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A goodbye

For the last two years, I have covered the Washington Nationals, and if you want to know more about the low point of that tenure, please reference my name in a Google search. I already know what comes up, same as I know -- and regret -- the words from a year ago that don't go away in a year. In my tenure as the Nats writer, I've seen 205 losses, two GMs, two managers, one "deliberate, premeditated fraud," and at least one pitcher released when the GM got "tired of watching him." And sometimes I've been tough on them. It's only fair to apply the same standards to myself.

So let me be direct, no B.S. I see no other way to play this. This is my goodbye Nats Journal post, and goodbye posts tend to run sappy and reflective, because in general people look back on chapters of their life in the manner that people look back on ballgames with a two-hour rain delay. We remember the good parts. Everything looks better in retrospect.

But then there's what I said last year. In an interview with the Washingtonian, I said I hate my job. I complained a lot, and it was disgraceful. Even now, people in this forum might well remember me as the beat writer who spent two years performing a job he didn't enjoy and perhaps didn't deserve. The Web is full of published items headlined like, "Nats beat writer Chico Harlan does not like his job..." -- and so before I walk away, let me talk with greater wisdom, and with greater maturity, about the true blessings of this position I'm leaving.

The stuff I said last year, I deserved everything that followed. Covering baseball is a privilege; I learned that too late. Keeping your mouth shut and working hard is a duty; I learned that too late as well. Since the publication of those Washingtonian quotes, I've apologized to people, and I've asked the tough questions about why I got myself in trouble (ego? hubris?), and I've obviously taken another job that has nothing whatsoever to do with food writing, a venture that probably sounded good at the time only because it didn't involve Daniel Cabrera. I learned this too late, also: A man should start talking only when he knows what to say.

It is for others to judge, eventually, but I hope I am leaving this job as a better, wiser person than the one who began it. This job, everything about it, has been worthwhile. Covering baseball is a demanding job, a thrilling and exhilarating and debilitating job, which is why it's best assessed in retrospect -- not during a high or a low. So here we are: retrospect. It's my wish to leave behind a list of the high points, the true high points. The last two years have been packed with them, and I realize it now.

* The best nights on this job, the absolute best times, came on those many occasions when I sat next to Tom Boswell in the press box. Maybe some get to sit next to Roger Ebert at movie theaters, and some get to sit next to Helen Thomas at White House news conferences. I got Boswell, who is so genuine that you forget he's a legend. You might call his passion for baseball contagious, only that nobody else seems capable of matching it. I know this: My best stories came on nights when Boz sat to my left, whispering insights. One-sentence e-mails from Boz, kind words about a story he liked, could keep me going for weeks. For cheap thrills, I still do random searches in the WaPo archives for old Boswell stories. Pick a date, pick a year. Tom Boswell wrote something infectious and joyous that day. He's still just as good as he ever was.

* The Nats had two managers during my tenure, and both were terrific to deal with. Jim Riggleman isn't chatty like Manny Acta, but he's giving and thorough with his time. Acta, even during last season's low points, showed an inspiring dignity. And though he didn't let fans (or even his own players) see it, the man possessed an uncanny charisma. The world has few better storytellers, few better laughers, and that's important because a ballwriter and manager often spend more time together than a husband and wife. At least after they were off his roster, Manny could laugh about even his worst players. Unfortunately he managed too many of them.

* Maybe one game in 10, I'd write a story that nailed it. Where the words hummed and everything worked. I loved that feeling. I still believe that the baseball beat abrades writing ability -- constant deadlines train you to write the first thing that comes to mind, not the best thing that comes to mind -- but sometimes, I wrote the sort of story that made every nerve tingle. And the high wouldn't last long, maybe 10 minutes. (The bad stories kept me angry for about 12 minutes.) But after a good story, I'd shut down my laptop, head for the stadium parking lot, jump into my Honda and take a few lights toward the Rock Creek Parkway. Briefly, just briefly, I'd feel like the man.

* I loved seeing places. I loved the sense of heading to an Avis airport rental car counter in any city -- Atlanta, LA, you name it -- and saying, "Nah, don't need the map.' Some day, a woman will probably think that's impressive. I'm a runner, and training for races dictated most mornings on the road. I tried always to find trails in cities, along rivers, etc., rather than using the treadmills, and running is one of the best ways to learn a city. Finishing a long run along Lake Michigan in Chicago, or through the hills of Pasadena, would keep me energized for a whole day. Heading to Wrigley or Dodger Stadium didn't hurt either.

