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Rob Dibble's had enough of the Nats' defense

Last week, Dave McKenna pointed out that on a horrifically hot Washington afternoon, Rob Dibble was wearing a long-sleeved MASN shirt, presumably to cover up his tattoos. Dibble surely read the post, and responded in the best way possible: by rolling his sleeves up Monday night.

Either that, or he was just getting ready to do some work on the Nats.

"If we were in rookie ball or AA, ok, all right, you guys can't catch the ball, you can't throw it," Dibble said on MASN, as the Nats booted away another brilliant Stephen Strasburg effort with one of the ghastliest half-innings you'll ever see. "You're at the Major League level. This is the highest level. You don't go any higher than this. You gotta catch the ball and throw the ball. It's pretty simple stuff."

Look, I've been critical of Dibble in the past, especially for his triumphalism and his in-booth celebrations, but I think he does some nice work when he's angry. The Nats of recent vintage have been led by managers with an inordinate level of calm, and after the last few days, many fans surely would prefer hair-pulling cooler-smashing anger. That's more of Dibble's thing.

"My point about the defense is you can't go into a ballgame hoping that they make the plays," he said later. "In the Major Leagues, you expect those things to be done. That's not part of the equation, where you're going 'Geez, I hope all of our guys can catch the ball and throw the ball tonight.' I've never been around that. So it's difficult to see so many errors, and guys making these plays. I don't know what the coaches are supposed to do. They're the players. They're supposed to execute. That's what they get paid to do."

Indeed, the Nats now have 69 errors, tops in the Majors, and seven more than anyone else. Their .977 fielding percentage is the worst in MLB. Ian Desmond leads the Majors in errors by a comfortable margin, although his range makes him look considerably better in more advanced fielding measures. Still, the botched double-play ball Monday night is tough to forget.

And none of this is especially new. In 2009, the Nats had a .977 fielding percentage (worst in MLB) and 143 errors, 19 more than any other team. In 2008, their .978 fielding percentage ranked 29th, as did their 123 errors. Overall, since the beginning of 2008, the Nats now have 335 errors; the next-worst club, Texas, has 286 in that span.

"The hits are absent, and so is catching the ball when it means most," Ray Knight said during MASN's post-game show. "Terrible."

"Oftentimes the answers come in simple things, like gloving the ball and throwing it where it needs to be thrown," Bob Carpenter chimed in.

"I mean, Ray and I can only give you our professional opinions," Dibble said. "I mean, we're not running the ballclub, we're not the GM, we're not the manager, and it's up to the players to execute. We've had our time, we've played, we've performed, we've succeeded, and that's where we're coming from."

"We just continue, game after game after game, to make mistakes at the most critical time in the ballgame," Knight said. "I agree with Rob 100 percent, something has to change, and it may be personnel, gotta wake somebody up out there and put somebody in the game that at least catches the ball."

"Hard to find a word that really describes it," Carpenter said. "You've got to catch the ball, and I think the point about personnel is, if you're not gonna score runs anyway, put the defensive guys out there."

"I mean, you've got a leadoff guy that has a .300 on base percentage and has eight runs in the month of June, and that's one of the major problems," Dibble said, turning the spotlight on Nyjer Morgan, who was picked off in the first inning Monday night and made a stupefying throw to the wrong bag in the seventh.

"I mean, you've got to have a guy that can get on base and make things happen....When you've got guys behind you that are dropping the ball and kicking the ball, you can fix that, and you have to have some people within this organization or not that can catch the ball and at least throw the ball. They might not be able to hit....There's got to be somebody in this organization that can do a little bit better job. I'm not saying trade guys, but I'm also saying maybe it's time to give somebody else a chance."

(Dibble had words for Morgan earlier, as well, pointing out that "his on-base percentage for the month of June is .287, he's hitting .250. I don't know how much longer the Nationals can afford to just let him keep leading off the game. And then when he does get on, he gets picked off.")

But the fielding was, for sure, the fuse on this night.

"It does sound simple because it is the simplest part of the game...." Knight said. "You learn to play defense in Little League."

In case you weren't counting, the crew thus made at least seven pleas for players who can "catch the ball," or something along those lines. Seven times. In three innings. Send help.

