Major League Baseball's gain is Tampa Bay's loss. Joe Magrane, the Rays' television analyst for all 11 seasons of the franchise's existence, has joined the MLB Network, which launches Jan. 1. Magrane, 44, joins a list of other impressive names who have signed on with MLB, including former major-leaguers Al Leiter and Harold Reynolds, Fox announcer Matt Vasgersian, and Hazel Mae of the New England Sports Network. More big names are expected to climb aboard in the coming weeks, and one name rumored is Bob Costas. The MLB Network will be seen in approximately 50-million cable and satellite homes, and have live games, original programming, highlights, classic games and coverage of other baseball events. That's what lies ahead for Magrane, the sharp, irreverent, humorous and sometimes sarcastic analyst. On Thursday, Magrane looked back at his time with the Rays and ahead to his new job.
What are you going to be doing at MLB Network?
It will be myriad of things, some studio analyst work to doing work with the World Baseball Classic to doing baseball games.
It seems as if the MLB Network is bringing in lots of big names. Did that make it more attractive to you?
They're bringing in people that have lots of experience in television. There are one or two names that I either have worked with or played with (he pitched in the majors for eight seasons), and it certainly makes it more attractive to know how much of a commitment is going into this.
Where are you going to be based, and will you move?
The studios are going to be in Secaucus, N.J., in the old MSNBC studios where (Don) Imus and (Keith) Olbermann and so forth did their shows. The studio is a huge, huge building. They're going to have a regulation infield inside the studio. My kids are 13 and 11, and we're very dug into the Tampa Bay area. For now, at least in the immediate, I'm going to commute. But we're definitely looking to relocate.
Was it a tough decision to leave the Rays after 11 years?
It was. I was completely happy with what I was doing. But this was a new challenge. I thought it was a … leap of faith worth taking. It has been 11 years here, and the team is just starting to get it right, so to speak. And working with Dewayne (Staats) just was an honor and a joy. We both had a great passion for what we were doing, and we like each other very much, and I think that showed on the air. We developed, I thought, into a very good team, even when our team on the field wasn't at its best. But working with Dewayne constantly made it enjoyable, and that is a tough part of leaving.
Was it hard to call games for all those seasons when the Rays were so bad?
Not if you have a short attention span like me. I'd forget what happened and then see it again an inning later. Seriously, last year was fun because the Rays aren't a laughingstock anymore.
What was it like calling games for the Rays this past season?
I think I was like everyone out there watching, and I just embraced the personalities, the uniqueness about them, the diversity of them. They weren't these faceless clones. They played great baseball every night, and you could see how close they were and how much they cared about one another and how they genuinely cared all the way through the last game.
Did you think when you left the game as a player that you would turn broadcasting into a career?
It's something I always wanted to do other than actually play the game. My interest was particularly piqued in St. Louis being around great broadcasters like Jack Buck, Dan Dierdorf, Bob Costas. … I have the same enjoyment around the game, although the execution is a bit different.
What do you mean?
Well, there's nothing to replace standing on that hill with 55,000 screaming fans, whether they are for or against you. The game is always going to be the thing.
Yet, you made a clean break. You don't seem like one of those broadcasters who is all chummy with the players and hangs around the clubhouse like you still play.
I don't socialize with players. I did make a clean break when I quit playing. You see a lot of broadcasters standing behind the batting cage, making sure they are seen. I think that's all window dressing. That's all for show. I like talking to players in a more informal setting. That's the style that has worked for me. When there's a certain air of formality about it, players tend to withdraw. But no, I've never been one to hang out (like I still play) and be all buddy-buddy with the guys.
And does that allow you to be critical when necessary?
Exactly. In my mind, I've never said anything dishonest or unfair about a player. I've always tried to be truthful, and I think players respect that, even if you say he made a mistake or isn't playing well. Sometimes, though, egos are fragile. But they should know that it's never personal. I never attack anyone personally.
What are you going to miss about calling Rays games?
The tomfoolery, the high jinks, the shenanigans behind the camera with Dewayne and the crew. The show within the show. That's what I missed most about playing, and that's what I'll miss about broadcasting Rays games — the comradeship, the teasing of one another, the silly giggles and laughs. I'll miss all of that.
What are you not going to miss?
I can't think of a thing I'm not going to miss. It really is a great gig. There's nothing I won't miss. It has been nothing but fun.