Rob Dibble Likes the Nats More Than You Do GQ says the MASN broadcaster is one of baseball's worst. Ask him if he cares.

Home Team Sportscaster: Dibble says GQ can kiss his tattoo.
A Homer’s Odyssey

Rob Dibble is the “It” boy of local sports media these days. Any Washington Nationals buzz that isn’t centered on Stephen Strasburg probably has something to do with Dibble, now in his second season as the color commentator in the MASN TV booth.

It hasn’t always been a warm and fuzzy buzz. Earlier this season, the 46-year old former all-star reliever got in a meatheady on-air squabble with postgame host Ray Knight after a Nats loss to the Kansas City Royals. Knight had hinted that Strasburg has yet to learn to throw balls when he’s ahead in the count; even that mild criticism of the young phenom had Dibble ready to brawl with a colleague.

And just last week, the men’s magazine GQ emphasized Dibble’s homer tendencies while placing him and booth partner Bob Carpenter among the five worst announcer pairings in the major leagues.

“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.”

Also last week, a gaggle of local bloggers put together by the site MisterIrrelevant.com produced a drinking game for Nats viewers that tweaks Dibble’s root-root-rooting for the home team. Among the rules: You have to take one drink whenever Dibble says “we,” “our” or “us,” two drinks if he “complains about pitchers throwing too many off-speed pitches,” and three drinks if he “complains about balls and strikes.” (When Dibble’s “tattoos are visible” during the broadcast, that’s also a three-drink moment.)

“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.”

Had he never played pro ball, there’s a good chance Dibble would have still ended up in broadcasting. His father, Walt Dibble, was a newscaster for Connecticut radio stations for 49 years up to his 1997 death. Genes or no, Rob has been gifted with an amazing voice. In person, he seems to have his own subwoofer.

And what comes out of Dibble’s mouth has had folks talking all season. He’d love all fans to love him, and he says the feedback he gets tells him most do. But Dibble, a big wrestling fan, is also fine with some portion of the audience looking at him as a heel, and tuning in just to root against him. The way Dibble sees it, all the noise around him now means he’s doing his job.

The Nats are, as of Tuesday’s loss to Dibble’s old team in Cincinnati, 14 games below .500 and 15.5 games out of the division lead. They’re not going anywhere this year. Dibble, with his hyper grunts and homerific “we’s,” provides one of the few non-Strasburgian reasons for local sports fans to keep following the team after Redskins training camp opens in a couple weeks.

Dibble’s said dumb things before. “I’ve got a tattoo on my ass to prove it,” he says.

That ink came in 2001, after Dibble went on The Dan Patrick Show and predicted before a national radio audience that newly arrived Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki would flop in the Major Leagues. Dibble said he’d get an Ichiro tattoo where the sun don’t shine if he was wrong.

Ichiro went out and won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award his rookie season. Dibble, with a Japanese camera crew on hand to verify, went to a tattoo shop and dropped trou. (He now says he’s got “over 30” tattoos.)

But, no matter how his Ichiro bluster panned out, Dibble says he meant what he said when he said it.

Same goes for anything he’s said since John Angelos recruited him for MASN to the Nats booth before last season. If he sounds like he likes the team that his employers put on the field, it’s because he does. He’ll like them even more next year.

“It’s hard not to root for them,” he says. “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. When they’re losing, it’s almost like you don’t want to be critical of them. It’s a split thing, I’m loyal to the fans, and I’ll get on [the players]. But I’m also loyal to the players, because I know how hard it is.”

Dibble really does know. He was in the Majors for eight years—“Five good ones, three horrible,” he says. During the five good ones, Dibble starred for the Cincinnati Reds, earning the nickname “Nasty Boy.” He won a world series ring and was named MVP of the 1990 National League Championship Series. He was an NL All-Star twice. One of the few hurlers of his generation able to throw a 100-mile-an-hour fastball for strikes, Dibble got his 500th strikeout after just 368 innings on the mound. No pitcher in baseball history ever got there faster. Strasburg won’t beat that.

Even his critics say they admire what Dibble did in his days in uniform. But that only buys him so much goodwill.

“I looked at one of his old baseball cards recently, turned it over and saw what he did in one season: ‘Holy shit! The guy struck out like 140 batters in 90 innings! Incredible!’” says Jamie Mottram, editor of MisterIrrelevant.com and a creator of the drinking game that mocks Dibble the broadcaster. “But, even though he played it, I don’t think he understands anything analytic about the game.”

Chris Needham, who proposed a “Fire Rob Dibble” movement early in the 2010 season on his Nationals blog, Capital Punishment, concurs with Mottram. “We all like a certain level of homer, but he takes it too far,” says Needham, who is also a contributor to the sports website SB Nation DC. “He’s a fan in the booth, and he’s not educating fans.”

