Q&A with Nationals TV analyst Dibble
Former Major League reliever shares opinions, insights
Thanks to his overpowering fastball, Rob Dibble had a successful seven-year career. His biggest season came in 1990, when as part of the relief corps called "The Nasty Boys," he helped the Reds win the World Series over the Athletics.
After retiring from the game in 1995, Dibble has become a successful broadcaster. He worked with ESPN from 1998-2004, as a co-host of The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio. Dibble also was a full-time panelist on Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show Period" from 2005-08.
Dibble is in his first year working for MASN as an analyst for Nationals games. He is already a popular figure with fans because of his tell-it-like-it-is style.
MLB.com caught up with Dibble recently to talk baseball and about the Nationals.
MLB.com: This is your first year as an analyst with the Nationals. What is your take on the team?
Dibble: They have a lot of talent and a great offense. The pitching will come. I think you have four rookies right now. And Stephen Strasburg would be another one in the future -- if they bring him into the fold. They changed the bullpen around. It's just one of those years. I played on teams where nothing went right. You had a lot of injuries. It feels like that. But this is a very talented ballclub and I'm glad to be here.
MLB.com: Why do you think it has gone wrong with the Nationals this year?
Dibble: I think before [acting general manager] Mike Rizzo, there were some people that maybe overestimated the talent level and a lot of those guys aren't here anymore. So, Mike has tried to fix things. It wasn't his doing bringing in those guys in here like Daniel Cabrera and Lastings Milledge. I don't think Milledge was big league-ready and that's why he got sent down.
I'm not an evaluator. I'm just an analyst. When you look at the team, you have enough parts to win. They definitely have enough pitching. With Adam Dunn in there, they have maximized the talent with the offense. Alberto Gonzalez is going to be a good player. Anderson Hernandez is going to be a good player. You have some guys who are kind of raw and it's tough. ... Right now, you are in between a rock and a hard place. You just can't go out trade some of your guys and get some older starting pitcher. There is no need for that. You have the pitching here. It's going to take some time. You are going to see growing pains. I'm glad I'm going to be part of it and watch [the growing] happen. It's going to be fun when it turns.
MLB.com: According to the message boards and published reports, you have become a popular figure in Washington because you tell it like it is on the air.
Dibble: That's the way I was brought up. My late father [Walt] was a news man. I just try to be as honest and straightforward as I can. I'm an observer. I'm not down on the field. The story is about the Nationals. I like that I'm able to fit in here. Perhaps people appreciate what I'm doing, but by no means am I the story or anything like that. I've been broadcasting for 12 years. Whether I'm doing radio or doing baseball games, I just try to be as honest and give you my opinion.
For what it's worth, it should not bother the players what I have to say.
Dibble: Absolutely not, as long as its honest and I'm factually correct. When I played, I tried not to listen to the radio, read the paper or things like that. You know what? That should not affect how you play the game. You are being paid to go out and do your job. That's the way I look at baseball. I'm getting paid for my opinion. If I don't have a strong opinion, I'll be out of a job.
MLB.com: When you played with the Reds, you had broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who spoke his mind on the radio. How did you feel about him?
Dibble: I tried not to listen to Marty or anybody else. You might hear him in the clubhouse or something like that. I was busy worrying about what Rob Dibble had to do. Marty Brennaman was our radio guy. I have a lot of respect for him. He is now in the Hall of Fame. He has seen over 5,000 games. I don't know how you can watch that many baseball games.
Coming from a background that I do, where my father was a newsman, I appreciate what you have to do, what Debbi Taylor has to do every night to talk to Manny Acta. That stuff is not easy.
MLB.com: You come from a journalism family. How much of a role did your father play in your success as a broadcaster?
Dibble: My dad was probably one of the nicest and honest people I've ever met. He was a teacher at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. The one thing he always taught me was get your facts straight, No. 1, and try to be fair. I feel I have been that way. When the guys have played well, I'm talking them up. When they make mistakes, I have to point it out. I would love to say this team is perfect, they never made an error, they won every game, but that's not reality. I have to report the news as it happens. Like I said, the players should not be worried about what I have to say. That should not affect them.
MLB.com: According to published reports, you were critical of former Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
Dibble: I wasn't critical of Randy St. Claire. I was more critical of the same game plan. If it's not working, you need to make adjustments. You have to have flexibility in this game. It has nothing to do with Randy. The pitchers and the bullpen did not execute. That's why they are in a situation that they are in. The defense is last in the league because they are not executing. That's the simple truth.
Whether or not I had any problems with Randy St. Claire is kind of a moot point. He is not here anymore. It's Steve McCatty's job to try and turn this around. St Claire was here for seven years. Lou Piniella taught me years ago, "Sometimes, after five years, you may have been in one place too long." Maybe, the way St. Claire approached some of these players isn't the way I would approach them. But he was the pitching coach, not me. It's just my job to be an observer.
MLB.com: In the last few days, people have said that McCatty is an old school guy. Do you believe in old school and new school?
Dibble: No, I don't agree with new school, old school. Baseball has been the same for 130 years. The best pitch is still strike one and you go from there. I had a great conversation with [pitching coach] Don Cooper of the White Sox. He said if you are not attacking the hitter the first three pitches, what are you doing out there? That's the way I was. It's your best stuff against the hitter's best stuff. Other than that, people can call it old school, new school or whatever school, the game hasn't changed.
The only thing that I'm critical of at this point is the strike zone. The other day, Shairon Martis should have received some of those inside, outside calls. They have a new evaluation zone, TV camera in every ballpark. I think that's wrong. Let the umpires do their job and let the pitchers and the players do their job. Like I said, it's a simple game.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.