(Unbelievably, the Nats are now closer to having the worst record in baseball than they are to the NL wild card. They've lost five straight games, two of which were started by Strasburg. And since his call-up, they're 6-13, for a winning percentage of .316.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 29, 2010; 12:26 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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I applaud Dibbs for his comments. For whatever his faults,he does make valid points quite often. And the way this team has performed for the last month,a change is needed. It's just where do you start? And..what options do you really have.

Posted by: ridgely1 | June 29, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

As each day goes by, I like Dibble more and more. And I already liked him plenty. He is absolutely right, this is an embarrassment.

I hate to say it because he seems like such a good guy, but Morgan has to go.

Posted by: bryc3 | June 29, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I don't think its just Morgan, the whole roster needs to take some real time to focus on defense.

Morgan for now needs to be the 8 hitter not the 1. If you can get him on base with the pitcher up then bunting is a great option for the pitcher. You put him in a better position to be a run for the 1-2 guys in their 2nd and 3rd time round. Looking at the stats they may want to consider seeing how Willingham does in the 2 spot with Guzman in the 1 spot.

Defensivly, everyone knew Ian would be a problem his first year or 2 as a rookie. He has great upside, not sure what you can do with him though.

Posted by: alex35332 | June 29, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I've liked Dibble from day one for the simple fact that he's bringing some passion to this pathetic franchise, albeit from the commentary booth. At someone cares amidst a sea of cynics, Red Sox and Redskins fans.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 29, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Morgan was the person that helped turn this squad around last year and helped with winning this year. The team has gone down as he has gone down. There has to be something that is wrong with him. Because he is not playing like the guy that came here last year, he is playing like the guy that the Pirates traded away.....

Morgan is the key to winning. When he is on base, stealing bases and forcing the issue the team plays alot better. They need to work with him to get that confidence back.....


Posted by: punchdaclock | June 29, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Dibble is 100% right ... especially comments directed at Morgan. If that's the best the Nats have in their entire organization, then add CF to the positions not ready for prime time. Morgan is absolutely clueless ... in every aspect of the game. I doubt they could get a bag of used baseballs for him ...

Posted by: VirginiaLonghorn | June 29, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Dibble's dead-on. You can't win without defense. And this team has the worst shortstop in the Majors, and arguably the worst centerfielder.

Posted by: kemp13 | June 29, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Morgan doesn't have natural instincts for the game of Baseball! PERIOD!

He should be in the 8 hole, not LEADOFF!

Posted by: whatyoutalkinboutman | June 29, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I'd say, from the looks of it, the Nats need a new hitting coach. If the players aren't listening to the hitting coach, then sit the player(s) down til they do! I know they are supposed to be "professional" but if this is their idea of what that means, then they need to learn the meaning of "minor league" and go back there. I agree with Dibble, make every player accountable for their actions - or lack thereof - and earn their money and position. Have some pride in what they're doing!

Posted by: burnie4241 | June 29, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Are we seeing the true Morgan or was last year's guy the true Morgan? Is Bernadina's best spot right field or is he a natural center fielder. I think he's looked great in CF and he could be a long term fix at that spot. I'd like someone to prove to me that Morse could not be a consistent big time hitter if he played every day.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | June 29, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Bernandina is listening to eckstien, thats for sure...he's got the Defensive skills and his bat is totally coming around. Move him to Center, Put Morse in right. Move guzman back to short for tonight, since desmond isnt hitting or playing good D, and keep gonzalez at 2nd OR switch guzzy and gonzalez...that might help some

Posted by: BurgwithaU | June 29, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse


You beat me to the punch!!!

Posted by: BurgwithaU | June 29, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I like Dibs, but he gets on Nyjer Morgan way to hard. I understand that Morgan does get picked off a lot, but last night he was safe when he got called out by the 1st base umpire. He is dead right about the Nats play in the field they just stink "ALL OF THEM", including Ryan Zimermann. I hope they have to come to the field about an 4 hours before the game start and take extra-extra fielding practice.

