If Barry Svrlugla‘s reward for covering the Nats last season was to be the lead reporter on all things Michael Phelps, Chico Harlan deserves a front-row seat at the Second Coming. Since taking over from Svrluga earlier this season, Harlan has ably covered a team that is now re-threatening 121 losses.* Moreover, Harlan has reveled in the kind of gallows humor that comes only with covering a cellar-dwelling, quadruple-A-ish squad. Witness his brutal assessment of reliever Luis Ayala, back when the team’s 10-game losing streak was merely a three-game skid: “A reliable setup man in Montreal’s and Washington’s bullpen since 2003, Ayala this year has become a 6-foot-1 white flag. He appears, the game ends.” And Tampa Bay Rays reporters don’t get clubhouse-interview gems like this:

Asked after his most recent start — his fourth consecutive game with at least four earned runs — to describe his last month, [Tim] Redding settled on a precise assessment:

“Horse[expletive],” he said.

Redding might want to take some interview tips from Teddy, a member of the Nats organization who also loses a lot. In an interview with KidsPost today, he found a way to be more positive than Manny Acta:

Are you ever going to win a race?

[Gives a thumbs up.]

* Update 5:03 p.m.: Using a little something called “basic arithmetic,” I realized that the Nats are mathematically eliminated from losing 121 games this season. It’s totally on the table for ’09, though.

Photo by Flickr user Scott Ableman