Rob Dibble will tell you that he is just an “observer” when he does the color analysis on Washington Nationals telecasts. He is “just a guy sitting up [in the booth] watching it like everybody else.”
Well, then, if he’s just like everybody else, what the heck is MASN paying him for? They could pull a guy out of the stands to sit up there and watch “like everybody else.”
Do you really want the guy sitting next to you as your baseball analyst?
In his outspoken criticism at various points in his first season in the Nationals’ booth, Dibble has won over a segment of Nationals fans because he comes off like one of them - an angry guy sitting at home, yelling at his television, wondering why the worst team in baseball can’t catch the ball, why it doesn’t practice more, why it can’t pitch better.
The answers, however frustrating they are for fans, are never as simple as they appear. And that is one of the roles of the analyst - to offer some perspective, some insight, into the team’s struggles.
That, as we know with this organization, would require some tough criticism to be directed at the top of the organization. We haven’t heard much of that on Nationals telecasts, nor would I expect to, frankly, on any team’s telecasts.
What we have heard, though, is tough criticism on a much lower level - toward the manager and coaches and particularly at former Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire and the way he worked with the young pitching staff. It has been uninformed criticism, if we want to be as frank and honest as Dibble claims he is trying to be.
Dibble never spoke to St. Claire - who was fired June 2 - about anything to do with pitching, according to the former Washington coach.
“He has never talked to me about anything about pitching,” St. Claire said in a telephone interview. “He has never asked what we do for prep work. I’ve never talked to him about pitching.”
In other words, Dibble never did what I did last week when I sat down with him to talk about his work.
When I asked Dibble whether he ever spoke to St. Claire - who was Bobby Cox’s first choice in Atlanta to replace Leo Mazzone at the end of the 2005 season but couldn’t make a deal with the Nationals - about the pitching, he said yes and no. You figure out it:
“Why would I need to? … That’s not true because I had a discussion with almost every pitcher. If they were No. 1 in pitching, I don’t think I would need to have a conversation with him, either. But they weren’t. They were the worst pitching staff in baseball. I think this is a moot point. Steve McCatty is the pitching coach now. They moved in a different direction. He had been here seven years, and the fact that I am even involved in this discussion is kind of ridiculous. … Because I have an opinion, people think that I am critical. I am just stating the obvious.
“I’ve gone to Mark Lerner, and I’ve asked him, ‘Have I done anything to offend the organization?’ ” he said. “From the top, they said no.”
Well, as long as the owners of the team are not offended, then what’s the problem?
Dibble is not getting paid to be “stating the obvious.” Anyone can do that. The guy sitting on the bar stool next to you can do that. The analyst should be stating what is not obvious.
For many team analysts the work to determine what is not obvious is often done before the game, during batting practice, in casual conversations on the field and around the batting cage. Jim Palmer is all over the field and in both dugouts before an Orioles game he works, talking pitching, picking up information. So was Don Sutton, the Hall of Famer and former team broadcaster who was often seen on the field during Nationals practice.
“Don Sutton would constantly talk about pitching with us,” St. Claire said. “Don Sutton once sat in on a meeting to see what we were talking about. He was informed about what we were doing. Don would be out there with us sometimes for the early work and see all the preparation we would put in.
“[Dibble] has never been out there and seen what we do,” St. Claire said.
The problem is that Dibble has another job that requires his time while the Nationals are taking batting practice and other pregame workouts and meetings. He’s a co-host and analyst on the XM radio program “The Show,” which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Dibble often will do the show from Nationals Park, but he is high atop the ballpark in the seventh-floor press box.
Dibble said none of this is true - I think.
“I am down there a lot,” he said. “In fact, if I wasn’t talking to you, I would be down there right now. That is not true, by the way. There are not a lot of analysts that go down on the field and go in the clubhouse, and I do it all the time. That is not true, and I know a lot of them, and I know they don’t go down on the field all the time.”
If this large and tattooed man is on the field and in the clubhouse “all the time,” he should start offering disguise lessons at the Spy Museum.
None of this matters, however. As you might have heard somewhere, Dibble used to be a major league pitcher. He made a name for himself as one of the “Nasty Boys” in the bullpen for the 1990 World Series-champion Cincinnati Reds, earning MVP honors of the National League Championship Series that season. The two-time All Star will hit you over the head with the resume fairly quickly.
This was the first blog entry he wrote for MASN shortly after being hired: “For the many who may not know me, let me introduce myself. My name is Rob Dibble, and I played 7 1/2 seasons in Major League Baseball, mostly with the Cincinnati Reds, from June of 1988 to 1996. I was an All-Star and NLCS co-MVP in 1990 while a member of The World Champion Cincinnati Reds. As a team, we swept The AL Champion Oakland A’s. As a major league pitcher, I reached 500 K’s faster than Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller. While it took them over 500 innings to reach that plateau, it took me only 368.”
Also on his blog, he suggested the Nationals would win 92 games this year.
“The Rays went from 66 wins to 97 in one year and won the AL East; so why is it so hard to believe the Washington Nationals can’t go from 59 wins to 92?” Dibble wrote on his MASN blog April 7. “That’s how many wins the 2008 World Champion Phillies had when they won the NL East last season. If you still don’t believe me, believe this: nearly 20 years ago right around this time in April, I was on a team that was 400-1 odds in Vegas to win the World Series. Anytime you want me to show you my WS ring, let me know, I really won’t mind…”
Do you think anyone in the Nationals organization thought they could win 92 games this year? Did you?
What kind of credibility can any analyst have after such a suggestion?
Credibility, shrediblity - so what? Rob Dibble isn’t concerned about such criticism.
“It totally doesn’t matter, as long as my employer, as long as MASN, the Angeloses and [executive producer] Chris Glass are happy with what I am doing,” he said.
Think about that one the next time Dibble uses “we.”
• Thom Loverro can be reached at email@example.com.
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