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Q&A with MASN's Rob Dibble

The Toy Department recently talked with Rob Dibble, who’s in his first season as MASN’s color commentator on Washington Nationals telecasts. Dibble, who won the 1990 National League Championship Series MVP during the Cincinnati Reds’ World Series-winning season, discusses his new broadcasting role, what needs to happen to ignite a true Orioles-Nationals rivalry, how he’d change baseball and more.

For viewers who have watched you for years on any number of sports shows, the Rob Dibble on MASN’s Washington Nationals telecasts seems -- dare I say it -- more mature. At 45, is the Nasty Boy becoming a nice man?

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Rob Dibble: It depends on what role I’m in. If I’m doing semi-comedy, sports-news show, then they want me to be looser and more open. One of the things they always used to say to me was, ‘You really always have this serious look on your face.’ I’m like, ‘I’m really not that serious. It’s just a look I have. That’s maybe a deception on my part, but I can’t change the way I look.’ Anybody who knows me knows I’m nonstop, cracking jokes. I know how my bosses want me to be and how I’m supposed to be in this role and I act accordingly.

Some folks might say you clean up pretty good.

Rob Dibble: I give all the credit to my wife, Jonna, a former school teacher. She’s got her master’s degree and she’s very smart. She says, ‘Listen, you’re not going out there on TV like that.’ She gets a lot of my clothes, like Joseph Abboud and Hugo Boss, and she was just at Nordstrom getting more ties. She’s like, ‘I don’t know, would you like a Burberry tie that’s pink?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t even know who Burberry is.’ She knows all that stuff and I leave it to her.

Would it serve any purpose in your present role on TV to be a more excitable boy?

Rob Dibble: In this role, for now until I know how far I can go and how edgy I can be I’m going to try and be more straightforward and kind of ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ I work for both MASN and the Nationals and I want to be honest with the players on the field, too. It’s their time. It’s not about me.

I’ve already read some blogs and stuff that people are worried about what I’m saying. It has nothing to do with me. I’m not playing. I’m just sitting watching the game, too. I’ve been broadcasting for 12 years and I played for 7 ½. People say, ‘Well, you were this and you were that.’ Well, I’m not that guy anymore. I have to be factually correct. I try to be as informative as possible and be as fair and honest as possible. It’s got me this far. People still try and make me part of the story and that’s somewhat embarrassing because it’s not about me. Some people can’t separate me from the color analyst and me the former player and I’m trying to get some distance.

On The Junkies radio show a few weeks back, I heard you say the Nationals are capable of winning 90 games. Would you care, as they say in Congress, to revise and extend your remarks?

Rob Dibble: I didn’t say what year they would win 90 games (laughs), so I was politically correct. I’ve seen a lot of teams over the last 20 years, not only as a player but as an analyst, and this is an excellent team. They have some huge holes that they need to fill and one of them is defense. This team has all the makings of a 90-win team. They just don’t know it.

They need to put it together on the field as a team. It’s hard to bring in Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen and revamp the bullpen and expect immediate results. They’ve got to jell. You’ve got a new [pitcher], Jordan Zimmerman, who’s as good as anyone I’ve seen in 20 years starting out. But you have to remember he’s still a babe. He’s just a few games into his career, let’s not put a lot of pressure on him. Let’s just let him have fun. The one thing I don’t see the Nationals do is have fun. They don’t realize how talented they are and what a blessing it is to have a job that’s just going out and playing baseball. I had an advantage when I played with the Reds that I played with those guys for 5, 6, 7 years and they were family. I ended my career with Joe Oliver and we played together for a dozen years, from rookie ball to the end. You have to treat your teammates like family. I think the [Nationals] still aren’t family, but they’re getting closer every day.

We have the Orioles and Nationals playing each other six times this season. It’s not much of a rivalry now. Will that ever change and we’ll find ourselves with a honest-to-goodness regional rivalry?