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | June 29, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Great stuff Dan, this is what is needed around here. Apply the heat on the brain-trust and ownership. For far to long this franchise has been given a free pass by the "no baseball brain" media who looked at them as a mere novelty for a few months before the varsity team arrives. Now we have Dibbs saying what needs to be said and hopefully someone is listening. Its to bad that none of the Sports Talkers will spend the kind of time needed to make the LernerStanks uncomfortable, but if Dibbs and Ray Knight are willing to do it I'm glad Dan Steinberg is putting it out front and center.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 29, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

It's a shame that Riggleman is waiting so long. Maybe it comes from an inferiority complex on his part as a manager. Like he feels he was given a chance and wants to give underdog players a chance. I love Dibble because he always tell it like it is and I feel I leaqrn something from him. I think both Dibble and Knight are great baseball analysts.

Posted by: bobilly2 | June 29, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

masn has a good group covering the Nats, I enjoy their work.-Knight, Dibble & Carpenter(&of course, Johnny H) tell it like it is.I like critical, but with a touch of homer, analysis.

Posted by: 23lil | June 29, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Rob Dibble is right on!!!!!! I really like Ian Desmond but it's time for him to go to the minors and learn to field or as a minimum spend a lot of time on the bench. We need to give Alberto Gonzalez a chance at either second or short. He at least can field. Also, Ryan Zimmerman needs to spend about the next 96 hours straight learning to throw the ball to first. Doesn't do much good to make a spectacular fielding play and then pull the first basemen off the bag. Kennedy can go bye bye as far as I'm concerned. He's already cost the Nats at least 3 games with his errors.
And it's not just defense - for the joke of an offense to score 1 (that's one) run in the last 3 outings by Strasburg is bordering on criminal. Stras should be 4-0 right now but these so called major leaguers can't even hit the ball.
I've got a few tickets left for Nats game this year which I plan to give away because I'm tired of watching this debacle of a so-called major league team.
It's time for Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman to kick some butt, trade some folks and send others to Syracuse. For crying out loud, someone exercise some leadership in the organization.

Posted by: Tex4 | June 29, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Back in the spring I mentioned more than a few times the Nats needed a "defence first" middle infielder. John MacDonald of the Jays is onme of the best middle infielders in all of MLB but still only serves as a back-up as he doesn't hit much. He can play SS or 2B and I'm sure could be had in a trade at reasonmable cost. Rizzo, please go after this guy. He could also be a great mentor to Desmond and show him a thing or two about defence. and how to take aswithout givsould singlehsandedlygeton thisI mlobi

Posted by: slopitchtom | June 29, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Back in the spring I mentioned more than a few times the Nats needed a "defence first" middle infielder. John MacDonald of the Jays is one of the best middle infielders in all of MLB but still only serves as a back-up as he doesn't hit much. He can play SS or 2B and I'm sure could be had in a trade at reasonmable cost. Rizzo, please go after this guy. He could also be a great mentor to Desmond and show him a thing or two about defence. and how to take aswithout givsould singlehsandedlygeton thisI mlobi

Posted by: slopitchtom | June 29, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Prior to Harper all of the team's draft choices since 2005 have gone for pitchers.

Little has been developed in the minors or drafted in terms of position player prospects.

And the team has continued that trend at the deadline by trading veterans for minor league pitchers.

At some point the club needs to acquire everyday players.

Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper are not enough to fill out a lineup card, and that's projecting Harper 2-3 years down the road.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | June 29, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Dribble is great at criticising after the fact. The pitcher throws inside and gives up a double and Dribble shouts he should have throw outside.

That is his problem. He is never wrong and hyper-critical of Nats pitchers. Many times he is right but many times he is just a pompous idiot.

His 6 1/2 year career had plenty of low points. In 1993, he walked more than 1 per inning and gave up 2 HRs per 9 innings which sucks!

Dibble's career W/L record was 27/25.

Excerpt on Dibble:

Yes, Dibble had some great moments pitching as a "Nasty Boy" for the Reds but he wants everyone to think he was this Hall of Fame quality pitcher.

He had plenty of blown saves and blow up moments, but he also played on some good Reds teams too.

Dribble does great from his ivory tower with his microphone.

Posted by: dmacman88 | June 29, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I was watching last night and just turned it off after the botched grounder to short and the botched grounder to 3rd base.

Same as the previous games. It's so frutstrating. Who wants to watch a lousy product?

Posted by: JohnnyU2Berry | June 29, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, DMac. I like Dibble alot but he does tend to make it sound like he never, ever walked anyone or made a bad pitch that got hit out of the park. Players make mistakes, it's just hard when they all seem to be making them at the same time. I'm completely stumped as to what has happened to this team, they seemed a month ago to be doing so much better with fielding and timely hitting.

