reporting as possible and never took any extra step to get a story.

An Briosca Mor said...

Yeah, that was exactly the problem with Chico. He looked upon baseball itself as a turd. Therefore, I didn't care how elegantly he went about his polishing of it. Good riddance. Whoever the new guy (or gal) is, he (or she) won't be any worse. That's good news.

Joel said...

Chico Harlan... great name, good writer, average reporter.

He was starting to grow on me but after Svrluga wrote this great piece from the DR when the Smiley stuff broke it reminded me of how much I wished Chico was still Barry.

Joel said...

ha, I totally botched that link!

that was the link to the article Barry wrote back in 06, not the one from when the scandal broke... but my sentiment is the same: can't we get Barry back?

Steven said...

Sorry folks, I like Chico. I think it's a little crazy to expect that a beat reporter is going to not only cover the intense travel schedule, all the daily comings and goings AND do lots of deep investigative reporting. They need more reporters covering the beat if that's what the paper expects.

Anonymous said...

Glad you like Chico....not really the issue....Chico never did any reporting that was not game related. Off season....nothing at all....Spring training.....very little digging....he just interviewed some coaches and wrote that Milledge is going to be vastly improved in CF and Lead Off.....bottom line is he knew nothing about baseball....hated the job and it showed.

Steven said...

Maybe it's not YOUR issue, but it's my blog isn't it?

Anonymous said...

From Dave S......someone who knows about good beat writing and what is expected....."was a veteran scribe named Joe Strauss, who remains one of the best beat guys in the business. He taught me many valuable lessons, most of which involved me picking up The Sun to find he had whupped my rookie tail on another news story"....Beat writers are supposed to report news....not just wax poetically about games we all saw.

Berndaddy said...

Steven, I too, loved his writing style, but I have to admit I wanted more from him. The real problem with Chico, as good as a writer he is, he's not Barry S.

I've kind of liked the way the Post is doing it now. Shenin and Traci chiming in on topics on the NJ. Now they just need a hands on everyday reporter.

The one good thing Chico accomplished was it drove me to seek out blogs like your for more info.
Keep writing yourself and I'll keep reading...

Ollie said...

I agree with most of these comments: Chico performed his job extremely half-assedly, and it showed, especially after the fantastic reporting of Barry Svrluga.

If you're a reporter for a newspaper, especially a daily section like Sports, it's frowned upon to take multiple weeks at a time off, multiple times a year. His work ethic sucked, and his writing was not that good.

I'm sure he has talent, but until he shows a dedication to the job, he'll be unworthy of any of the praise you gave him in this post.