Rob Dibble: Absolutely and very soon. I know my team and I’ve seen the Orioles an awful lot. Dave Trembley is trying to turn things around, but that’s the toughest division in the league and kind of an uphill battle. I think that with some of the younger players coming up and some of the talent I’m seeing on the field, once they settle in and start thinking about getting the bragging rights of the area, that’s when you’re going to get your rivalry. They don’t have to be right next door, like the Cubs and the White Sox. Having grown up in Connecticut between the Red Sox and the Yankees or the Bruins and Rangers and Islanders or the Celtics and the Knicks, you know they want to be the best in the area. When they rise and become competitive in their leagues, then you’ll see a Nationals-Orioles rivalry.

Three batters, nine pitches, three outs. That half inning you pitched against the Padres in 1989 was the mark of a dominant reliever. Is it hard to watch the Nationals pitching staff struggle with their economy of pitches?

Rob Dibble: Yes and no. I try not to put myself out there. I try to realize that maybe they’re not getting the coaching or tutelage at the lower levels like they should. I had a great conversation with Keith Hernandez about how the strike zone has shrunk. That’s the umpires and that’s Major League Baseball’s supervision thing they have going at every stadium. Years ago, you used to get that inside part of the plate. Now they look at it like, ‘In my opinion, you intentionally threw at the guy.’ Well, that’s absurd. A pitcher’s job is to pitch the inside and outside of the plate or else he’s not going to be able to make a living. Now you have umpires making a judgment call on you. When I was on the mound, it was business, it was never personal. Now, if you made it personal, well, you know where I am. I had 24 other guys depending on what I did. When I look at these guys (Nationals) and they’re not throwing strikes and they’re not challenging guys, there’re a number of reasons. So no, it’s not frustrating because I know why.

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You’re a two-time All Star and a member of a the 1990 world champion Reds. But injury cut your career short. Any regrets?

Rob Dibble: I regret that my kids weren’t old enough to see me in my prime. My daughter was just 1 when we won the World Series and my son wasn’t even born yet. My daughter’s 19 and my son is 16. Being a divorced father now remarried, that might be my one and only regret. I don’t have any regrets on the field. I may not have had the quantity, but I had more quality than a lot of guys get in their career. The one thing I miss is being down there with the guys.

A couple of years ago on Fox, you advocated shortening the season and adding two wild card teams and another level to the playoffs to add some excitement to the game. Do you still feel that way?

Rob Dibble: Absolutely. I think stretching a season out nowadays, why do you need to go to 162 games when it used to be 154 games years ago. The first round is five games, which I don’t think is fair. Look at the Angels. You win 100 games, 50 on the road and all of the sudden, boom, you’re out in three games? Or the Cubs — you’re out in three games? I’m not a fan of that ….Why not make it a seven-game wild-card series, add more teams to it and make it more fun. Other sports have said, ‘The more teams in the playoffs, the more fun,’ because at the end of the day, you know what, it gives your fans hope. The players live for the postseason, they want to have something to play for. If you’re out of it by September and you have no shot at the playoffs, it really takes the fun out of the game.

While you still have your commissioner’s hat on, what else do you see that needs attention?

Rob Dibble: What I don’t like about the umpires is they merged. They became like a united front of umpires. There used to be a competitiveness between the two leagues. The National League was a lower strike-zone league. American League was a little bit higher. There was a give and take — ‘We’re the better umpires.’ ‘No we’re the better umpires.’ Now they’re all on the same page and now I’m shocked at how tight the strike zone is. As the game goes on it tightens up even more. That’s why you’re seeing games that are 14-12 and 10-8. Is that where the game is going, that it’s all offense, no defense and no pitching? We’ve lowered the mound, shrunk the strike zone and shrunk the ballparks. Is that all we want—offense?

It sounds like you’re mounting a campaign on behalf of the brothers of the mound.