Posted by: skippy1999 | June 29, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Morgan's career is this year, not the fraction of last year that he looked capable. Why Bernadina isn't in center and Morse in right, who knows? Running out of pitchers Friday night was inexcusable. Judging from Manny Acta, we only have 2-3 more years of this.

Riggleman couldn't win with Cubs teams that had ML talent (which this one clearly doesn't). How on earth could he win here?

I can't stand to watch even when Strasburg is pitching.
The worst team in baseball by season's end.

Posted by: bflorhodes | June 29, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Last night's game was disgusting! Strasburg is a great pitcher, but he should spend more time practicing his hitting so he can drive in a run now and then. He'll have to do it all, with no support from this team. Desmond must be benched!! He boots routine grounders and makes some really bad throws, and he's doing nothing offensively. Try Gonzalez or anybody else. I like Dibble as a commentator, especially when it's about pitching. Tyler Clippard should listen to him and stop throwing that change up so much.

Posted by: VegasJim | June 29, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I mean honestly, where are you going to make the changes? Desmond is going through his growing pains but he's an all-star waiting to happen. Zimmerman is fine. Everyone that has played 2B has done fine. Even Dunn has done OK but you can't replace him really because you need his bat. If you do replace him, maybe Morse could be a suitable replacement. For everyone calling for a new RF, I think what you're seeing in Bernandina is an outstanding fielder that is figuring things out after the Nats have shown confidence in him and he's going to end up being a perenial 15 HR, 80 RBI, .285 - .300 hitter. If you have to make a move the only one I can see is moving Bernadina to CF and Morse in RF - I suppose you could put Gonzalez at SS but then do delay Desmond's growth. I honestly think this team is going nowhere with the current pitching staff so you let Desmond ride this out, you get Morgan's confidence back or you replace him - but he's a catalyst when he's right -there's just something going on with him at the moment that is inexplicable, but I don't think you blow this thing up until you see what they do with a major league pitching staff.

Posted by: AsstGM | June 29, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Dibble is spot on here, but a broken clock is right twice a day too. He is a pathetic HOMER -- with his "we" need to score here, the umps are against "us"...I find Nats games nearly unwatchable not because of the lousy play on the field, but b/c of Dibble and Carpenter.

Posted by: dbunkr | June 29, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

And another thing! I watch the Nats religiously and Nats Extra and Postgame because of Carpenter, Dibble, Ray Knight, and Johnny Holliday. I think they're all outstanding together, they feed off each other, and they're all candid in their comments. Personally I hope they (MASN)keeps this team together for as long as they all want to stay.

Posted by: AsstGM | June 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

This is the same poor defensive team that took the field on Opening Day. It is a bad defensive club. It is a bad pitching club. It is an average offensive club.

Posted by: hz9604 | June 29, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"Dibble is spot on here, but a broken clock is right twice a day too. He is a pathetic HOMER -- with his "we" need to score here, the umps are against "us"...I find Nats games nearly unwatchable not because of the lousy play on the field, but b/c of Dibble and Carpenter."
Bingo! Nothing irritates me more than announcers that say "We" and celebrate in the booth. It seems he thinks he's still on the set of BDSSP with Tom ARnold. He was a meathead when he played and he still is. It's like having a less sing-songy version of Hawk Harrelson. Christ, I'd rather listen to Jim Palmer whine about balls and strikes than Dibble taunting other players from the booth.

Get a decent color-man!

Posted by: Please_Fix_VAs_Roads | June 29, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman can't seriously believe Desmond is going to be a star. In six years in the minors he fielded .936, roughly equal to where he is now as the worst-fielding starting SS. You don't come to the majors to improve your fielding; you spend time in the minors getting weeded out. And it's not as if the guy can hit, either. He hit .259 in the minors; he's at .250 in the majors. So we've got a SS - arguably the most critical defensive position - who can't field or hit.

Morgan is another minor leaguer. He pulled a hat-trick last night: got picked off first-base, threw to the wrong base (twice), and struck out. A nice night's work to be sure.

Dibble is spot-on: if you've got guys who can't field or hit, replace with them with guys who can at least field.