Of all the complaints he’s heard, Dibble says there’s only one that bothers him. “The notion that I don’t know the game is laughable,” he says.

The quickest way to get over the criticisms, Dibble says, is to think about what his dad would say if he caught a Nats broadcast—grunts, “we”s and all.

“He would tell me that I’m a character and that I’m good for the game,” Dibble tells me. “He’d say, ‘There’s too many vanilla ice cream people out there, and that’s not your way.’ It wasn’t my nature as a player, and it’s not my nature in what I do today. There’s no act. This is me.”

So if Dibble feels like saying something, critics be damned, he’s going to say it. Unless he’s on the air when the topic turns to whether the Nats’ next Can’t Miss Kid, Bryce Harper, will live up to billing.

“I don’t want another ass tattoo,” Dibble says. cp

Read Cheap Seats Daily every weekday morning at washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk.

Our Readers Say

Thanks for calling to our attention Dibble's excellent stats from his playing days. But the fact remains he's a terrible distraction from the games he's broadcasting, calling attention to himself and not the action. My theory is that Dibble's problems come from doing a baseball talk show on Sirius/XM--a show that doesn't come with a game attached. He doesn't know how to downshift. And while he may see himself as a character, unfortunately it's a character from the school of TV wrestling and the like.
I gotta say I think Dibble is fantastic! First off he's knowledgable and ive definitely learned a few things listening to him. even some common sense stuff that Id never thought about. Secondly, who the hell cares if he's a homer? hes the Nationals' broadcaster! I have more of a problem with national broadcasters showing favorites. Every time he cheers or something like that, I love it. it shows how much he loves being part of the game and wants the Nats to win. Dibble, keep it up!
Dibble - Obnoxious? Yep. A homer? Yep. Entertaining? Absolutely! It's like watching the game with a buddy. He'll talk smack, complain about the umps, and root for the home team. The difference being that he's actually played and knows the game. I find myself entertained and informed every time he's on. Keep up the good work Dibble.
You quote legend-in-his-own-mind Chris Needham as disparaging Dibble because "he's not educating fans." Well, Dibble's predecessor Don Sutton educated fans. For about an inning, until he put them to sleep.

But education is overrated anyway. Needham's fellow twit Kevin Reiss attempted to disparage Dibble by constructing a Venn diagram that was supposed to show that the only Nats fans who like Dibble are the ones with brain damage. But no one educated Reiss, because if there was a Venn diagram anywhere that contained both Kevin Reiss and "persons who understand the concept of a Venn diagram" the circles would not intersect.

Bottom line, though, is that even Dibble's biggest detractors like Needham and Reiss are hanging on every word he says in order to gain new material for their diatribes. People are paying attention to Dibble, and by virtue of that they're watching the broadcast. Which makes him about as big a success as you could hope to be in his business. Ironic, ain't it?
Some people like Jamie Mottram and Chris Needham would like you to think that baseball is brain surgery. It's not! Baseball is a simple game with many intracasies that can be played and understood by anyone. If you need someone to analyze each thing in a baseball then you are not paying attention. Dibble is a fresh breeze in stagnant air, truly entertaining and Carpenter is a good play by play for Dibbs to play off of.
The Nats have made a lot of progress, have a lot of potential, and haven't been nearly as bad as feared this season.

That said, they have been unwatchable much of the time. Dibble at least is interesting, which is more than I can say for the team on most nights.

