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Should Rob Dibble be fired for his comments about Stephen Strasburg?

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Where are they going to find a television analyst who is as passionate about this often woebegone baseball team as Dibble has been, even if he occasionally crosses the line of good sense?

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Last year, before Manager Manny Acta finally was dismissed, it was Dibble who went on the air and lambasted the players he felt were dogging it, not giving a professional effort, if any effort at all. That surely made him few friends in the clubhouse, but it certainly spoke to the truth of the sorry situation.

That's been Dibble's redeeming quality. He pulls very few punches, speaks from the heart and has no qualms about criticizing bonehead baseball, no matter where he sees it. He has moaned about Nats pitchers not using their best stuff in critical situations, railed against middle infielders who can't pick up routine ground balls, pointed out sloppy base running, raged over the inability of a hitter to pull off a sacrifice bunt and, of course, howled over egregious errors in umpiring.

But clearly there have been other times when he ventures into dangerous territory. He recently had to publicly apologize for comments made during a telecast mocking women sitting behind home plate having an animated conversation while the game was going on.

"They haven't stopped talking the whole night," he said. "They have some conversation going on here or something. . . . Their husbands must be going 'man, don't bring your wife next time.' "

Yes, it was a dumb, sexist riff and never should have been uttered on air, though it hardly seemed a firing offense at the time. But now, coupled with his dumb and even dumber comments on Strasburg, the Nationals probably do have just cause to push him out of the booth.

Make no mistake, this is a decision the Nationals' brain trust will make, with little or no input from MASN, even if the network technically pays his salary. But I also suspect the television people are hoping Dibble will somehow get a stay of execution. They know he's controversial, but they also know there is something of a Howard Cosell factor in play here, as well.

Whether you loved him or hated him, the late, great Cosell always brought scores more eyeballs to whatever network telecast he happened to be working, perhaps more than any sportscaster in history.

I knew Howard Cosell and Rob Dibble is certainly no Cosell, particularly on the intellect meter. But he has had a similar effect on many Nationals fans. Those who love him praise Dibble for his passion for the game and the team. Those who hate him wonder what sort of outrageous comment he might unload next. But they all tune in.

Dibble made a huge mistake on Strasburg, no question. But maybe he ought to get a second chance, as long as he shows the proper contrition and apologizes to Strasburg, both face to face and on the air. The latter surely would qualify as must see TV, maybe even a ratings bonanza, perhaps the last mega-audience for the Nationals until Stephen Strasburg comes back to pitch again.

Len.Shapiro@washingtonpost.com


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