Rob Dibble: Pitchers don’t want to put people on. My ego? I faced almost 2,000 hitters in my career, I hit 12. I’m not going to put you on for free. You’ve got to earn that right to get on base. I may scare you along the way, but that’s the inside part of the plate. People still consider me a headhunter yet I never threw at anybody’s head and never even came close. I had some good command my first five years until I got injured. To me, there is an art form to pitching inside. It’s no longer taught in junior high, high school and college so that by the time they get to the pros, that’s almost a fear thing that if I hit the guy, he’s going to charge the mound or I’m going to be ejected. If we alleviate a little bit of that fear in a pitcher’s mind, the games will be a little bit tighter. At the end of the game, there’s nothing more exciting than Mariano Rivera coming into Fenway Park with a two-run lead and then you come back on him. That’s better than some game … that ends up being a football score.

If you were putting together a team and you could have one starting pitcher, one everyday player and one reliever to build around, who would you choose?

Rob Dibble: Wow, that’s a tough one. Roy Halladay would be my starter. Albert Pujols would be my everyday player. Brad Lidge would be my closer.

Which two teams do you see in this year's World Series?

Rob Dibble: I’m picking the Cubs and the Red Sox because I’m all about history and I’d like to see the Cubs put this 100-year deal behind them. I love Lou (Piniella) and I love some of the guys on that team. Cubs-Red Sox, I think that would be great for baseball.

And who would you be rooting for?

Rob Dibble: I root for a great story (laughs). I’m the son of a newsman. My dad was a newsman in Connecticut for 50 years.

One last question, Rob. Who was the nastiest Nasty Boy?

Rob Dibble: By far, me (laughs). Being mean and nasty was just part of my nature … I was never well liked on a baseball field. My thing was, you’re going to get a battle. That’s what my dad taught me, to be the best at whatever I do or try to be the best. In a battle out there, you’re going to get the best of me and I’m going to get the best of you. That’s the thing I loved about my career. We could be getting blown out and because of my reputation, benches would stand up and they’d start heckling, but they would still give me their best at-bats.

Top photo: MASN Sports

Bottom photo: Handout

Comments

I watch the Nationals when the O's aren't on, and he's absolutely terrible. He uses the word "we" constantly. The other night, Austin Kearns hit a bases loaded double, and Dibble's clapping was audible. When the umpire called a strike on an opposing batter, he said, "It's about freaking time." The only place for homers in baseball is on the field, not in the booth. Get some objectivity, Rob, and maybe people will take you seriously.

I completely agree with Julie. I love Dibble as a guy on BDSSP (Best Damn Sports Show Period), but as a Nats guy, he's more of a fan than a color commentator.

Hey Julie, I just love it when you O's fans smugly criticize all things Nationals.

It was a nice interview. So just shut up.

Mr. Dibble is absolutely correct about the pitching today in baseball...or lack thereof. I'm currently watching the Minnesota "Cows" smother the White Sox 20-0 at the end of seven innings. And then, there are my Orioles. Ugh.

Considering he followed a consumate professional color analyst in Don Sutton, Dibble's not too bad.

When he says they are a 90 win team, I assume he means if you combine 2009 and 2010, right?

Dibble is HORRIBLE on the air. His flubbed quotes pile up every night. Someone really made a mistake bringing him on board.

Dibble is a bore! He was a bore on both ESPN radio and TV. The prototypical ex-jock with nothing to say and says it poorly. ZZZZZZZZZZ!!

For a town whose baseball television team of Chuck Thompson and Brooks Robinson used to be known as "Homer and Gomer," you guys sure have a lot of nerve.

hey leetee1955. First off, every home team announcer is a homer. Especially back in those days. Geez already! Second, I love the Homer and Gomer thing! Never heard it before but I like it. Brooksie sure could mangle a few names couldn't he?

Chuck Thompson is a Hall of Fame broadcaster and Brooks a hall of fame player. They were both class acts and would point out the good AND the bad. I listened to them both...did you? What takes a lotta nerve is you comparing Dibble..um...a "nasty boy"(wasn't that a bad Janet Jackson song?).... to our guys. Relax. Just because Dibble is awful doesn't reflect on the Nats.

