Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ranking the Announcers - Washington Nationals

So in another Joe Mandi segment that is sure to start, but almost guaranteed to never be finished, I've decided to take a look at one of the aspects of watching baseball that is generally overlooked: the announcers. A quality team in the booth can really enhance the viewing experience, providing insight into the current game and telling "war" stories that remind the viewer of baseball's rich and wacky past. Of course, there is also the flip side of that, the play-by-play guys that don't know when to shut up or the former player-turned-color man that really should have just faded into the baseball sunset. So in an ambitious segment, I'm planning on watching a game from each of the 30 teams (hopefully getting my money's worth out of my mlb.tv package) and writing a little bit about each announcing team. Today I'm going to start with the Washington Nationals since, well, they are currently on TV... easy enough.

6/14/09 Washington Nationals at Tampa Bay Rays on MASN2

I've watched a few Washington Nationals games this year (like I said, they are on local TV and I generally prefer watching bad baseball on TV rather than good baseball on the computer) so I have a bit of background with the announcing team of Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble. And generally I despise them. I realize they have a really tough job, having to help create interest in a recently relocated team that is just plain terrible, but they are generally tremendous "homers" (especially of late, when every close call that has gone against the Nationals has been a travesty of epic proportions). There is also a general awkwardness between Carpenter and Dibble, which tends to make the chore of watching a Nationals baseball game slightly worse. Anyway, I'll try to be objective, but if you know me at all you know that will probably last for about half a paragraph.

So the game starts and Rob Dibble is actually adding some nice insight into the development and weaknesses of Nationals 23-year old starter Ross Detwiler. Things like pointing out that Detwiler is fighting himself by landing his lead foot inefficiently. Of course Dibble then added this gem of modern journalism "late in the game he gets a little bit tired and lazy, and I don't mean lazy in a lazy sense...", poor Jack Buck just rolled over in his grave. All in all, not a bad start, I appreciate that Dibble could add in something "technical" that most of us normal schmucks probably wouldn't pick up on.

Wow, Rob Dibble just gave a great breakdown of why ash bats break differently than maple bats. Things about the grain of the bats are different, with maple bats having a "swirling" grain and ash bats having straighter grain. Dibble really contributed something to my life there and, wow, I was not expecting that. Another great tidbit about all MLB game baseballs being from Costa Rica and batting practice balls coming from Japan... Dibble is really on his game today. It's the 3rd inning, but something tells me these guys can't keep up this pace.

Here we go again with Carpenter and Dibble. Ross Detwiler is struggling in the 4th inning, walking the first two hitters, and Carpenter and Dibble start complaining that he isn't getting any borderline strikes. Come on guys, Detwiler is a rookie and he is having control issues, you can't expect him to get ANY calls. This isn't a massive anti-Nationals conspiracy, this is baseball like it has been played for over 100 years. This is really the problem I have with these guys, they are truly unabashed in rooting for their team. Maybe they are reflecting the partisan political landscape of DC or maybe they are trying to polarize their fan base or maybe Carpenter and Dibble are just pricks, but their hometown favoritism is very off-putting to the uninvested baseball fan.

Over the next five innings (the Nationals would go on to lose 5-4), two unfortunate things happened to the Nats: Willie Harris collided with a bullpen catcher while tracking a foul ball and a Willy Aybar drove in the game winning run with a groundball double that bounced off third base. Naturally, Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble responded to these events by describing the Nats as "snakebitten" and continuing the woe-is-me routine. Unlucky events happen in baseball and they tend to happen more often to teams that play poor baseball, but if you listened Carpenter and Dibble you would have to believe Washington was under some sort of Native American curse.

So, the Nats announcing duo was pretty much on par with the nauseating product they put on the field. I'm not prepared to call them the worst duo in the league (because I know Hawk 'f-ing' Harrelson is out there somewhere), but I'm pretty sure they are in the bottom five.

Current Rankings:

Washington Nationals (Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble)

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