The long, national nightmare is over; the Nationals have fired Rob Dibble.
In a strange way, I'm almost going to miss Rob Dibble. The Nationals haven't always been the best, or even most entertaining team; but I could always count on Dibbs to say something he'd ultimately have to apologize for to keep my attention when Jason Marquis was giving up about a thousand runs.
The Nationals hired Dibble as the color commentator for their broadcast affiliate just before last season. In the almost two seasons since he took the booth, there have been no shortage of moments that made you hit the loop button on the DVR and say, "No way he just said that." There have been so many of those moments, that on a day like today, we felt like chronicling them.
Top, or maybe bottom, five Dibble moments after the jump.
5. "I was competitive as a player, and I’m even more competitive as a broadcaster"
Nationals fans have known about the train wreck that is Rob Dibble's announcing since he first walked into the booth, but it wasn't until recently that the national baseball audience started to take notice.
This summer, GQ ranked Dibble and Bob Carpenter the fifth worst announcing tandem in major league baseball, citing Dibble's inappropriate and insufferable use of "we" and "us" to describe the Nationals, a team that didn't even exist when he played in the majors.
“After a great catch by the opposition, Dibble growls, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’ like he’s looking for a fight,” wrote the magazine. “By way of game analysis, Dibble complains about the umpires’ strike zones.”
Here's what Dibble had to say about GQ's ranking, and his tendency to abuse certain pronouns.
“Obviously there’s people in this town and throughout baseball that don’t care for me much,” Dibble says. “But I plan on staying around here a long time ... It’s hard not to root for them, I’m with them every day. I was competitive as a player, and I’m even more competitive as a broadcaster, because you’re helpless. You can’t go out there and do it for them.
Really, Rob? You're more competitive sitting next to Bob Carpenter, watching a team in the midst of a decidedly losing season, than you were pitching for a team deep into the playoffs? Like many things that came out of his mouth, this one just didn't make a lot of sense.
But it's included in this list because of what it means about his announcing style. That use of "we" and "us" is what defined him as an announcer.
4. "Brutal strike zone today ... "
Like the last spot on the countdown, this is more of a lifetime achievement award. That link from Mr. Irrelevant and Jamie Mottram (the defacto president of the "I Hate Dibble Fan Club") shows an instance where Dibble felt it necessary to call out a particularly bad strike call by the umpire, only to be embarrassed when the call was verified by the station's pitch tracker.
It must have been so much easier to announce games back in the day, when you could just be wrong and there weren't any fancy shmancy computers to call you out on it. Stupid robots.
If this was something that happened only once or twice, it probably wouldn't have been worth posting. But this was something that happened almost every game, and the script was almost always the same.
The pitch would come in, and the umpire would make his call. Dibble would then start a rant about the size of the strike zone, the umpire not calling it the same for both teams or the umpires general vendetta against the Nationals and the city of Washington as a whole.
Then, Bob Carpenter would throw it to the replay, where the pitch tracker showed that the pitch in question was called correctly by big blue, and that Dibble was wrong.
Who would have thought that the umpire, standing about five feet from the plate, would have a better view of what was going on then Dibble, who was sitting in the press box? Go figure.
Dibble would only respond with, "Well ... " before Carpenter saved him by moving the conversation onto the count, or what the team needs to do moving forward. It was uncomfortable for all parties involved, even the fans watching from home.
The color commentator, a former player who is supposed to be the booth's authority on everything baseball, was just flat out wrong most of the time.
3. "That's all right, I got MVP in the playoffs, too, Ray"
It was just after Stephen Strasburg's fourth start, and the collective whole of Nationals nation was still in a state of strikeout-induced euphoria. Before the next game, the Nats Xtra crew brought on the in-game crew for a friendly conversation about just how effectively Strasburg pitched in that his most recent outing.
The crew's two former major leaguers, Dibble who was a pitcher, and Ray Knight who was not, had a "minor" disagreement about how Strasburg was pitching in one particular count. If you haven't seen the full transcript, I encourage you take the five minutes it takes to read. I'll just give some choice excerpts.
Knight: "Well, of course Rob's gonna disagree with me because he's a pitcher."
