I once got to eat seeds in the Rays dugout prior to a playoff game. That was pretty cool.

As most of you have noticed, the frequency of writing here at RI has dropped considerably. I have received a few inquiries asking what was going, but the truth is, I wasn’t sure myself.

What I really needed was some time away to figure out where this website was going because it was becoming impossible to keep doing what had become the standard.

It has been almost 12 years since I wrote the first post for RI. But things are a lot different now.

In that time, I have written nearly ten novels worth of material about the Rays and have gone from a grad student, to a college teacher with a hobby on the side writing under a pseudonym, to a full-time writer and editor who is now married with two amazing children.

More importantly, the sports blogging world in general is not what it used to be.

When I first started RI, the biggest reason was because I knew there were a lot of stories and a lot of information out there in the interwebs that most Rays fans never got to see. I wanted a place where fans would have easy access to all of that information.

The sports internet has grown up a lot in those 12 years, as have the local media covering the Rays. Now, 90% of that information is readily available to fans in a variety of forms. I could still try to bring that last 10% to you guys, but the return (for you and me) on time investment is just no longer the same.

The other major change is that digital news has outgrown blogs. It used to be simple. The most complicated thing you needed to know was some basic HTML coding. The good news is that you really don’t even need to know that anymore. But now, if you want to be competitive, you need an IT department, and maybe more importantly, you need a social media team.

People visiting individual websites directly is becoming the exception more and more. If you want stuff to be read, you need to get it out onto several social media platforms and it needs to be presented in a way that is not only digestible on many different platforms, but is also shareable on those platforms. That stuff alone can take up just as much time as the writing, and sometimes more.

So while my time available to do the writing has gone down, more importantly, the time commitment needed to produce and promote the material has gone way up.

Because of that, the golden era of sports team blogs is probably over. It is Fox Books versus The Shop Around the Corner. It may be less personal, but the big outlets are much better at giving readers what they want.

In the end, that’s OK. All I ever really wanted was for Rays fans to have as much information as they needed and wanted. For a while, RI filled that gap. But in that sense at least, it is no longer needed.

Some blogs will hang on, especially if they are part of a large network. But they will probably never grow beyond what they are now — glorified chat rooms where loyal commenters go to bitch and moan and make sophomoric jokes all day long — without some major overhauls.

And that’s too bad. I would not have the career I have now if I didn’t have years of experience on this blog learning how to be a sports writer and finding my voice.

Oh, there is one other thing has changed, and this is a tough one to swallow: my love for the Rays.

I used to tell people that, like many of you, I was a Rays fan before the Rays existed.

I still remember owning a Florida White Sox cap. I still remember thinking the Giants were moving to Tampa. And I still remember having my dad take me to the large sporting goods store on Hillsborough (next to the boat dealer, the name is slipping my mind) on the first day that the new Devil Rays caps were available because our dream had finally come true: A Major League Baseball team was coming to the Bay Area!

That purple and black cap was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

But that has all changed, and I can largely blame this blog.

Over the last 12 years I have been asked an incredible number of times how somebody can get started as a sports writer. I always gave them the best advice I could to encourage their dreams. But what I really wanted to tell them was “don’t write about your favorite team.”

It is not as great as you would think.

Sure, there are some cool perks. You get to talk to the players. You get to be on the field prior to playoff games. You can email the owner whenever you want.

But you also learn things about your favorite players and your favorite team that you can’t write about and wish you didn’t know. You are forced to deal with some members of the organization that treat you like a boil. And you end up with fellow fans pissed off at you no matter what you write.

I always tell people, as a writer for a team you have three paths you can take: 1) You can be a complete homer and praise everything. If you do, you will piss off one-third of the fans; 2) You can be a complete hater and criticize everything. If you do, you will piss off two-thirds of the fans; or 3) You can try to be honest and objective, praise most, and criticize some. If you do, you will eventually piss off everybody.

I’ve heard it all. I have been called every name in the book. I have been called the “TMZ of Rays blogs.” I have had another Rays blog dedicate entire threads to just making fun of me. I even received death threats (Seriously, Rays fans threatened to kill another Rays fan, because what the Rays really need is fewer fans. Amazing).

