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Kasten On "Silly" Strasburg Speculation

Nationals President Stan Kasten today addressed what he called "silly media hype" surrounding the speculative contract demands of prospective No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg. Though he was dismissive of reports that Strasburg and agent Scott Boras might seek a six-year, $50 million contract, Kasten also stood firm in discussing the Nationals' negotiating position toward their top overall draft pick ("whomever it may be," he said), implying the team was not interested in blowing up the established signing-bonus framework for anyone. And Kasten said the Nationals will not be deterred from taking an obvious best-player-available because of what they view as outrageous salary demands.

"A hundred years of baseball and four decades of collective bargaining have shown how you develop players and how they proceed through the system," Kasten said. "There's a time for drafting, a time for development, a time for arbitration and a time for free agency. No one situation can change the whole sport, even less so these days, with where the economy is now.

"We're certainly eager and planning to take the best player that we can," he said, "and we know what number-one picks get, and we intend to sign our number-one pick.

"The one thing I can say about the silly media hype is it will motivate both the owners and the players to fix the system," he said, "because this certainly isn't good news for any existing players. When there's a finite amount of money in the system, it's not good for any existing player to have a greater percentage of it go to a player who's never played in the game before. That money, which is limited, should be going to the players who are out here playing every day, and I think even the union would agree with that."

By Dave Sheinin  |  March 22, 2009; 4:44 PM ET
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Next: An Apology



So sorry that I missed out on the fun in the last post. The fact that Chico would say some of that stuff to the Washingtonian is pretty incredbible to me. The statements themselves, however, don't surprise me in the least. The fact that Chico doesn't like sports has been apparent throughout his coverage of the Nats, and has been a big problem in my view. He doesn't know baseball, doesn't love it. Is he still trying to figure out why baserunners hold batting gloves in their hands? Chico lacks that ingrained appreciation for and understanding of the game that a good beat writer should have.

The bigger shocker to me is how The Post hired a guy like that to take over the Nats beat. It is extremely rare for a big-city paper to hire a guy to cover baseball who has never had a baseball beat before. Barry covered the minor leagues. Look what Marc Carig is doing now--he is covering the Yankees for a second-tier paper; the next step for him will undoubtedly be a beat covering an MLB team for the city's major paper. That's the way it usually works. The Post, meanwhile, hires a guy who knows nothing about baseball, has never covered it before, and who "doesn't like sports." Some commitment, there. Thanks, Emilio.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 22, 2009 4:06 PM

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 22, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I knew I shouldn't have commented on Chico's Washingtonian comments before I read it myself.

thom202 was right, that was a direct quote from Chico. But Chico also concedes his approach might drive us hard-core fans crazy. He says he wants to capture what's unique about a game, not just the obvious, and that he's more interested in the characters than anything.

He did clip baseball stories when he was a kid and his goal is to crack the Lerner family.

My take-away from the "article" (it's not quite a full page) is that he loves writing and his "I can't wait to stop [sports writing]" comment isn't elitist at all, it's a young guy eager to move onto meaty journalism.

At any rate, we might relate better to him if he were a truly passionate lover-of-the-game, but it doesn't mean he isn't putting out some quality stuff.

Full disclosure (again): I was getting pretty disgusted with his output not too long ago but I've noticed a marked improvement since his vacation and since Barry stopped in for a couple days.

Now go read the article yourselves.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 22, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

If I had the attitude toward my job (and, by extension, the thousands that practice it and would do much to advance in it) that Harlan has toward his, I'd be embarrassed to show up for work.

Then again, this is the sheet that gave us Gabe Oppenheim, so what did we expect?

Good luck on the ol' career change, there, pal.

Posted by: Hendo1 | March 22, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

So now that we are acknowledging that Chico cares more about food than baseball. Let’s get some real blogging going.

Will the new food service company continue to provide crab pretzels, Ben's half smokes, and Hard Times nachos? Is Giffard's ice cream a thing of the past? Which seats are best for the microbrewery fan?