Dibble: "No, I'm not disagreeing because I'm a pitcher. I thought that was one of his best outings, Ray."
Knight: "Oh it was a great outing. I didn't say anything negative about him. What I'm talking about, you get a hitter 0-2, me 0-2, you throw me a pitch fat over the plate and it's a strike, I'm gonna have a chance to put it in play."
Knight: "Don't say no, Rob."
Dibble: "Most of those hits weren't even hit hard, Ray. Ray. Whatever, Ray. That's fine."
Knight: "I didn't say that!"
The only thing worse than an argument amongst an announcing crew that all works for the same team, is an argument amongst an announcing crew that all works for the same team that isn't accomplishing anything. Neither party can understand, let alone refute, the points the other is trying to make. That's when Dibble goes bratty teenager on him, "Ray. Whatever, Ray. That's fine."
Then, what has become the most famous part of the altercation:
Knight: "I got a base hit in the World Series that jammed me as big as anything, but it was a high fastball out over the plate."
Dibble: "That's all right, I got MVP in the playoffs, too, Ray, by striking guys out throwing strikes, so you've got your opinion, I've got mine....That kid did a great job. He did a fantastic job."
That little exchange pretty much speaks for itself. Remember when this argument was about how effective Stephen Strasburg was in 0-2 counts? Not how two guys, one who is old enough to be my grandfather, played during careers which people don't really care about anymore? Good times ... This is when people really started to call for Dibble's head.
2. "There must be a sale tomorrow going on here or something"
This is the moment when Dibble's comments went from being just playfully annoying, to being potentially offensive. During a game last month, Dibble noticed two women that were sitting right behind home plate who had the nerve to talk amongst themselves while Big Rob was trying call himself a baseball game.
"Those ladies right behind there, they haven't stopped talking the whole game," Rob Dibble said in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's Nats broadcast. "They have some conversation going on. Right here," he said, circling the offenders. "There must be a sale tomorrow going on here or something....Their husbands are going man, don't bring your wife next time."
How dare they try to enjoy the baseball game they payed money to attend. At this point, I started to wonder if Dibble was just a crazy person that MASN had given a polo shirt and a forum for his rants.
Doesn't he realize how slowly baseball moves along? Or does he really expect these women to focus solely on the field for the three hours the game will take to be played? They'd fall asleep, and quickly. And I didn't even mention the sexist bit about shopping.
Then came his apology, or rather lack thereof.
The other night I made an off-handed comment, the meaning of which may have been misconstrued beyond what was said. If any fan of this great game took offense, then he or she should know that this was neither my intention nor my history in the game.
I have had the privilege of knowing a great many fans of all backgrounds who are students of the game. Many of baseball's most insightful fans, television viewers, and callers to my radio show are women.
Here's what that sounded like to me:
I'm sorry YOU got so offended by the things I said. That wasn't my intention, so you must have taken it the wrong way. Oh, and I don't hate women, because I know some of them, which means I can't hate them, I think. I may not respect their opinions or whatever, but that doesn't mean anything, I still know them.
That night, Dibble lost any fans he might have had among the fairer sex. But he was still accepted by most men, and more importantly the organization he worked for. Which he kept for about two weeks before ...
We all know what happened here. It's been talked about almost non-stop in the week since the comments were originally made.
We know that Strasburg had to be pulled because of discomfort in his arm. We know Dibble wanted him to "suck it up" and pitch through what he deemed to be pain, not an injury. And of course, we all know that the discomfort Dibble was referring to was actually a torn tendon that will cause Strasburg to get Tommy John surgery on Friday.
Aside from being flat out wrong about the seriousness of his injury, let's take a second to think about the fight Dibble chose.
Strasburg means the world to the Nationals, and to baseball fans in the city of Washington. He is the golden goose, the savior, baseball jesus, and the messiah all rolled into one. He could slash my tires tomorrow morning, and I'd just wonder what they did to offend him.
Who was going to take Dibble's side in that argument? In a (short) career of announcing mistakes, this is the one that will be the hardest to escape. It will probably follow him for the rest of his career.