* My favorite restaurant on the road: The 112 Eatery, Minneapolis. I'll disappoint everyone by forgoing the full restaurant review, but suffice to say that everything there is good, and I think the chef likes recipes with butter.

* I learned a lot from my always-gracious, always-industrious competitors on the beat. Mark Zuckerman, Ben Goessling, Bill Ladson. To fans they are names, maybe Twitter accounts. But I can tell you, there is a lot of heart behind that work.

* I could write thousands of words about my replacement on the beat, Adam Kilgore, because I know him well. But I'll keep it short. He is an outstanding journalist. He will be an outstanding baseball writer. As a Maine native, he has a taste for Moxie soda. Also, his father owns a wholesale lobster meat business. That is the extent of his interest in food.

* Before signing off, I want to address one last high point: The days between Feb. 19, 2010 and Feb. 26, 2010 -- my last week covering the Nationals, spent in Viera. This week has been a blast. An absolute blast. Granted, everything is easier with an endpoint in sight, so no doubt my own attitude is partly responsible for this.

But I also sense a change in the people I talk to and the team I cover. The sullen players are gone, and the crazy GM is gone, and humor is easy to find, and the players who've been here for years sense something different. I'm leaving the Washington Nationals at a special time. Kilgore will get a lot of phenomenal stories to cover.

For the last few days, I've been talking to players about just that. I covered their darkest years. It was a shared experience, and now I've caught just a glimpse of what's next.

"This is my little idea of the last couple years," said Jason Bergmann, always among the most well-spoken players. "At first we had no superstars. We've had the Nick Johnsons, the second-tier stars, but nothing really great. There just wasn't the spark of light where you're like -- Ahhh, wow, that guy is amazing! Our pitching staffs were just mediocre, if not bad; I was a part of it. When Odalis Perez is starting Opening Day after being a non-roster invitee, that's kind of not the way you want to start the year. But then all of a sudden you add another year for Zimmerman; he's that much brighter. You add a Willingham through trade. We sign Dunn. And all of a sudden people are thinking, 'We're not just the scrappy lowly Nats.' And going into this year, we've got a lot of guys that can play! And then a willingness to spend some money. A guy like Pudge signs as the first guy [this offseason]. And Pudge triggers a lot of things, because Pudge triggers Capps to pick us over the Cubs. How many people last year would have picked us over the Cubs? Not many. Capps had his choice between a perennial contender and the lowly Nats. I hate the word 'lowly Nats,' because I think we have a solid team. ... But you can see, now free agents are coming to us, and that really puts it on us. Now instead of you saying, 'Oh I'm on the Nationals' and people [responding], 'Oh, who are they?' or 'Oh, they're no good,' now it's like, 'Oh, you have Adam Dunn.' Or, 'Oh, you have Zimmerman.' Or, 'You just signed this guy.'"

Bergmann paused. So I asked my next time-capsule-ish question: "What things will happen with this franchise in the next two years that I'll only wish I was writing about?"

"As long as he's alive, somebody will be writing about Stephen Strasburg," Bergmann said. "Whether it's for the best or the worst, he's going to change this organization. His signing defines us. I think this year is a pivotal year for us. If we do well here [this year], next offseason will be a great offseason for signing people. Dunn's gonna be a free-agent. Does he re-sign? I think he'd be more apt to re-sign here if he win 87 games. If we win 68, he's probably gonna look for work elsewhere.

"In terms of the future, this year is a pivotal year. What direction are we really going in? We signed a couple people now. We kind of quieted the clamor about not resigning Soriano, not going after the big names, the big names not coming -- Teixeira. This year, some names did come. What's next year gonna bring? That's very far ahead; we're in the fifth or sixth day of camp. But if we win 87 games this year, all of a sudden D.C. will be a very desirable place. The market will be open. Unlocked."

I like that word. Unlocked. So I'll leave it there -- with something smart.

NJers, enjoy the next chapter.