What is my best bargain meal that comes with a Nationals souvenir cup? Can we get vendors rated by Editors Choice and $, $$, $$$, and $$$$ for the stadium along with anticipated wait times during the game.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

"Now go read the article yourselves."

I just did. And I must say, if it's possible to do more damage to yourself - maybe not to your career, but certainly to your relationship with your sources - in just a few short paragraphs of quotes and paraphrases than Chico Harlan has done, I don't see how.

And he wants to be a food writer, huh? Has he met any chefs in his young life? They are a thousand times more entrenched in their attitudes than the likes of the Lerners and Kasten, plus the primary tools of their trade are big sharp knives and hot flame. Good luck with that, Chico.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 22, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Posting a quick message just before I run out to do errands...

I like Chico, his style isn't all that bad, and it's hard to cover a perennial loser. Having a beat writer who is focused on things other than the beat that he is writing on is neither bad nor unusual. Hell, WaPo has examples of it in both Boswell and Wilbon, even when they were both beat writers. And look how well they got. (Professionally, I mean, not necessarily beat writing journalistically.)

In my opinion, his approach is not bad in and of itself, just different. And if you don't like it, ask yourself if it is because it is different, or if it is bad. And remember, the Washington Post apparently agrees with Chico on the approach. (Otherwise why write the article?)

Of course, if you don't like it, vote with your feet please. (cuz you're on here, obviously you can't vote with your wallet...)

Posted by: swang30 | March 22, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Let me guess swang30. You haven't read the Washingtonian article yet.

Chico Harlan - "I don't like sports; I'm embarrassed that I cover them. I can't wait to stop. It's a means to an end and a paycheck."

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Can someone please post a link or direct me to this article that everyone is discussing? I went to Washingtonian's site and couldn't find it. We thank you.

Posted by: NFBLooser | March 22, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

It is only in the print edition of Washingtonian magazine.

There is a blog entry about it here:

I'd say it is required reading and worth the trip to the newsstand.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

>And he wants to be a food writer, huh?

Now I feel bad for picking on him. I thought he wanted to do something important. How much thought does writing about food require? Every blogger that ever went to a swanky or eclectic restaurant writes about it.

Note: Major League Baseball has announced plans to move forward with the '09 season and recommends that its fans do the same>

Posted by: Brue | March 22, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I was actually was so intrigued that I went through the pile of crappy magazines that come through the mailbox, to find this article.

Um, ya he's not a bad writer but he should probably be more appreciative of his job-especially in this market. Man, I've been unemployed for four months and am desperate.

But if u dont like harlan's stuff, Chris Needham over on NBC Washington sports blog is pretty cool and so is Zuckerman over at the Washington Times.

Posted by: BigCarter28 | March 22, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Next time I'm in the area, I'll make a trip to the newsstand. Washingtonian is hard to find in Richmond (I'm not really close to any of the area Barnes and Noble locations). I used to subscribe to that magazine. I ought to start again, I guess.

Posted by: NFBLooser | March 22, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Don't despair NFBLooser. I'm sure its only a matter to time before Chicogate leads to someone violating copyright laws by posting the article online.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

OK, read it. Thanks for the direction. I posted this comment on WeveGotHeart, will post it here and will probably talk about it on my own blog (cheap plug - I know it runs counter to the majority here but you'll have to trust me that I have some experience here:

As I've posted on my own blog (cheap plug there, sorry), I have more than the usual reader relationship with Chico. I was his "mentor" when he interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2002. This kid is insanely talented (as is Saslow) and he works very hard. This is not a dream job for him but that won't keep him from doing it well because he won't be able to take the next step without doing a quality job.
Chico is destined for big things. David Remnick is a Pulitzer Prize winner, editor of the New Yorker (I think). I'm pretty sure he used to cover the Wizards.
Was it a poor choice of words by my main man? Yeah, I have to concede that and I'll tell him that if he asks. Will it keep him from working hard and doing his job? Nope.
Also, I love the folks at WeveGotHeart and their site. But covering big-time sports is more often closer to a nightmare than a dream, especially in the "modern" area that requires constant blogging as well as writing for the daily. The hours are terrible, the travel is difficult and the people you write about generally hold you in the same regard as they do dog doo on their shoes. In my beat days, I invited a number of people to join me for a week on the beat. None of them took me up on it. Football game ends, they go start the party. I'm four hours away from being done.

Posted by: NFBLooser | March 22, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Thom202. Just let it go man...if you dont like chico their are other options for Nat coverage.

Posted by: BigCarter28 | March 22, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I just read Harry Jaffe's April 2009 Washingtonian Post Watch piece (plus or minus 500 words, I'd say). I wanted to read the entire piece, with the quote in context, before commenting.

In addition to NatsNut's comments, I'd note that Jaffe opines (1) that Harlan's distance from the team might make for tough reporting on the team and (2) that such reporting is sometimes missing from Post coverage of local teams. Jaffe goes on to comment on Boswell in the context of Nats coverage.

To counterbalance the "control freak" comment about Kasten that was quoted in a prior post, Chico also stated that if he owned a sports team, he would want Stan involved.

It's worth picking up a copy of the magazine (or taking a gander at the local library's copy, if they have one) to get the rest of the story, IMO. (Wonder whether the folks at Washingtonian are happy that NJ could be driving up their sales today?)

I would think that the phrasing of the paycheck comment could strike a negative note for those who are out of work and would love to be getting a paycheck at all. Overall, though, I did not find the piece to be alarming. As a hardcore fan, I enjoy reading pieces where the author's love of the game comes through. But I've also come to appreciate aspects of Chico's approach, particularly as displayed in some of his most recent feature stories.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse


If you scroll up, you'll notice CoverageisLacking, NatsNut, and Hendo1 all brought this topic up in this post before I posted.

Cut the love it or leave it nonsense BigCarter28. If nothing else Dave Sheinin's posts are well worth the time.

You can blame me all you want to for this topic but it was Chico planting his foot firmly in his mouth by spouting off to a local magazine that originated the discussion.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Well, I wish Chico genuinely liked his beat but I think he does a very good job and puts in a lot of time on the blog as well as the dead trees stories.

Onto today's game, which I saw in person since I am lucky enough to be here for a weekend of ST. Kudos to Lannan, a real solid citizen. Defense much better than yesterday--no defensive mistakes that I saw by Milledge, and he sure put a lot of energy into getting his steal in the first. Several double plays. Can't say much for the offense today(my favorite hit was Willy Harris's triple).

One observation I will make--if you haven't been to ST in Viera, come down before we get really popular & successful. Right now things are relaxed and friendly at Space Coast Stadium & the rest of the complex. By contrast, the stadium in Kissimmee at which the Astros play has plenty of nice employees, but you sure can't just walk up and watch practice on the playing fields as you can at Viera. We got turned away attempting to see the fields by an utterly humorless guy who informed us that this wasn't Viera. Lots of chain fences keeping you away from things that you could do at Space Coast Stadium & surrounding complex, such as waiting outside the stadium to get close to the team as they head for their bus home. Of course the guys, as they left the field, were kinda dejected. I will hand it to them for effort and concentration, if not for success, particularly in the offense.

Posted by: Section109 | March 22, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the report, S109. Would love to make it down there one day. Maybe next year.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to the first weekend series of the year in Atlanta. Next year, I'm going to plan a spring training trip.

Posted by: NFBLooser | March 22, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

The April Washingtonian also had a feature article on Michael Wilbon, which included this on the Nats:

Washingtonian: "Your take on the Nats"
Wilbon- I'm going to make an admission. Its's bad. I have not yet been to the new park.

