TV: Washington Nationals

Flagship: Mid-Atlantic Sports Network 2 (MASN 2)

PxP: Bob Carpenter (since 2006)

Color: F.P. Santangelo (since 2011)

Reviewer: David B. Wilkerson

Category: Play by Play
Grade: 60

As befitting a broadcaster who conceived one of the most respected and widely-used baseball scorebooks, Bob Carpenter’s preparation and attention to detail are apparent during every Washington Nationals telecast. His narration of the game as it unfolds is crisp and surefooted, with all the context a viewer could want during each at-bat.

One can tune in to a Nationals telecast in the middle of the game and learn before very long how the club has been doing in recent days, why the trend is positive or negative, and the state of the opposing team.

Carpenter has an ideal broadcast voice, a pleasant, authoritative baritone that would have been at home on broadcasts of the 1950s or ’60s. When big moments occur, he is able to use this instrument to dramatic effect.

At important moments in the game, particularly in the later innings, Carpenter’s play-by-play becomes more staccato, allowing pockets of silence to interrupt his ongoing banter with color commentator F.P. Santangelo. This helps to heighten the drama, as Carpenter sticks to basic descriptions of the count, the disposition of any base runners, what kind of pitch has been thrown, and the result of the at-bat. In these moments, he may omit prepositions (“Runner on the move. Ramos – he gets it there and – out! On an athletic play by Desmond … ”).

He has a signature home run call (“SEE! YOU! LATER!”), but does not always use it. An amusing moment came during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies when, prompted by Santangelo, a graphic was produced showing that Carpenter had used the trademark call on six of the 21 home runs the club hit during a recent road trip. Right after the mini-feature finished, the Nats’ Wilson Ramos hit long homer, prompting the variation “SEE! YOU! IN THE BULLPEN!”

Occasionally, Carpenter misjudges long fly balls, going into a home run call only to see the ball hit the wall or bounce onto the warning track. While he has taken an unusual amount of criticism for this, it must be observed that he recovers quickly, getting back to the result of the play and allowing Santangelo to make his remarks.

Carpenter is certainly the No. 1 asset of Nationals telecasts.

Category: Color Commentary
Grade: 55

Santangelo brings enthusiasm and good, if not great, analysis to the broadcasts. As a former player, he can effectively describe why a pitcher or batter wins that central confrontation.

Having played both the outfield and infield during his career, Santangelo is adept at helping viewers understand just how hard the game is to play defensively. On a relatively routine ground ball to Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, Santangelo noted that the play wasn’t as simple as it looked, invoking the most memorable play of the 1986 World Series. “Those top spinners, those squibbers down the first base line, can be tough – just ask Bill Buckner. That was very similar … I think the hardest part about that play is that when it gets into your glove, it’s still spinning, and has a propensity to jump out of your glove. That’s when you really have to secure [it] with your top hand to stop the rotation on the baseball.”

Santangelo is also good at broader observations about the offensive side of the game. During a Nationals scoring spree, Santangelo addressed the old adage, “Hitting is contagious,” in a way that suggested a more nuanced way to look at what may be happening when the hitters are on a roll. “I don’t know that [the saying is] true,” he said to Carpenter while the two were on camera during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. “But when the guy in front of you is having a good at-bat, the guy behind you is having a good at-bat, you’re putting pressure on the pitcher to work hard to get the out – now you’re wearing guys down, and you’re reaping the benefits of it when your swing is right.”

Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
Grade: 55

In their third season together, Carpenter and Santangelo have established a nice rhythm, with the play-by-play man leaving plenty of space for his partner to offer his thoughts.

The broadcast team isn’t afraid to express their joy when the Nationals are playing well, or their admiration for Washington D.C. , which may not sit well with viewers who just want straight reportage.

As the Nats took on the Braves, Carpenter remarked about how special it was that the area got a third chance at a Major League franchise in 2005 after being abandoned for both Minnesota and Dallas-Forth Worth. Santangelo noted, “On so many teams around the country, guys make fun of the city they play in. Not here. To a man, everybody loves Washington D.C.”