Posted by: stratman1 | June 29, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

That's what I thought as well. Advantage Dibble. :-)


Dibble surely read the post, and responded in the best way possible: by rolling his sleeves up Monday night.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 29, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Dibble is the man, he is the only reason I even watch the Nationals when I have time. Dude Desmond SUCKS, Morgan SUCKS, THIS TEAM SUCKS THANKS TO CHEAP OWNERS. I hope that these owners dont do what I believe they are going to do and thats use Strausburg for 4 years and than let him go to Boston or NY.

Posted by: pjohn1 | June 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I think you mean "know" in P15 and "pleas" in P18.

Who edited this post? Ian Desmond?

Posted by: CF11555 | June 29, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Look, the Nats are stinking it up right now and something has to change. Morgan has been awful. That being said, Carpenter and Dibble spend so much time whining and harping (guess it should be Harpenter) on each mistake that it sends me to the mute button for at least half of every game. Who died and made Carpenter the leading expert on every nuance of the game? Although I enjoy Dibble sometimes, whoever pointed out that he specializes in 20/20 hindsight was right on. Dear God, where are Mel Procter and Johh Lowenstein when you need them? I hate the Orioles but enjoyed every minute of every game with those two.

Posted by: truke | June 29, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"Morgan is another minor leaguer. He pulled a hat-trick last night: got picked off first-base,..."

Morgan was picked off just like Armando Galarraga threw a one hitter earlier in the month.

Posted by: ouvan59 | June 29, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

If this team can't hit, then might as well put the best defensive team night in and night out to help the psyche of their young pitching staff, including Strasburg. The worst thing any of these young pitcher need now is to have a lack of trust weighing in on the back of their minds and trying to do too much. I will bet "smart" defensive guys with no hitting power are a dime a dozen in the minors and off the waivers.

Posted by: JohnWWW | June 29, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Nats can't blame Manny Acta this season for the poor fundamentals and coddling the players, rather than having temper tantrums and getting thrown out of games.

Posted by: Monty2 | June 29, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I don’t like Dibble or Carpenter. Dibble sets himself up as this great pro player that never did any wrong or make mistakes. That’s not how I remember him. I agree with the writer that said that they are way too critical of Morgan and others. True you can’t win without defense but I got the point the first time they said it. I truly wish that they would cut out their selective criticism of players. The “big Three” has not been real productive lately. I truly wish they would get a clue from the Baltimore announcers.

Posted by: Badwisky | June 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Not a huge Dibble fan here.

Sure it's easy to sound smart when all you do is criticize and the team is playing badly.

But his commentary has an almost constant undertone of annoyance, and the implication (sometimes stated explicitly) that "if they only listened to me they would be so much better."

He contradicts himself frequently, particularly on whether to pitch inside or away, and in general has become grating.

Ray Knight, on the other hand, is terrific. When he substituted for Dibble he was far superior, while being just as critical when it was appropriate. I wish he would take that job over, but I assume he doesn't want to do the traveling.

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 29, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe you get paid to transcribe what you hear on tv and radio.

Posted by: jajack21 | June 29, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Except for the O's tv announcer (I forget which one it was) who opined this weekend that Pudge was too fast to get doubled off. Um, Pudge has many pluses, but being fleet of foot is not one of them.


I truly wish they would get a clue from the Baltimore announcers.

Posted by: Badwisky | June 29, 2010 2:09 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 29, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

When players stop executing routine fielding plays successfully, it's because they are not using the fundamentals they have been taught. Manager Riggleman needs to do now exactly what he did after taking over last season: Have extra fielding practice, both infield & outfield, until the errors decline to an acceptable level. The fundamentals must be drilled until they become nearly automatic. Players are not machines, so they periodically need refreshers on the basics. Baseball Almanac has a wonderful interview with Danny Litwhiler, a solid major leaguer few remember, & then a college coach & member of the American Baseball Coaches' Hall of Fame. In it he stated: "Billy (Southworth) was the best manager I played for. He went into all the fundamentals. In spring training everybody had to learn how to bunt and slide. You had to learn everything over each year. We really learned how to play baseball, and I carried his training into my coaching." BTW, Southworth managed 13 seasons (Cardinals & Braves), won 4 pennants & 2 World Series, & is a Hall of Famer.

Posted by: 1952dad | June 29, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

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