Sayonara,

- Chico

By Chico Harlan  |  February 26, 2010; 6:08 PM ET
 
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Comments

... thank you Chico, for taking your responsibility to the Post and to the fans so seriously, and for doing such a credible job. I wish you all the best in your career as it unfolds for you. I will search for your by-line - from Asia - and develop an interest in such things.

-- 30 --

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 26, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Best of luck in Japan, Chico. I look forward to reading your dispatches from that incredible country.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 26, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't know Chico beyond what he writes for the Post. Thus, I cannot judge him as a person. I can judge him as a writer, though, and I've been impressed.

I totally agree that baseball writing "abrades" writing skills, but special talents have been able to overcome that (think Shirley Povich, Boz, etc.). Chico not only overcame the challenge, his talent shone through on a daily basis.

I believe we will look back on his time as the Nats' beat writer as the beginning of a special writing career. Although he won't achieve greatness covering baseball, he will achieve it covering something. We'll all be better off for it.

Good luck and thanks for contributing so much to this space.

Posted by: rucks35 | February 26, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Chico - good luck. All the best to you and I hope you have some new adventures that will be inspiration for more great stories. Keep an eye on us and keep running!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | February 26, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Chico. To err is human. Who hasn't said something that they later regretted? I know that I've done so a number of times. It took humility to apologize as you did at the time. Ego, schmego.

You're an excellent writer, but writing a good story doesn't make you "the man," any more than writing a not-so-good story makes you less of one. I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't base your sense of worth on your work. Like the ballplayers say, don't get too high, and don't get too low. Geez, I'm starting to sound like Polonius here...to thine own self be true...

Last but not least, I'm guessing that rather than being impressed that you don't want a map, the woman of the future just might wonder why you don't stop to ask for directions. It's a Mars/Venus thing. ;-)

Seriously, I wish you all the best, wherever the road takes you.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 26, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

hmm, this nostalgic reminiscing recalls to mind a favorite quote from Luigi Pirandello:

"[Reader] I reveal myself to you in a form that is conducive to creating the kind of relationship I wish to have with you."

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to Chico for being my primary source for Nationals news for the past two years. It's not easy staying up on everything from all the way out here in Las Vegas, but this blog, and Chico's excellent writing, have helped immensely.
Hope you enjoy the Far East.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | February 26, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Chico, we never learn or grow without saying something stupid, without putting our foot in our mouth, without making a big and embarrassing mistake or a couple. And most of us do it all of our lives. So fugedaboudit. You're a darn fine human being. And one who is still learning -- the best kind!

Posted by: sbuck | February 26, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the memories ... and the hope.
I look forward to your first explanation of Japan's rice pricing policies.

Posted by: JamesWebster | February 26, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Best of luck!

Posted by: machencm | February 26, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Domo arigato, Chico-san.

Posted by: ramgut | February 26, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Glorious exit. Head held high.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 26, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Nicely written. Thanks and good luck.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 26, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Good luck! I'm guessing I read 75% of all the posts you made on your beat and I appreciate all the work you did.

Posted by: tgerbracht | February 26, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

CHarlan: To borrow a favoured phrase... Bang-Zoom! Your final beat post is a 'Walk-off' home run. As I've posted earlier today, Best Wishes, and thanks for all the fish.

Posted by: BinM | February 26, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

What was said to the Washingtonian had nothing to do with the coverage you provided, which was always excellent, so I wouldn't dwell on it. Good luck in your new beat.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 26, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Chico. If you don't mind me saying it, I think you've grown as a professional and as a person. Good luck to you.

Posted by: baltova1 | February 26, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

To "Ballwriter" Chico:

You showed us all a lot, my man. You are that rarest of human beings that can own up to one's mistakes, and learn from them. You belong now in a long, distinguished list of former Washington baseball writers now no longer performing the craft. These include Shirley Povich, Bob Addie and George Minot of the Post, Merrill Whittlesey of the Star and Russ White and others from The Washington Daily News. You people under 30 will just have to take my word on those fellows, but they were stupendous. Chico, you deserve the kudos (and the occasional snark) you got here. But you showed your industry you belonged.
Godspeed, my friend. Come on back some September when we're in first place, please.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | February 26, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I just want to note that many things look good when it doesn't involve Daniel Cabrera. Good Luck Chico.

