At the 2013 SABR Conference, Brad Lidge sat on a panel with Gary Matthews and Dickie Noles when the floor was opened for questions.
I shoved my way to the front of the line and asked Lidge if he remembered calling the Nationals “the best team he’d ever played for” and what sort of brainwashing techniques the Washington front office had used to get him to say it. He laughed it off, then explained how incorrect my quote was (What he said was “most talented,” not “best”) and he stands by that. But as far as the brainwashing went, he ended with this mysterious confession:
“They’d wanted me to say some other stuff, too [about the Phillies], but I was like, ‘…uh, I still have family there.’”
It became clear in that moment that the Nationals’ propaganda machine went all the way to the top, with no care for player safety, and as we will be reminded again in tonight’s series opener, it extends all the way down to the broadcast booth.
The Nationals’ Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo have clearly been ordered by sinister team executives to turn every single moment of a Nationals broadcast into weakly-fueled propaganda, regardless of how under or barely over .500 the team is in reality.
Take this particular play from a few days ago when Ian Desmond singled with the bases loaded and the Nats down by seven runs.
"Carpenter: “Desmond breaks his bat, and that’s an RBI hit! It’s eight to two!”"
“So for the first time tonight, the line is movin’,” Santangelo replies, in the tone of a high school nerd weathering a leather jacket and chewing a toothpick.
"Santangelo: [About fan holding piece of bat that broke off] “That guy approves.”[About Span high-fiving teammates] “The guys in red shirts approve.”[About Desmond] “And that guy’s bat died a hero.”"
Santangelo really likes the sound of that line, but he’s a little worried you didn’t hear it.
"Santangelo: “A good job of hittin’ with two strikes. We’ll watch it shatter here on the X-MO because it died a hero.”"
Did they get it that time? They had to get it that time. I hope that’s not a complex enough metaphor. Went a little dark with it. Like, that bat is dead. I hope it didn’t have a family. I hope there isn’t a litter of miniature bats from the gift shop that depended on that dead hero bat for an income.
Nah, they totally got it. That’s just me – dark, edgy, and rebellious. And they’re all just F.P Santan-jealous.
"Santangelo: “Kind of got in on his hands a little bit,”"
…Santangelo says, a blistering criticism, the severity of which has the potential to put he and his partner into a mental asylum for decades. Thankfullly, he pulls back.
"Santangelo: “…as thebarrel goes flying somewhere, handle in the hand. It takes a strong man to hit a ball that far when the bat breaks that violently,”"
…he says, dictating another chapter of his erotic baseball novel.
"Santangelo: “Desmond with another lousy single.”"
He cuts himself off when he sees the ball pass over Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla’s glove.
"Santangelo: “–Quintanilla can’t get up that high–And all the sudden it’s a six run game.”"
Oh, those Nationals. If losing half their games has proven anything, it’s that they can score seven runs pretty much whenever they want to.
Look, I’m not oblivious. Chris Wheeler thinks everyone is a legend of the game, regardless of what team they’re on or whether or not they actually play the game. Tom McCarthy is a spinning head, forever rising from a hellish vortex. And Franzke and Larry Andersen are clearly planning a museum heist together, while Andersen is anxious for the season to end so he can open a beer without hitting a ‘cough’ button.
At times, I wish they were more like the Nationals broadcasters, taking every botched grounder or pop-up and turning it into the Chevrolet Play of the Game. And at other, more sober times, I just think, “God damn, what is this crap.”