If he's a clown, send in the clowns. We need some entertainment while watching "our" Nats strike out and leave untold numbers of baserunners stranded.
Hey, it's great to have a guy like Dibble with some passion for the game in the NATS booth. He's conversational, he wants to see this club succeed and he's been there. Besides, Rob Dibble will always walk on water in my book. I took home a lot of $$Benjamins$$ from my fantasy league friends when he was pitching! Let Rob be Rob!
I've been listening to and watching baseball for over 50 years and most of the local announcers will develop a homer attitude, or else the fans will become detached from them. Chuck Thompson's "ism's" whenever the O's made a good play, Harrelson's "He gone" whenever an opponent strikes out, etc. Most of the controversy has come in the last 40 years or so when "color" analysts appeared in the booth. IMO, Dibble's approach is so much more refreshing than Ron Darling was. Whenever Knight has taken over for Dibble, I have to gag with his forced analysis and discussion after every pitch and out. Baseball fans don't need to be educated, but they do enjoy occasional insider banter. My favorite locals were Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein doing Oriole games.
I've been listening to and watching baseball for over 50 years and most of the local announcers develop a homer attitude, or else the fans will become detached from them. Chuck Thompson's "Ain't the beer cold" whenever the O's made a good play; Harrelson's "He gone" whenever an opponent strikes out, etc. Most of the controversy has come in the last 40 years or so when "color" analysts joined the broadcast in the booth. IMO, Dibble's approach is so much more refreshing than Ron Darling was, although I haven't gotten used to Dibble yet. But whenever Ray Knight has taken over for Dibble, I have to gag with his incessant analysis and discussion after every pitch and out. Baseball fans don't need to be "educated" anymore, but they do enjoy occasional casual banter. My favorite local booth team was Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein doing Oriole games.
I have followed baseball for nearly fifty years and was one of the long suffering DC baseball fans who pined away for a team for thirty-four years. I think it's refreshing to have a guy in the booth who has a little personality. When I am not at the game I watch it on TV and think Dibble has a complete grasp of the fundamentals as well as the finer points of the game. I think for casual fans to criticize the knowledge of a guy who's spent his entire life in the game is laughable. Fire Dibble? Shit! Fire MASN, to have the entire market controlled by that maniac in Baltimore is a travesty. Dibble is great, what we need is a network not controlled by the Orioles.
I think that those who don't like Dibble probably do not know the game. They are used to tuning into the World Series and listening to network announcers. Carpenter and Dibble are great and I would hate to see them broken up.
I echo the common sentiment among the commenters. Dibble has made watching the Nationals more enjoyable over the last two seasons. Nobody will ever confuse him with Vin Scully, personality-wise, but so what. I don't view pulling for the team you broadcast 162 games a year wrong. I don't find a bit of irreverance or humor wrong. Carpenter has the ability to be as boring as wet cardboard with a dead partner (see, e.g., Ron Darling and Don Sutton) and Dibble has rejuvenated him. Moreover, if you look beyond the tatoos and Dibble's self-effacing style, something sometimes slips out of him that reveals that he is for more worldly and educated than fans would expect from a former athlete. Keep the guy!
Dibs is great for baseball...and great for the Nats. The problem is that self-important "seamheads" like Mottram and Needham think they ARE baseball. Just because Dibble doesn't spew "basement-of-the-Science-building" statistics, and actually likes the team he broadcasts for, he's seen as inferior by these two know-it-alls. you mean to tell me that Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, Harry Carey, Jack Buck, Vin Scully, and Mel Allen didn't root, root, root for the home team??? How about the sanctimonious Mottram and Needham get 1) a clue, 2) a sense of humor, and 3) a life. Here's hoping Rob Dibble is here, calling the action, in a few years when Rizzo and co. have a true contender in the nation's capital.
Oh, my heavens to Betsy! A few guys with enough free time and social lives to maintain amateur blogs about the Nationals have some bones to pick with an announcer who doesn't live up to their ever-shifting demands. And then an "gentlemen's" magazine, well-known for its coverage of baseball and baseball broadcasting -- cough, cough, bullsh#t, cough -- picks up on these rumors to allow them to be repeated, knowingly, by the metrosexual know-it-alls who perused CG at their hair stylist's. I suspect that if you put these blog types in front of a microphone and told them to announce they'd do no better than if you dropped them in the middle of a bar filled with single women. Feh, to them all. Baseball is a game and Dibble makes watching it more enjoyable.
I was a 12 year old boy when Warner Wolf with Ray Scott talked about the Senators scoring a lot of runs on pantyhose night. I think Rob Dibble makes the broadcast entertaining and is insightful. BTW he is correct that WE (lol) I mean the NATS relievers seem to throw way to many off speed pitches. Keep up the great work Rob and Bob. I hope of you are here to bring us championship ball in a few years.
Dibble the announcer is fine. And Carpenter (i miss him from his old Tulsa days). It's Dibble the XM guy thats terribly annoying simply cause he gets a lot of stuff wrong.
Dibble's homerism is almost beside the point. The point is, I don't want a drunk, obnoxious fan explaining the ballgame to me. If Dibble were sitting behind me at a game, I'd complain to the usher. Dibble's answer to every criticism is,"You never played the game." Unfortunately, Dibble's not even the worst out there. Millar and Grace, to name a couple. To those who love Dibble, more power to you. As for me, I'm turning the sound off and listening to Charlie and Dave.
I grew up in the NYC Metro area and watched the Yankees during the 1970's. No one, repeat, NO ONE was a bigger homer than Phil ("Holy Cow!") Rizzuto... and he is beloved and revered among Yankee fans of my generation.