Because he has collected so many anecdotes and bits of useful information prior to the game, Carpenter is one of the best at seizing on a passing comment from either Santangelo or field reporter Julie Alexandria to generate an interesting discussion. One example came during a game against the New York Mets, when it was mentioned that Nationals outfielder Denard Span went on a long hitting streak shortly after he stopped doing a lot of extra hitting in the batting cage before games. Carpenter took the opportunity to engage Santangelo in a lengthy consideration of whether modern-day Major Leaguers, who may arrive at the ballpark at 1:30 p.m. for a 7:05 start, take so much batting practice that they are largely spent by game time. The conversation took some fascinating twists, while the game situation – a man on for the Nats in the top of the third inning, Nats leading 2-0 – never got away from the two announcers.

Category: Charisma and Chemistry
Grade: 55

Carpenter and Santangelo make an entertaining team, playfully mentioning softball games between MASN crew members and other bits of business, or joshing about one or the other’s interests or pet peeves.

When game situations are serious, the duo knows how to get down to business, as Carpenter’s tone accents the drama of a key moment, and Santangelo responds appropriately.

Santangelo’s enthusiasm will strike some as chirpy, but as noted above, the banter is smooth, with neither man stepping on the other, and Carpenter is able to slow down the chatter when he wants more focus on key at-bats as the game progresses.

Category: Analysis
Grade: 55

Carpenter and Santangelo largely succeed in their attempt to balance basic analysis of game situations with more subtle observations that will be valuable to seasoned viewers.

During a game against the New York Mets, with the Nats leading 4-1 in the sixth inning and a man at first with nobody out, the Mets’ Justin Turner doubled to deep left center off Jordan Zimmerman. Santangelo explained the difficulties that confronted center fielder Denard Span on the play, who got the ball back to the infield in time to keep a run from scoring. “There’s a point of no return as a center fielder,” Santangelo said, “when you have to decide, am I going to go back to the wall, or am I going to play it off the wall. Span realized he couldn’t get to the baseball based on how high it hit, and played it on a hop. If you get too close to the wall, it caroms back, Turner’s on third [and] a run is in … That’s well-played.” When the club was able to get out of the inning without much damage, Carpenter underscored the solid defense that stopped the bleeding, including a laser-like throw from catcher Wilson Ramos that prevented a stolen base.

Nationals telecasts do sometimes make use of advanced statistics such as OPS during a graphic insert sponsored by U.S. government contractor STG and branded as “STG Inside The Numbers.” Carpenter explains the definitions as leaders in a given category are mentioned.

Category: Production Values
Grade: 55

Camera work, graphics and direction are strong, combining to create a broadcast that feels energetic without indulging in the excesses of the Fox Sports template. A “pitch tracker” helps viewers review borderline ball-and-strike calls. Replays are crisp, with angles that usually make it clear whether a disputed call on the bases or elsewhere was correct.

Editing is smart, offering efficient review of pitch sequences, the scoring in a given game or the team’s adventures over a span of several days or weeks.

Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
Grade: 50

Promotional material and commercial tie-ins are handled routinely, with nothing distracting or otherwise remarkable. Cutaways to field reporter Julie Alexandria are handled well, as Carpenter makes good use of her contributions to spark interesting discussions with Santangelo.

Category: Overall
Grade: 55

Bob Carpenter is the best thing about Washington Nationals broadcasts, which are buoyed by his polished descriptions of basic situations and flair for the dramatic. He feeds color commentator F.P. Santangelo perfectly, and the former player responds with remarks that help the viewer understand nuances that make the difference between wins and losses. Solid production values help keep the game in perspective, rounding out an above-average telecast.

 

About the author:

David B. Wilkerson is a veteran journalist and lifelong baseball fan who joined SABR in 2012. His work, usually focused on the business of media, has appeared at MarketWatch and the Dow Jones Newswires.

 

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this evaluation are solely those of the author.  As such, the views expressed by the author should not be interpreted as representing the opinions of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), its board, or anyone otherwise affiliated with SABR.  Likewise, the conclusions included in these evaluations are not to be viewed or interpreted as official endorsements (or lack thereof) by SABR, or of anyone affiliated with SABR, of any particular broadcasters or broadcast organizations.

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