Former Washington Nationals broadcaster Tom Paciorek, whose contract was not renewed by the team this week, expressed dismay and frustration at his dismissal and had sharp words for members of the team's front office.
"Nothing really surprises me in this business, but it's a major disappointment for me because this was my most fun year of broadcasting," he said.
Paciorek, a former outfielder for six major league teams, was hired by the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network as an analyst before this past season, joining longtime Cardinals broadcaster Bob Carpenter. By most fan accounts, the tandem worked well together, and both men said they became close friends while covering the Nationals for 162 games.
MASN executive producer Chris Glass notified Paciorek he would not be retained, although the decision was made by officials from the Nationals, not the network. Paciorek said he was originally told that the rationale for his dismissal was that the team simply "wanted to move in the right direction."
"I'm thinking, I've been in this business for 17 years, and I think I deserve better than that," he said.
When he pressed MASN officials further about the reasoning, Paciorek said he was told the team was interested in an analyst more knowledgeable about pitching and catching.
Paciorek offered kind words to the Lerner family, the majority owners of the Nationals, but said he was disappointed with team president Stan Kasten and Mike Shapiro, the team's vice president for business affairs, for not contacting him directly about the decision. Paciorek also said he had little contact with either throughout much of the season.
"I'm still waiting for that phone call," Paciorek said. "My personality must rub people the wrong way. I've always had trouble relating to people who have authority over me."
When told of Paciorek's comments, Kasten declined to comment. The Nationals were not involved in the hiring of Carpenter and Paciorek because the team was still owned by Major League Baseball last spring.
Carpenter, who is under contract through 2007, said he was "heartbroken" over the decision.
"I thought Tom did an outstanding job analyzing the games for us this year," he said. "I learned a lot of baseball from him this year. I feel like I've lost my best friend. It came as a surprise to me."
Carpenter said he already has received many e-mails from fans who are unhappy with the decision.
"They're upset," he said. "I really think there's going to be a fan reaction."
A replacement for Paciorek has not been named, but there are several high-profile broadcasters who could be looking for work, including former ESPN baseball analyst Harold Reynolds and Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, who was dismissed by TBS and the Atlanta Braves last month.
Paciorek said he has no desire to do broadcast work again but would entertain coaching offers at the professional or amateur level. At the moment, though, he said he is nursing physical wounds -- he has a bad hip -- and the emotional wound left from the knowledge he won't be back at RFK Stadium next season.
"I'm realizing that I'm not going to be able to see Ryan Zimmerman become a superstar," he said. "I love Washington, I love the fans and I'm really going to miss it."
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