Wilbon also went on to praise sports fans in other cities like, surprise, Chicago, while putting Washington sports fans in a distinctly lower tier. Gotta love the Post, always willing to bring in the carpetbaggers to tell us how bad we drive in the snow, how unfriendly we are, and how our sports fans suck.

There is also a nice article titled "Heavy Hitters", comparing Adam Dunn to Frank Howard, and featuring comments from each. Nice piece, definitely an issue to pick up.

Posted by: tomterp80 | March 22, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Always enjoyed that magazine. My mom used to get it for me for Christmas every year. I kept it up a few years after she died and then let it lapse.
It was 9.95 a year then. It's 29.95 now.

Posted by: NFBLooser | March 22, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads up on the Dunn/Howard piece, tomterp. I'd noticed a blurb about the Wilbon piece on the cover (haven't yet read it), but wasn't aware of the hitter comparison piece. Nice that the Nats are getting some ink.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Let's see. So the article is about Kasten and Strasburg and our bright, perceptive and always focused fan group are hurt that Chico Harlan is not happy to write for them. I am a bit more concerned that we get so little respect from Gammons and Heyman--he trashed us the other day. I see in Gammons remarks attempts by others to pry Strasburg loose. Every GM in the game would like to have him and so it is hardly odd that they would be playing games to create the impression that the Nationals cannot handle drafting and signing him. Stan handled it pretty well, but this stuff will only intensify as the June draft approaches. I am just glad that Bowden will have nothing to do with signing the guy. Maybe Gammons really did not want to be a sports writer and would have preferred life as a roll and roll critic writing for Rolling Stone.

Posted by: Juliasdad | March 22, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, back in the States ... Joel Hanrahan gives the game back after the US scored 2 in the top of the 8th, and Dunn looks at strike three to end the game. 9-4, Japan.

Posted by: CEvansJr | March 22, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

This world has now changed. Everyone is out for themselves. There are no longer any norms. Integrity is out the window. Politicians and pro sport people in particular......lie. Strasburg will make a killing. He has hit the lottery. Some idiot will pay the ransom. All that money for what?....maybe 5 more wins than other pitchers, and he won't even have to pitch 6 innings a game! That 5 more wins will put him to between 15 and 20 wins. Not too long ago you were lucky to be starting in the majors with 15 wins. Now you get 50 million and haven't even thrown a pitch yet! Wow, talk about watered down talent.

Posted by: Pete433 | March 23, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Here's the Washingtonian story:

Posted by: veeco23 | March 23, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Strasburg will make a killing. He has hit the lottery. Some idiot will pay the ransom. All that money for what?.

Posted by: Pete433 | March 23, 2009 6:58 AM

Hit the lottery? Is that what it's called when a guy, blessed with athletic ability, spends his life honing that ability to the point where people will voluntarily pay to witness his feats?

Hitting the lottery is getting a sinacure with the government or wallowing in mathematical ignorance and playing and winning the lottery. Or it could be getting paid to write about the loathsome activity of baseball when there are restaurants that need to be reviewed.

Posted by: traderkirk | March 23, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Strasburg's alleged contract demands, perhaps Boras, via Gammons and perhaps other Nats-loathing journos, is inflating the numbers to the point of unacceptability, where he knows the Washington could not bite, for budget, slot or other reasons. And that's because Strasburg has quietly told Boras he doesn't want to play in the nation's capital, but rather in San Diego or Seattle. So, under this scenario, the Nats either decide not to shell out a vast king's ransom after drafting Strasburg, or get scared off from drafting him at all, and he goes to one of the other two teams, either this year or next. Case closed. That possible?

Posted by: mx_heinrich | March 23, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I think Harlan is doing a great job mostly the fact tht the post sports setion has waken up to the fact that we do have a team.

sports dept. shortchanges LPGA stories and final scores.

Posted by: nospinzone1 | March 23, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

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