In a short phone conversation Monday, Santangelo declined to answer questions about his absence, saying the Nationals would explain the situation. A Nationals spokeswoman then declined to comment, referring questions to MASN. A MASN spokesman also declined to comment.
A MASN spokesman and a Nationals spokeswoman declined to comment on Santangelo’s return Tuesday. Santangelo’s absence was not health-related, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
MASN is jointly owned by the Baltimore Orioles and the Nationals, with the Orioles holding a majority stake. MASN makes final personnel decisions with its employees, though the Nationals do approve hires for their broadcasts.
Santangelo, 53, missed the Nationals’ weekend series with the Miami Marlins. That coincided with the planned absence of play-by-play man Bob Carpenter, who has spent the past week with family, according to people with knowledge of the situation and his own social media posts.
But Santangelo’s absence led to a scramble for the network. Justin Maxwell, a former Nationals player, was tapped for Friday night’s game. Maxwell substituted on the “Nats Xtra” postgame show in 2019 but had never been part of in-game coverage. An Olney, Md., native and University of Maryland graduate, he was a nearby option because he is attending dental school in the area.
On Saturday and Sunday, Grant Paulsen, a longtime local radio host on the team’s flagship station, 106.7 the Fan, was asked to serve as a color analyst alongside Dan Kolko, Carpenter’s fill-in, despite the fact Paulsen also had never worked a major league broadcast. There was no mention of why Santangelo wasn’t on the air.
Paulsen said during Sunday’s game that he had received a late call to take part in in-game coverage.
“You call up the radio guy when he’s sitting on his couch eating Doritos at 11:45 at night, and he’s got to borrow a suit from his brother,” Paulsen said.
When Carpenter took recent games off, the team and network made public statements about Kolko’s temporary promotion to play-by-play duty. With Santangelo, though, MASN has not offered an explanation or answered repeated questions from fans on social media about his whereabouts or status. The network did not make any official announcements about Santangelo’s replacements.
Santangelo has been on the air with MASN since 2011. His move to broadcasting followed a seven-year major league playing career with the Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics.
Since replacing Rob Dibble as the color commentator alongside Carpenter, Santangelo has provided stability for the past decade. From 2005 to 2010, MASN had four different analysts: Ron Darling, Tom Paciorek, Don Sutton and Dibble. Santangelo has distinguished himself with fans by being a visible supporter of the club and by moving full-time to the Washington area from his native California — the only member of the Nationals’ television or radio teams to do so.
Though MASN’s broadcasters are employed by the network, the Nationals have significant say in who calls their games. In 2010, when Dibble, the fiery former reliever who was then Carpenter’s sidekick, criticized the toughness of young pitcher Stephen Strasburg — saying, among other things, “Suck it up, kid,” on his radio show — the Nationals decided to step in and end his tenure.
Dibble broadcast only one more game that year, and then-team president Stan Kasten vehemently defended Strasburg and the team when Dibble criticized them later for his departure. Santangelo took over for Dibble the following spring.
Barry Svrluga and Scott Allen contributed to this report.