Posted by: swang30 | February 26, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Chico...I will miss the writing style you brought to your gamers. I also think you got something of a raw deal from some on this board as a result of your honesty. Despite the fact that you were not really a baseball fan, you put your heart and soul into your stories. Best of luck in your future.

Posted by: TimDz | February 26, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Best of luck Chico. Thanks for all your hard work and insight over the last couple years. Kilgore has some sizeable shoes to fill.

Posted by: NatAlan | February 26, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Chico, Loved hearing about your high points, and was a bit disappointed to hear you address the low point once again. Maybe you needed to do that for some people, but not for me. We all say things and do things that, in retrospect, we wish we hadn't said or done. Some of us learn from these experiences, and a smaller group take responsibility. You already did both, making you a much better person than your critics, at least in my eyes.

I will be watching for your first byline from Asia, and for your second, and your third. I hope the adventure exceeds your dreams, both personally and professionally.

Posted by: dcbatgirl | February 26, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

What a terrific send-off! Chico, you're whole career is ahead of you. Best of luck.

Posted by: AshburnVA | February 26, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Um, that's "your." Posted too quick.

Posted by: AshburnVA | February 26, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Chico, good luck on your new start in Asia. That Washingtonian article was water under the bridge. People have done far worse and taken less criticism.

I enjoyed getting in a comment on most posts during the season and thought you nailed many with your insight.

Again, good luck!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 26, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Chico,

I always enjoyed your writing, work, and effort. Good luck!!

Posted by: CluelessNatsFan | February 26, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Good job, Chico. I've been a Nats fan for the two years I've lived in town, and what I know of the team I've learned through your well-crafted words. Blessings to you in your new assignment.

I hear there's baseball in Japan ...

Posted by: chrisduckworth | February 26, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Chico, a very well-written goodbye. I wish you well in your travels and career shift. Feel free to visit from time to time once Adam has had a chance to settle in an make NJ feel like his own.

Posted by: sec231 | February 26, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Who among us hasn't had a Cabrera in judgment?

Well done, Chico. Your swan song showed a lot of character.

Thanks for your work. Best of luck in your new adventures.

Posted by: Drew8 | February 26, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Chico, and good luck.

It must be a challenge to be a baseball writer. I can't imagine writing a story while the game is going on & then revising it when things change late in the game. For a lawyer, I'm occasionally a pretty good writer, but it takes me a while to get it right.

I also suspect that doing something you don't especially like is probably good for you and exposes one to unexpected pleasures. As Oscar Wilde said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." And by no means have you done your work poorly.

I really like where the Post is going these days, especially given the pressures on newspapers. The emphasis on exceptional writing, of which you are a prime example, is evident. The other part of the approach is an equal emphasis on quick writing - as exemplified by the NJ blog and the amazing real time analysis of the Blair House Health Project.

Good luck in Japan. I look forward to seeing your work in years to come.

Posted by: luxetveritas | February 26, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Good luck in your future endeavors Chico!

Posted by: ryan_temp | February 26, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Chico. As a transplant Nats fan now living in Ohio, I always found your posts very insightful and helped me stay in the loop. I wish you the best in your new endevor.

Posted by: JT2009 | February 26, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Dear Chico-- All I can express is that, from reading your work, I never got the impression that you disliked your endeavor. All my best wishes to you for the future, and thanks for all your good work covering Washington baseball.

Posted by: mgilham | February 26, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Whatever you might have said when you weren't on the clock, you have been a professional on the job and a damned good writer.

"Maybe one game in 10, I'd write a story that nailed it. Where the words hummed and everything worked."

Nonsense. I enjoyed every piece. To use an analogy, no one hits it out the park every time up. You had a lot of big hits -- much more than 1 out of 10. Your style is unique but very colorful and appreciated. If you ever come back to this beat, I'd be delighted.

Posted by: fischy | February 26, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Dammit Chico, even in your sayonara piece, you've managed to leave me something to worry about. As usual. Sparky said "Baseball is a worrying thing." Anyway, what you've left me with is - 87 wins and Dunn stays. 68 wins and he's gone. Crap. What if we win 75?

Posted by: 6thandD | February 26, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Chico,

You're a stand up guy. Personally, I don't think you needed to explain yourself or own up to anyone. But, you did and that took some stones.

Best of luck to you, sir.

From one Steelers fan to another

"Here We Go Steelers!"