There was a time when that stuff not only didn’t bother me, but I actually got a kick out of it. On top of that, it fueled me. I enjoyed that some people got so worked up over what I was writing. But that was before I was married. That was before I had children. That was before I realized there are so many more important things in this world than juvenile internet commenters and angry Rays bloggers.

Now that stuff is just annoying, like an annoying fly that just won’t stop buzzing near your head, and then I realized that not only does it not bother me, but I just no longer care.

And then there is the team itself. It is not their fault, but there is a sense of hopelessness in being a Rays fan. Maybe the Rays will move. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they will find a way to get better. Maybe they won’t.

I used to believe the Rays would never move. Now I am less convinced. I also used to believe that the Rays would always be smarter than everybody else, and at worst, they would always be a good team. Now I am less convinced.

A while back, the University of Oregon Ducks football team found their own “Moneyball” market inefficiency. They played fast. They scored a lot of points. And they wore wild and wacky uniforms that high school kids got excited about. Now every college football team does that, which means Oregon no longer stands out in a crowd. Not coincidentally, Oregon is now struggling and needs a new gimmick.

It’s the same with the Rays. The Rays’ “gimmick” was that they were smarter than other teams and looked at the game differently. Other teams have caught up. And when other teams catch up, it is once again about revenue streams and payrolls and the Rays can’t compete on that playing field. The Rays need a new gimmick and I am no longer confident they will find one.

At the end of the day, the reality is, I just no longer love the team the way I did when I was younger.

Now much of what I loved about the Rays wears the uniforms of the world champs, a team that I liked before the Rays existed. The Cubs are the Rays, but with Joe Maddon, Ben Zobrist, a cooler stadium, a lot more money, and a front office that is just as smart.

Life is short. You do the math.

So what does that mean for the future of this blog?

I still like the Rays. I still love the Tampa Bay area. This blog is not going anywhere. I will still write about the Rays when I feel like it and I won’t write about the Rays when I don’t feel like it. Maybe if I write less I will start to love the team more and I will want to write more. Or maybe we will bring on some other writers and give them a chance to get some experience and find their voice. Maybe we won’t.

It was never about the money. I’ve made a few bucks doing this over the years. It was never about making a career out of this. That I am now a professional writer is just as surprising to me as it is to some of you. It just happened. I’m glad it happened. But I would have been just as happy in my previous life, a pretty good one as The Professor.

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14 Comments

  1. Gus says:

    Email the owner? Feel free to Blind copy me on your next one. I've got a few things to tell that guy.....

    Kevin Cash as Willie Taggart? Sounds about right.

    The only gimmick the Rays front office really had was inheriting a farm system drunk with prospects and not missing the layup when drafting Longo and Price (Beckham a bit of a howler). They handled their assets well for a while, but could never spend limited money well.

    Good luck on your next venture. I appreciate the forum you provided.

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    • OriginalTom says:

      The Rays FO made a number of impressive moves from 2006-2010. 1) Zonrist for Huff. 2) Young for Garza and Bartlett 3) Garza for Archer, Guyer, and Fuld 4) Signing Pena. 5) They also got good mileage from old relievers such as Fahrnsworth and Rodney. I also do not believe taking Longo #3 overall was seen as a lay up at the time. The Rays front office made a bunch of shrewd moves and deseves credit for the teams success from 2008-2013.

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  2. Giles Dowden says:

    A lot of what you write today is so true unfortunately. It's been a great blog that really helped me grow into a pretty big Rays fan after moving to Tampa from Seattle 11 years ago.

    Thanks for your efforts and a job well done!

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  3. rw from TX says:

    I was afraid you were gonna say the blog is shutting down. Glad to hear you're going to keep your hand in, at least a bit. You're hardly the first to go the 'irregular posting' route in recent years, of course. Some of my favorite ones are that way now. It's an understandable trend, for all the reasons you give.

    Happy holidays to you and your family, and thanks!

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  4. Chris Wise says:

    Was wondering what was going on. Thanks for the update.
    Unfortunately, these have been tough years for the down-ticket teams, such as my Durham Bulls, as well.
    Nevertheless, Rays Index set a pretty high bar as it, it seemed to me, tried to find the sweet spot between geek stuff and fun stuff. Mostly, you succeeded and I hope you keep your eye out for a good story.

