One argument in favor of Carpenter: If he doesn’t return, Washington fans will get their third broadcasting team in three years in 2012, and it will be Santangelo’s turn to break in a new guy.
Santangelo had the unenviable task of replacing the bombastic Rob Dibble this season. I wrote about the Carpenter-Santangelo pairing on Opening Day, saying that it wasn’t smooth yet but that like any marriage, it needed time. Carpenter and Santangelo had 161 games — I’ve certainly known real marriages that have been shorter.
When I first wrote about the pair, I heard from fans who thought I was too hard on them, and fans who thought I was too easy on them. There are almost as many opinions about broadcasters as there are televisions, and no two opinions are alike.
At that time, I wrote that what Carpenter and Santangelo needed most was time — time for Santangelo to get to know the team, time for Carpenter to get to know Santangelo, time for Santangelo to get to know his partner and his audience. The great booth pairings weren’t great on opening day. It takes time.
After 161 games, I thought the pairing was vastly improved. Santangelo found his comfort level, and he and Carpenter developed a chemistry that is essential for a broadcast team. Santangelo grew more comfortable mentioning his playing career, but I never thought he was overdoing it. Simply put, the two became a team.
I know some fans see Carpenter as too much of a homer and other fans (and the team) find that pleasing. Dibble was disliked by some fans for being not enough of a homer; others found that refreshing. Broadcasting is not a job for the thin-skinned, and finding the perfect pairing is nearly impossible. There are few, if any, Vin Scullys, Ernie Harwells and Jon Millers left in the business.
But I think it would be a mistake by the Nats to keep making changes in the booth. The team finished third in the NL East after a 17-10 record in September — a result envied today by both the Braves and Red Sox — and if they’d played a full 162-game slate, they might have hit .500 for the first time since the 2005 season.
The Nats put a lot of pieces in place that will probably be with the team for many years to come. It’s time to do that in the broadcast booth as well. The Nats picked up some fans this year and if they continue the trajectory begun this season, they’ll pick up even more next year. Fans like familiar, reassuring voices over a long baseball season. The Nats and MASN need to find a way to provide that stability before the 2012 season.