Hmm. So, I was going to write something trying to justify not putting up a single post for over two months. I even started typing it. But let’s face it. There is no possible justification for taking such a holiday right after your team wins a ridiculously improbable American League championship.
The dark months of winter have passed (well, February in Scotland is still firmly winter, but you know what I mean…), the American football season is over, and the (proper) football season in England is reaching its climax.
And yes, baseball is back.
In an odd way, I’m not quite excited yet as I normally am by the time Spring Training kicks into gear. I have a feeling its partly due to the fact that last year I was still watching baseball deep into October – a full month later than I’ve normally closed the book on the season. Then of course, there is the nagging fear – if that’s the right word – of expectations. For possibly the first time ever as a Rays fan, I actually have some. I’m not really sure what to do with that. Frankly, while I know that I have some real expectations for the team this year, I’m not entirely sure what they are. A repeat AL title? Another win in the East? Just getting to the playoffs again? Being happy with challenging the hyper-spending Yankees and Red Sox? I don’t know yet what I’d be happy with.
Anyway, as ever in baseball its been all-change over the winter in St Pete. For a start, the Rays aren’t in St Pete at the moment – they’re at their new spring home in Charlotte. Then there are the player comings and goings. In: Pat Burrell, Matt Joyce, Gabe Kapler, Brian Shouse, Joe Nelson. Out: Edwin Jackson, Eric Hinske, Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli, Trever Miller, Jonny Gomes (sad face 😦 ). Plus a few others in both columns. At some point I’ll probably give my thoughts on the new faces, but here is a rather important one for starters – I really don’t know that I’m comfortable having two outfielders called Gabe.
And since the last time I posted, Dewayne Staats has a new partner for the TV broadcasts. Not exactly a major news story in the grand scheme of things, but for someone who is limited to watching games on TV, it is important. I’ve already posted on the hard job that replacing Joe Magrane will be, and the man taking on the challenge is Kevin Kennedy. I’ve only read good things about him so far, so fingers crossed.
I haven’t seen yet when the first Rays spring training game will be shown on MLB.tv – will have to check on that. Actually, just typing this has made me a bit more excited about seeing them in action again.
Excellent. Rays baseball 2009 is go.
Possibly the best thing about watching sports live is the connection you feel to the players. You can almost feel like you’re part of the team. My current seats at Southampton football games (for when I am actually back down south) are no more than 10 yards from the edge of the pitch. When I shout, the players (and the referee/linesmen!) can hear. I mean sure, I know that they’re not going to take any notice of me, but they can hear. And when you’re that close, watching them all season long, you get to know them. Not in a personal, go and have a chat way, but you get a feel for their personality, their style – basically of who they are.
Its something you just don’t get from watching on TV. And thats what I find sometimes about the Rays. As much as I love watching them, and as badly as I want them to do well, I don’t have that connection to the team that comes with seeing them live.
The wonderful thing though about watching baseball on TV is that you can get a connection. Not to the players or the manager, but, thanks to local TV stations showing virtually every game, to the broadcasters. And for me – and no doubt many other Rays fans – that link has always been Todd Kalas, Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane.
To me, they are as big a part of Rays baseball as anyone who puts on their glove and takes the field.
And as far as I’m concerned, not only are they Rays institutions, they’re among the very best in the business.
Which is why I’m doubly saddened with the news announced earlier this week that in 2009, for the first time ever, Joe Magrane will not be calling the Rays.
Its sadness on an entirely selfish level of course – Joe has been hired by MLB network, a fantastic opportunity for him to put his outstanding analytical and personable skills to use in front of a far larger audience (potentially) than he has for Rays games. I’m sure he will do fantastically – he is a brilliant broadcaster – and I do of course wish him the best of luck.
But, at the risk of sounding incredibly cliched, it does make me want to cry out, “say it ain’t so, Joe?”
I know from experience, from the time (a few months? It seems more) before MLB.tv offered both the home and away feed, that not all broadcasters are created equal. Some can be patronising, some can be ignorant and ill-informed, and some can be just downright annoying. But Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane are none of those things. They are entertaining, informative and – something that is too easily overlooked – talk to the viewers, and not at them. I’m piling up the cliches at a rapid rate now, but watching the Rays with them is honestly like inviting a couple of friends into your house.
Now, as far as I know, the legend that is Dewayne Staats is staying on. As is “the strapping young lad” Todd Kalas. And no doubt a new man will come in, and in his own way be entertaining and informative. And we’ll still have Staats’ to guide us through the action.
But Rays baseball without Dewayne and Joe in the booth – well, for me at least, its never going to be the same again.