When Rob Dibble came into the booth, it was a breath of fresh air for Nats fans. His passion made watching last year's broadcasts, and loss after loss after loss, tolerable. And he did the seemingly impossible: he brought Bob Carpenter to life. Today, even Carpenter gets indignant at poor play: "How many times are we going to see the outfielders make the same mistake of throwing to the wrong base?" And Dibble will not hesitate in making appropriate criticisms. That passion when the Nats do something boneheaded nicely balances the "Get out!"s or "Da Hamma layin' down some smack-em, yack-em!"

Bob and Rob are doing just fine. I suspect that, once the team becomes consistently good, Carpenter & Dibble's alleged failings will recede in the minds of the hyper-critical.
I like Dibble a lot and think he's great for the Nats. But Charlie and Dave are fantastic. Radio announcers are always better than their TV counterparts. I grew up with Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. Charlie and Dave are just as good.
As a long-suffering (well, that's relative since it's only been 5 years) and hopeful Nats fan, I watch every game I don't attend and enjoy Dibble 90% of the time. He and Carpenter have a friendly rapport in the booth and it's not like they are serious journalists who mustn't cheer on the team. They're essentially team employees.

Now if you want to hear complaints about truly obnoxious or incompetent TV people, let's talk about Ray Knight (the former) and Debbie Taylor (the latter). Knight outdoes Dibble's mouthiness with far less charm - the guy is just grumpy as hell and we mute when he's subbing in the booth. Taylor is incapable of delivering a sentence without breathlessly flubbing every other word and wrinkling her nasty little witchy nose at us. A highlight recently was Josh Willingham rolling his eyes at her idiocy in a pre-game interview.

Ray at least played his way into a commentator job; pretty sure Debbie blew her way into hers so perhaps there's some talent I just haven't been able to witness.
People watching baseball on TV, especially the Nats, are not casual fans. We don't need an instructor. I've followed baseball very closely for 30 years so know a good bit but Dibble throws out things I don't know on a regular basis. That's nice but I don't need a lesson every pitch.

He's entertaining, passionate. It's a new era, tons of competition for viewers. Dibble isn't my favorite announcer but he's good and growing on me. I'd be happy to see him here for a long time. Frankly, anyone who is passionate about the Nats scores a lot of points with me.
Really?

This many people like a home run call that consists of " GET UP, GET UP!!!! YUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRGGGHHH!" ? It sounds more like a Mountain Dew commercial than a baseball game.

Dibble announces baseball like he's watching UFC or extreme bungie jumping.

Sutton was the other side of the equation, dry, monotone, and boring, but at least gave you information worth a damn. Is it too unreasonable to ask for someone in the middle?

And to all the people defending Dibs, I SERIOUSLY recommend you listen to a game called by Vin Scully, the gold standard in baseball brodcasting. You could be Bill James and still learn something interesting about the game and the players, and it doesn't rely on histronic theatrics like Dibble to be entertaining and engaging.
Just because Vin Scully is the best there ever was, that doesn't make Dibble bad just because he doesn't reach the same level of excellence.
As long as they keep Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaggler in the radio booth, who cares!
Dibble is just what the Nats need. When your team is down in the dumps in last place trying to build for future, you need someone who is rooting for the home team. As far as his critique of the umpires go, that's fair game. They are paid to do job and if they're not doing it then they should be critiqued. Early on, he was right on target when he said they were missing some of Strasburg's strikes.

Keep Dibble. Carpenter sounds like a freed man since Don Sutton left. Keep him too.
Rob Dibble's commentary is flat out enjoyable at times. In this era of cookie-cutter delivery in TV sports broadcasting, he's a little bit different. Dibble doesn't ramble on about crud that has nothing to do with the game going on. He seems to talk about the guys involved in the play in front of him. What a concept! I find his "take" on things entertaining and actually based on -- of all things -- baseball. Bob Carpenter is a play-by-play guy who cleanly calls the play. They are a good duo who will only get better with time. And, yeah, the whole drama about GQ bad-mouthing Rob and Bob. JanetinPotomac's post about that made me chuckle, and it was right on. GQ as the incisive opinion on baseball? If you believe that, you'll be looking for the upcoming NFL season forecast in Cosmo.
He has ruined the XM homeplate morning show. Fire him from MASN, but don't stop there...Dibble jumps to conclusions without waiting on information. That is a bad recipe for an analyst.
The nationals are a bunch of hyper-sensitive school girls. So what if it was Strasburg. I'm done with the Nats until Dibbs is brought back. Now why don't you go buy everyone in the Organization a Participation award for 5th place in the NL East again. Grow some Balls Kasten and Rizzo. The The sissification of America has begun. Your grandparents would be embarressed of you. John V

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