Posted by: Section505203 | February 26, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Chico! I really enjoyed your stories as well as Nats Journal. I was always happy that you didn't seem to take yourself (or the team, when it was well deserved) too seriously. When you're obsessed with a team that's losing 100+ games (coughmecough), you need something to laugh about.

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | February 26, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Chico: As a former Postie myself, I'm still gobsmacked that somebody can go straight from the baseball beat to the Foreign staff. That's completely unprecdented, and it speaks volumes about your talent.

Whatever you said to Washingtonian was an infinitesimal blip in an otherwise sterling record of fantastic, professional, gorgeously written coverage of the team we all follow obsessively. You've been a consistent pleasure to read, and been nothing but generous on this blog and in chats, giving us insight that goes miles beyond what appears in the daily fishwrap.

Thank you for being our guide to and chronicler of all things Nats, and best of luck on your new beat. You've earned it and your byline will always give us a smile of proud recognition. Godspeed.

Posted by: Eyewitness1 | February 26, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

The retrospective truth is that Chico should have been fired after his Washingtonian comments.

It still doesn't sound like he enjoyed his time with the Nats, just learned to get some positives out of the experience. Washington and Nats fans waited too long for a team for the home town paper to have a beat writer that struggled to "endure" his time here.

Chico may be a good writer, but he was an injustice to fans that enjoy and look forward to reading about their home town team.

Don't let the door hit you in the rear on the way out!

Posted by: cabraman | February 26, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Chico, baseball is a passion. You either have it or you don't. Writing about it at the major league level to people who care is an honor, not a job. Welcome to your replacement and enjoy the Far East.

Posted by: JamesFan2 | February 26, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Best wishes to you Chico, and thanks for the great goodbye blog.

Posted by: Traveler8 | February 26, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Chico

It has been an absolute pleasure to read your work, and I will continue to.

I glad you got a job that will make you happy.

Posted by: soundbloke | February 26, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

The retrospective truth is that Chico should have been fired after his Washingtonian comments.

It still doesn't sound like he enjoyed his time with the Nats, just learned to get some positives out of the experience. Washington and Nats fans waited too long for a team for the home town paper to have a beat writer that struggled to "endure" his time here.

Chico may be a good writer, but he was an injustice to fans that enjoy and look forward to reading about their home town team.

Don't let the door hit you in the rear on the way out!

Posted by: cabraman | February 26, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Fantastic way to sign off, Chico. Best of luck to you. Thanks for your fine work, but thanks most of all for advancing NJ - for those crazies like me that check it 4-5 times per day, it's become a integral part of the Post baseball coverage year round. I, too, will look for your byline and look forward to learning more about that part of the world from you.

Posted by: dlombardo1 | February 26, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth--wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin--
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens
The form of plausive manners, that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,--
Their virtues else--be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo--
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault: the dram of eale
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 26, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Livo is back. He's been with the team, on and off, since before the beginning.
Never an ace by any standard, but the pro's pro, a Man at Work.
Soriano was here one year, and he was really, really good at what he did--maybe his career year in some ways. But he had bigger plans.
I have a friend from the old neighborhood, a guy I grew up with, who became a career beat writer for an MLB team, and has had a long career, so far. He's written a couple of books. He makes a decent living, and put his kids through college, by telling fans what happened, spelling it right, and "using the right word, not its second cousin."

Chico, best of luck. I know you'll do fine. You've done a good job here. Don't let the entitlement grind you down.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 26, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Stay classy cabraman.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 26, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

A. Kilgore, Boz

Your depth chart by Stats LLC shows Nyjer Morgan as a backup left-fielder. Any thought to the Post doing their own depth chart?
Just a thought.

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Chico did just fine. It sounds like he was just a frustrated with the circus that was the Nats as most fans. It might have been desirable to have more timely blog entries but it does seem that perhaps he may have had his qualification brief out there ... both within and outside the Post trying to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. It sounds like he is very happy with the opportunity he landed ... and so it goes.

I am glad it all worked out and maybe someday Chico will write those books ... about Japanese baseball tying it to the religious significance that some Japanese seen to place on golf? He will find some purpose to his time as a Nats beat writer I am sure.

Its all a part of the plan ... so says Stan ... or perhaps its better to quote another "Stan", Excelsior!

