As TV voice of the Washington Nationals, Tulsan Bob Carpenter has one of the coolest jobs in baseball broadcasting. It's even more exciting this season as the once lowly Nationals have compiled the best record in baseball.
“I drive past the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol on my way to work everyday,” Carpenter said in a phone interview. “At night from our booth, we can see the Capitol all lit up. That's kind of a unique thing … It's definitely an interesting place for a boy from the Midwest to be. Probably the last place I expected to be working, but it's been very interesting.”
Carpenter said regular visitors to Nationals Park include political columnist George Will and ESPN commentator Tony Kornheiser, a former Washington Post columnist. In recent weeks, he said first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have attended games. President Barack Obama made it to the ballpark for the 2010 season opener and appeared in the broadcast booth.
Will even uses the baseball score book (bcscorebook.com) that Carpenter developed, which is used by numerous minor league and MLB announcers. “George is great baseball guy,” Carpenter said. “He's a very knowledgeable guy. I have had a chance to do some q-and-as with him in front of our fans.”
A former St. Louis Cardinals and ESPN announcer, Carpenter, 59, has broadcast Nationals games for seven seasons and covered Major League Baseball for 29 years. But he said he is surprised as anyone with the team's record 77-46 record (through Wednesday). The National's previous best win total was 80 games last year.
“We were encouraged by the way they finished last season, winning 15 out of 20 in September. I don't think anything convinced use we would have the best record in baseball toward the end of August.”
Carpenter said the National League's best pitching staff, second-best defense and timely hitting as carried the team under veteran manager Davey Johnson, 69. Twenty-six years ago, he managed the New York Mets to the world championship.
“The whole pitching staff has been No. 1 in ERA in the league the entire year,” he said. “For the first month of the so, they were under 2 on the ERA, which is absolutely ridiculous. It's not just the starters. It's a good bullpen.
“We also have all of our regular guys healthy for the first time this year. It seems sort of absurd to say it but if the pitching keeps doing what it's doing, and now with all these guys back, these guys have a chance to be even better.”
If the Nationals are going to make postseason run, they are expected to do it without pitching ace Stephen Strasburg, who is 15-5 with a 2.85 ERA and has struck out a league-leading 183 batters in 145 innings. Carpenter said Strasburg, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, soon is going to hang it up for the year.
“There is no doubt in my mind that they are going to shut him down sometime in the next month. I don't know when it's going to be,” he said. “From what I've been told by different people with the club, I don't expect there is anyway he is going to pitch in the postseason.”
Carpenter noted the controversial strategy worked for the Nationals last year in shutting down Jordan Zimmerman after 160 innings. “This year he has been one of the better pitchers in the National League,” he said.
Although Strasburg's absence will create a big void on the pitching staff, Carpenter said the Nationals still can overcome his absence. “He's not the whole staff. We have some other really good pitchers, but obviously he is the horse.”
Carpenter, who also broadcasts OU men's and women's basketball games, spends the offseason in Tulsa with his wife, Debbie. He occasionally gets back to Tulsa during the baseball season, including making it back for his daughter Allison's graduation from OSU and to emcee the Henry Iba Awards.
Carpenter, who is in the option year of his contract, said he hopes to return to the Nationals next season. Last year the club was seven weeks late in renewing his contract, which added to speculation that he wouldn't be back this season.
“I'm hopeful we'll work something out for next year,” he said. “I like it here.”
He noted he has several friends in Washington, including John Walls, a former Tulsa news and sports anchor.