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  5. Roman says:

    Professor,
    I am a huge Rays fan and I would love the opportunity to contribute. I have read and followed this blog for years and think I can help. Who knows, maybe my kid-like enthusiasm may reach out to the inner professor who bought his first "TB" hat. Please email if you would consider a Tim Drake to your Bruce Wayne.

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  6. My longtime best friend is a beat writer for a major sports team. He is the best writer I've read. He has shared many inside facts with me, over the years, about teams and sports stars and writers.

    I feel qualified, Cork, to say you are an outstanding sports writer. Rather than being a homer, you truly tell it like it is. Probably to the chagrin to some in the Rays' organization and much to your credit.

    I have felt a great void while you've been away. I've relied more on your insight for Rays news than on any other publication. Even if it's on a parttime basis, I'll gladly take whatever you're able to provide.

    Over the years, I've defended the Rays and their owner till I'm blue in the face. When others have said the owner doesn't really care and that the Rays will move, I've gotten into loud shouting matches.

    Now, like you, Cork, I find myself doubting our owner and wondering if the Rays will move. It eats at me, since I know deep inside that the Tampa Bay area is baseball centric and can support a team with an excellent owner.

    Great to have you back. As an eternal optimist, I'll continue to look at the glass as half full.

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  7. Starmand says:

    "Life is short. You do the math."

    I've also done the math and it ain't pretty.

    🙂

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  8. Mark Wolff says:

    I for one have missed and will miss getting great information and some interesting analysis from this Blog. But I understand. While I still love the Rays what is weird for me is this. I watched however many(10?) years of the Rays being bad. Then they got good and I guess it spoiled me. When they were bad again recently I have lost interest in watching. There just always seems to be something more interesting to do than watch them be bad. I hope somehow you find your love for this team again. If not thanks for the last 12 years.

    https://www.facebook.com/Fire-Derek-Shelton-116991958353707/

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  9. Paco says:

    I just wanted to echo many of the other comments people have posted. I truly enjoyed all of your work over the years. Always felt you were pretty even-handed and your writing style was fun. While it's true we can get all the info elsewhere these days, I sincerely appreciate how you collated all the relevant info for us. I liked being able to just view the latest from this site instead of following 7 or 8 Rays-related people on Twitter. I have enough in my Twitter feed as it is.

    I certainly do understand where you're coming from, though. The team hasn't been as much fun to watch recently and the "we're smarter than everyone else" that made it such a fun underdog team to root for is gone. I still watch games and love my Rays, but I can't argue that my interest is less than it used to be. I do hope you'll stick around. Perhaps you should get some other contributors involved to keep the content up?

    Regardless, thanks for everything.

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  10. angrybuddha says:

    Cork,

    I respectfully disagree that the void has been filled in terms of good, thoughtful sports content. The beat writers do a good job reporting the news, but the rest of it is, as you say, fan message boards and the like. One exampleis your GBT: always the best / original way to recap the game. You bring a unique and thoughtful voice to Rays coverage and there's no other place for it.

    I'm hopeful that you'll fade away only to come back strong when the season starts, but if you don't, thanks so much for what you've done here over the past decade.

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  11. monte says:

    Meanwhile the Rays have acquired another strikeout artist, Colby Rasmus, who has a lifetime BA of just .241 and only got to .206 last season. He's good in left field but it is hard to see him adding an offensive punch. He's just taking up salary space that could be used for someone who can at least put the ball in play.

    And wouldn't it be great to see the Rays have a consistent player at other positions in addition to 3rd base! Good grief! We play musical chairs at every other position. Could we have someone be a starter at the same position for more than 3 seasons?

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  12. Taylor says:

    Thanks for the update. I hope you stick with it. This is my go to rays site and the thought of it not being here, I'm not sure where I would go. Keep updating us with Rays news. I know what you mean when you say it's hard being a Rays fan. I remember my dad bringing me to the first opening game when I was 8, loved them ever since. The thought of them leaving kills me. They have no direction, and it seems like everybody including owners are giving up on the Rays.

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  13. monte says:

    Here we all are---wondering if Cork is aware a new season is underway. Come alive, Cork, and give us a comment or two.

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