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Chico, this is my first ever post here. I started reading this blog about a year ago, as I was trying to reconnect to DC baseball. I was born in DC in 1960 and was a die-hard Senators fan until they left, when I was still in elementary school... Later made several attempts to be an Orioles fan but failed at all of them... Was in ecstasy when we finally had a team again, but didn't have much real baseball knowledge... Reading this blog has gradually gotten me back into it all---and I've loved your posts, Chico, as well as all the commentary on the blog! (Didn't even know about this Washingtonian "controversy" until a few days ago...) Anyway, best of luck to you, and may I suggest... make sure you check out Korea as well as Japan!

All best to you and to Adam.

Posted by: skidge | February 26, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Chico:

To err is human. To completely miss a perfect throw, however, requires Anderson Hernandez.

Best of luck with your new assignment.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | February 26, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Powerful article.
Class will out.
I note how every spring you get great quotes from Jason Bergmann.
He is a gentleman. I took my grandson to a Nat's game in Phila 2 years back. Bought first row 3rd base dugout so I could take lots of photos with my digital & Zoom.
Did. Jason went out of his way to get a ball from the dugout, toss it to Gavin, then 7, by rolling it down the dugout roof to Gavin, and signed his glove. I took many good photos of Jason & would love to return the courtesy, hope you can arrange it.
Hy

Posted by: RedKruzer | February 26, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Chico,
Graceful post. I've had jobs I didn't much care for, and the best I can say is I did a solid professional job. I suspect that's how you view this gig. Yeoman's work on a difficult job, and while baseball writing may not have been what you dreamt about, you did a good job and are a good writer.

Enjoy the job in Japan, and we'll keep an eye out for your book.

Posted by: Section406 | February 26, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Good fortune to you Chico.

In a city known for good baseball writing, if not for good baseball playing, you more than held your own.

Posted by: deMille_Ondefloss | February 27, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse


Now that was some Dear Natsfan goodbye letter, blog, whatever you want to call it. I call it, adios NJers. Mostly your work was worthy C.H. Godspeed

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 27, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Chico is young. Everyone should give him a break for his "indescrection". The writing was beautiful and the kid learned to love the game. I did lose a lot of respect, but in all honesty, if I was covering last year's train wreck I'd probably want to write about food too.

Posted by: MBUSA | February 27, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

I've been a Harlen defender, recognizing his writing and reporting abilities and how tough the job can be, and I'm happy to see even some the harshest critics won over by his exit essay.

I wish he had a better team to write about, but he made the few bright moments brighter, and I thank him for that.

All else aside, isn't it a pleasure to read the unrestrained insights of one who was so close to it? It was for me.

Posted by: nats24 | February 27, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Really enjoyed your writing Chico, and just wanted to say thanks for sharing the last two seasons of Nats baseball with us. Best of luck wherever your career takes you and I look forward to reading you for many years to come!

Posted by: HenryStin | February 27, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Nice work Chico. We all make mistakes. The important thing is you learned from it. The people who are till riding you about probably have made way more heinous mistakes.Like Bernie Mac said "Fu** em' ". Good Luck in your future endeavors. And Chico-Don't be Discourrraggged!!

Posted by: tommy11599 | February 27, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Chico: Do some random searches before you go for Shirley Povich, and you'll know Boswell's ancestry

Posted by: nats24 | February 27, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Fine words and a gracious goodbye. We're all going to miss you on the beat, Chico. Don't be a stranger to Natstown.

Posted by: LetTeddyWin_com | February 27, 2010 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Don't worry about the criticism. It's unfair.

You have a great career ahead of you. We'll miss you.

It's good to look back and figure out things you can do better...but no regrets. You are a great writer. You have fans.

Posted by: anubis_lab | February 27, 2010 4:27 AM | Report abuse

Chico-

Japan should be fertile ground for you. I remember how much I enjoyed T.R. Reid's work there. You will have so many angles availalbe that we readers won't see coming. I will certainly be one of those readers.

You drew the short straw for watching this era of Nationals baseball, but I hope your enthusiasm for this season is well grounded. A happier team atmosphere probably would help to sustain the enthusiasm Adam Kilgore has brought to the job to start, and help fill the rapacious appetite we have for blog posts and news about the team.

