Shea, who was hired by Washington last Spring Training to be Charlie Slowes' partner in the booth, said that he received the news from Kevin Uhlich, the team's executive vice president, on Wednesday morning. Shea said that he was shocked, because he thought a decision would not be made until ownership was in place.
"Kevin called to say that they were going in a different direction," said Shea. "Kevin didn't want to go into details of what went wrong. He was very apologetic. I thought we were received very well.
"Midseason, we talked about the first half and what they would like to see me do differently. Having been in an American League city all my life, I was slow to adjust to double switches late in ballgames. By midseason, we thought that had been corrected. I was under the impression everybody liked the broadcast. I was a little taken aback today."
Slowes, Uhlich and team president Tony Tavares were not available for comment, but a source said that the Nationals most likely will hire another play-by-play person, instead of a color analyst, to work with Slowes (a Nationals employee) in the booth.
As for Darling, he is expected to sign a two-year deal with SportsNet New York and be an analyst for Mets games, according to a published report. When reached by telephone, Darling declined to comment, but a source said, "It's safe to say that [Darling] will not return to the Nationals."
Darling was hired by MASN a day before the 2005 season started and was partnered with play-by-play voice Mel Proctor, who doesn't know if he will return to the team.
"I've talked to [MASN], but everything was put on hold until this ownership situation is resolved," said Proctor.
In other news, the Nationals are close to finalizing a radio deal with Bonneville International Corp, according to a high-ranking official. Last season the Nationals were broadcast on Z-104 FM and WFED AM, but the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Nationals will now be on the new Washington Post radio station, which launches in late March.
Going for Gathright? The Nationals have expressed interest in Devil Rays outfielder Joey Gathright, who would be the ideal leadoff hitter for the Nationals, but the team was told that its farm system doesn't have enough to get him. The Nationals are competing against the Marlins and Red Sox for Gathright's services.
Gathright, who is considered one of the fastest runners in baseball, hit .276 with 13 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 76 games last year.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.