Farewell to Rays Index and changes in Tampa Bay baseball passion

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Sports blogs aren’t what they used to be. The Rays blogosphere isn’t close to what it used to be. Passion for the Rays isn’t what it used to be.

A few days ago, Cork Gaines of Rays Index wrote what could be considered a farewell post. Entitled “It’s not you, it’s me … and the Rays and the Oregon Ducks and the New World Order of sports media“, Cork discusses why his website was sparsely written on in 2016.

For years, Cork was a one-man show. He was the biggest one-man blog in the Rays media. Whereas DRaysBay had several top writers, Cork put out daily posts and regular analysis posts that spoke from a fan’s voice. He incorporated stats when needed, but it was not a stat-heavy site. He was a regular guy writing about his favorite team in the voice he wanted to hear.

In 2010, I emailed Cork and asked if I could contribute. Cork approved, and a few days later, my first post on Rays Index, “The Devil in BJ Upton” was published. I wrote for Cork occasionally for five years. My last post on Rays Index appeared in October 2015. While Cork covered the day-to-day happenings, my posts always looked at the big picture from a fan’s point of view. I didn’t look at business and marketing and write from the brain as I do here, I wrote from the heart.

While I consider every post I ever write my pride and joy, I am particularly proud of two posts I wrote for Rays Index:

The Fox Sports Girls post attacked Fox Sports for what I thought was a horrible marketing approach to women. The open letter to the Rays owner was the first of many times I have been critical of Mr. Sternberg.

Other posts on Rays Index were precursors to what I am doing here:

(The last post was written after I started this blog.)

Cork gave me a chance to find my voice. For that, I am thankful.

Now that I have gone solo and started my own site, I’ve learned how tough it is to build an audience, especially on a niche subject such as the business of baseball in Tampa Bay. Although I know business-minded folks, local media, elected officials, and academics have read this site, it hasn’t caught the wave of popular discourse needed to make it my sole interest.

Attracting attention and readers is something Cork discussed in his farewell post.

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.

This is understandable. I don’t have a wife and kids yet, so I have time to put into this site. I have also been blessed with good jobs, some of which I have gotten because of the analysis skills put to use here.

Cork also mentions the need to be on social media. That’s huge. People don’t visit blogs regularly as they used to. RSS readers aren’t used as often as they were years ago. They access their social media feeds, talk and chat, and maybe open links from there.

I once heard that if you post a link on social media, 5% of your followers will click on it. I currently have less than 900 followers on twitter. That means less than 20 people will click on my link. Increase the social media following, and more people are included in the 5%.

As a niche site, I do have a small advantage. If people Google “Rays attendance”, they will usually find my site near the top of the Google search results. This site is usually second to ESPN in the results. That’s a good thing and a major driver for web traffic here.

Cork closes with two very interesting topics: his relationship with other Rays sites and his relationship with the Rays.

While I can’t comment on the animosity between Cork and other writers (I wrote for every site I could for a reason), I would like to comment on his relationship with the Rays.

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.

I totally understand. Rooting for the Rays is tough now. While I am positive Major League Baseball can succeed in Tampa Bay (like NFL and NHL), there is a chance that team may not be the Rays. Maybe there will be a new stadium, attendance will spike for a few years, but the team won’t improve and attendance will decline in a shiny new stadium.

Maybe this is why Tampa Bay politicians and local regions don’t mind putting their dollars into Spring Training stadiums.

If politicians, regional sports commissions, and even one of the top Rays bloggers are hedging their passions, why should anyone care?

Blogs come and go. I’ve written on many defunct blogs. But what scares me most about Cork Gaines reducing his coverage is that the Rays are losing the battle for passion of the Florida sports fan.

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2 comments for “Farewell to Rays Index and changes in Tampa Bay baseball passion

  1. John Butenschoen
    January 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Add a comment…

    John Butenschoen · St. Vincent College, Latrobe, PA
    We moved to Port Charlotte some four years ago. Both of us baseball fans, I with the Mets (formerly for the NY Giants) and my wife in love with the Pirates. We decided early on that inasmuch as we now were going to remain in Florida let’s follow the Rays (as well as the farm club, Stone Crabs). While the Crabs are a whole lot of fun, the Rays have done nothing but disappoint us over these past few years. We do go to some games and enjoy the atmosphere the overall thrill of following the Rays is agonizing at best. To drive one of the points that is most agonizing was watching the play-offs and games leading up to same to see the number of former Rays that are with other clubs and doing just grand. What have we gotten in return.? Bupkis! I could go on but what is the use; apparently nothing is going to change for a good while. Good luck to you with your future efforts and thanks for YOUR erstwhile offerings these past few years.BOOTS and CHRIS

    • Michael Lortz
      January 5, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for using Bupkis – I love that word.

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