Dibble isn't all that bad as a color analyst, though he always is criticizing the pitch selection. He keeps suggesting that Nats' pitch throw more fast balls and challenge lesser hitters lower in the lineup vs. offspeed pitches that are getting hammered and "speeding up the opposing bats."

I can't really argue with his logic, but I would imagine M. Acta and the pitching coach don't enjoy the constant second guessing by folks getting paychecks from the same employer.

It seems Dibble really wants to be a coach, instead of in the booth.

I don't like how Dibble contsantly uses "we" during telecasts. "We need to get this hitter out..."

On a similar note, Jim Palmer is excellent as an O's analyst. Extremely knowledgable, not afraid to speak his mind, very objective, is critical when he needs to be, and a good voice for commentary.

Julie,

Pay closer attention to any team sponsored broadcast. Whether they use "we" or not, objectivity does not exist. You do not pay Dibble's salary, the Nationals do.

Dibble has been a professional broadcaster at a very high level for 14 years so someone takes him seriously enough to where he can make a pretty good living at it.

He serves his purpose and he does what he does well. Don't attack him for being a homer - someone put him in that position and likely is looking for that type of color analysis.

For any announcer I think you have be enthusiastic about the team you broadcasting for. I'm sure the Toronto TV play-by-play man was a tad more mellow dramatic in his tone calling the Reimold walk-off shot as opposed to Gary Thorne who called the homerun with a jolt of excitement.

It would be a long campaign if you couldn't work 145 plus games a season without getting into the team that you broadcast for.

I also think you can be fair and objective as well. Usually with the Oriole broadcasts you get Jim Palmer or Buck Martinez telling you what the opposing players and teams might be thinking in a given situation. Also if an opposing player makes a great defensive play, the O's announcers won't scoff at it like a homer fan might do for example the opposing 3rd baseman makes a diving catch on a would-be low line-drive double, the O's announcers will give the man his due.

From what little I've heard from Mr. Dibble, he seems fair and straight-forward. I don't think I've heard him diss the opposing teams. I have heard him use "we" a lot in his broadcasts. It doesn't really bother me all that much, he does give you the perspective from both teams in a given situation, and I don't recall him disrespecting the other teams.

I hear him say "We need to get a basehit, or we needed that pitch" and I kind of give him the pass given that he was a former player, but at the same time too, he sounds a bit like a fan in the booth, not that it's a bad thing, just as long as he doesn't become overly homerish.

Everyone has a right to their own opinions, I will say I do also go by the belief that it is easier for me to sit back and critique others for perceived "flaws" especially those in their line of work, when I do not have experience in the same field, such as being a sports broadcaster, major league baseball manager, NFL head coach, etc.

DIBBS........your the MAN!!! I think your one hip cool dude and glad you've joined the nats family and hope you'll stay for years to come!!!
I wrote to you earlier via MASN and am glad you went back to your dark glasses and goth jewelry.he he.
We need some hip cool straight forward and no b.s. from the booth and thanks to you it looks like maybe "THE SAINT" might have got the boot because of your clever and precise analysis of the sorry pitching and even sorrier coaching coming from the bull-pen.We have alot of great young talent in our pitching staff and maybe if you grow tired of the booth you can move over to coaching.I really dug you're recent comment about pitching to Howard from Philly instead of just walking him to get to weaker part of the line up..........BRILLIANT!!!! keep it real and stay yourself "NASTY BOY" your a bresh of fresh air to a rather stuffy uptight city that lives for b.s. and the usual political drama.Thanks for being a Nats fan and welcome to D.C. and hope you decide to make D.C. home for years to come.This team will come around and you'll see how this town goes crazy when their sports teams WIN......it's a wild time and stick around and enjoy the ride!! We love you "DIBBS"

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