Enjoy your next assignment. To thank is an interim gesture, since you have so much more to offer us.

Positively Half St.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 27, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Chico, my dear boy, when a writer can not speak his true feelings then I care not to read his words. You spoke and I thank you for it. Best wishes in your new adventure. Let nothing "dampen" your wit.

Posted by: bsballu5 | February 27, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Thanks again, Chico, and best of luck in the next chapter. And, for what it's worth, not only did you bat a heck of a lot better than one in ten, but when you nailed it, you really, really nailed it. Just to pick one example, I think I'll remember your "throw strikes" post for a long, long time. Fortunately, I get to keep reading your work, even if it won't be about baseball.

Posted by: Section220 | February 27, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

"...for those crazies like me that check it 4-5 times per day,..." .

Posted by: dlombardo1 | February 26, 2010 10:42 PM

**********

4-5? psh. lightweight.

=)

Posted by: NatsNut | February 27, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

The "throw strikes" post was wonderful.

(and checking waaay more than 4-5 times per day here ;-))

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 27, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Chico. It's been a pleasure.

I don't know what it's like to endure one's most embarassing moments in public (or even the tiny sliver of it that's planet NJ) but I hope your owning up to your immaturity helps you move along. It's our human nature to dwell on the failures and skip over the successes, so know that and let it go. Since you're on your way to Asia, Google the term "monkey mind."

When your writing (rarely) felt forced, it seemed like the actual events of a baseball game didn't provide enough of a story hook and you tried to find a cultural observation or narrative that wasn't there. I think this inquisitive quality of yours will serve you and us well in Japan and I'm delighted we'll continue to hear from you.

Posted by: utec | February 27, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I'll keep it simple. Chico, thanks for everything, and have a great time on the Pacific Rim!

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | February 27, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Saw Bob Ryan do his final weathercast of 4 last night, now this...

I'm really going to miss your writing Chico. Your style and your humor have brightened our mornings for the last couple of years. Often your stories and postings read like prose, rather than just dry reporting. We can only hope that Adam can partly fill your running shoes.

Posted by: rbelleisle | February 27, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Nice work as always, Chico. Good luck in the future.

Posted by: sec307 | February 27, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Chico,
If each of us had a nickle for every time we said something that we wished we hadn't, we all might be able to afford a "Senators Sausage" and a small beer at Nats Park. You owe no apology to me because your writing was superlative and your insight into the game was getting better week by week. I am sad to see you go and, yes, Mr. Kilgore does have some big shoes to fill. All the best for a happy life and a successful career. You will be missed on the sports page.

Posted by: Natstoyou | February 27, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

We all say dumb things from time to time; most of us just don't get them published! Have really enjoyed your work over these last two (admittedly awful) seasons and thank you for that. Adam is going to have many more fun games to watch, I hope and believe.

Will be looking for your byline. Best of luck to you.

Posted by: NatsFly | February 27, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

"Chico Harlan: Here's the background. I found out some time in March that I'd be taking over the beat. Of course, at that point, I was still Down Under on a work visa, so preparation for my next job felt, at once, distant but important. I read message boards, newspaper accounts, MLB sites, etc. Lots of stats. Tons of Svrluga copy. I read his book, and even talked to him a few times by phone.

Slowly, I started to pick up on the major storylines with this franchise.

But that's not to suggest I've totally swallowed everything, either.

Give me a few more days, weeks, years. Then we can consult with Coverage Is Lacking for some feedback."


Chico, nice farewell post given the circumstances. It's not your fault that The Post hired you for a position that you weren't suited for. I can't think of too many guys in their early 20s who would turn down the opportunity to get their foot in the door. But, as you point out, "Keeping your mouth shut and working hard is a duty."

In any case, I think you know what the verdict is on your tenure as Nats beat writer, now that a couple years have passed since your comments that I quoted above. Best of luck to you with your new gig.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | February 27, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Chico and best wishes. Really enjoyed your fresh, youthful writing style. You had the misfortune to cover two of the absolute worst seasons in the history of the game. I appreciated your unsentimental stories about the atrocities you had to witness. You were entitled to your moments of cynicism and unhappiness. To your credit, you let the few bright spots and optimism for the future prevail and kept hope alive for the faithful. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Natmeister | February 27, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I don't follow spectator sports, so this is the first thing of yours that I have read. (It popped up in a Google Alert I have on "good writing.") I must say, it was good writing, even inspiring. I'm putting your phrase "keeping your mouth shut and working hard" in my advice file.
Thanks.
Look me up at writing-rag.com sometime. Best wishes.

Posted by: rogersgeorge | February 27, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

What a great, genuine and intimate piece of writing. And it nails the two targets of any good piece of creative non-fiction: it illuminates both the writer (and the writing life) and the subject.

Best of luck, Chico.

Posted by: thoward1223 | February 27, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Good luck and safe journeys.

Posted by: thom202 | February 27, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The least he could have done was come out of the closet.

Posted by: Brue | February 27, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Chico - One common theme here is that the percentage of people here who think you have an excellent way with words and description resembles the result of one of those "elections" that dictators occasionally have (Kim Jong-il gets 97% of the vote!). The difference is that, unless the vaunted Post screening mechanism is checking for anything other than too many words or links, these returns are sincere.

I grew up on Gammons and his heirs. What they (and Sheinin, and Boz) bring to this beat is something different than you could offer. You know that, and have been honest to your employer and your readers. We appreciate that. Now, moving to a new challenge, with renewed enthusiasm, I hope will bring out the writing style we love along with the wisdom you'll acquire through experience. May you become the dean of Asian correspondents and, years from now, we in NJ land will be able to say, "This may be hard to believe, but I used to read him writing baseball stories."

Good luck in Japan. If you get a chance and it interests you, check out a Darvish start ;)

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 27, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Best of luck Chico. I hope your love you new job and remember this one fondly. We will remember you fondly. I really wouldn't worry too much about that interview. It was dumb but that's all. You didn't hurt anyone or break the law or cheat. You just said something you felt. Sometimes that dumb, sometimes it's smart - hard to know head of time.

You are a fantastic writer and I loved reading everything you wrote. So, you're not insane over baseball like us, big deal. Now you figured that out and found a new spot.

As for avoiding the food critic job, I wouldn't worry about that either. If you want to be a food critic, be a food critic. What do you care what a bunch of dopes (like me) on a blog think about what job you do?

Anyhow, really enjoyed having you, will keep any eye out for stories by you and hope you enjoy it tremendously. You did an outstanding job here, try to forget about the interview.

Posted by: Avar | February 27, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Baseball is just game. But what endears this simple sport to us is its humanity, the idea that we can see something of ourselves somewhere in these 162 nights each summer.

Those who have not learned from Manny Acta's dignity because it did not lead to victories did not deserve it.

Those who could not enjoy your fine writing because of honest words spoken candidly in an interview did not deserve it.

Chico, we are the better for having you here for the last two seasons. Thank you.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 27, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Best of luck, Chico. I always looked forward to taking breaks at work and sneaking peaks at the journal. Your hard work made my days during baseball season that much more enjoyable. Put in a good word for the Nats while you are in Japan!

Posted by: Santa72 | February 27, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I can't follow the Nationals (though from Chico's perspective this would be a great time to start) cause I'm too sickened of my baseball experience as a Pirates fan. But, I've followed Chico's writing and his growth as a journalist for years. Live, learn, be happy. A worthy final game, well played, Chico. Good luck (幸運).

Posted by: ItCouldBeWorseYouCouldBeAPiratesFan | February 27, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Chico, a simple Thanks and job well done. Until you brought it up I had forgotten all about the quotes from last year and your love of baseball and the lowly Nats comes thru in your posts. Safe passage on all your future travels.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 27, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

"The bullpen doors opened, the lead disappeared."

Still the best line ever written about our Nats.

Good luck, Chico. Hope you find what you're looking for.

Posted by: howjensen | February 28, 2010 5:59 AM | Report abuse

I read this blog every day, but I can hardly imagine the grind of covering the marathon that is the MLB season. It's much easier to armchair it as a fan than to be there from February through October (well, very early October in the Nats case). Under the circumstances, I'm surprised it was only one unfortunate interview. :)

Best wishes on your new gig, Chico, you'll be missed.

Posted by: adbiosec | March 1, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

best of luck chico...you've come a long way from watching stiller games at goldstein! now that was dedication.

Posted by: jar66su | March 1, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

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