Today is the tenth anniversary of the launch of DRaysBay. For ten years this website has been home to some of the best and brightest of baseball writers, particularly concerning the Tampa Bay Rays.
I am honored to be a part of this site and it's long history, and grateful to Justin Bopp, Tyler Bleszinski, Ian Malinowski, and you the reader for letting me be a part of this journey as the site's seventh manager in it's ten year span.
Before me were David Bloom, Jake Larson, Patrick Kennedy, Tommy Rancel, Steve Slowinski, and the aforementioned Ian, now my right hand man. There was also the undoubted influence of so many, R.J. Anderson (who wrote for this site and managed Beyond the Box Score), the Jason's of Dock of the Rays, so many great writers who have graced the front page (Michael, Scott, Kevin, here's to you), and the many more who lived in the comment section, and continue to do so today as we further this community about the Tampa Bay Rays.
We've received many thank you's in the past, but we've rarely properly thanked you (the reader), or those who came before us (the writers) and paved the way. The only real thank you we've ever done was for Carl Crawford!
So to commemorate this special occasion, here's a brief look back on the beginning of this site, and some thoughts from some of those who helped make it what it is today.
Thank you for reading, enjoying, and participating in the conversation.
This website began many years ago as a little place called Ya Gotta Believe! at the inauspicious url of http://yagottabelieve.weblogs.us/, beginning in December of 2002 under the pen of David Bloom.
Just as in hockey where there is an Original Six, so it is with SB Nation, and that storied history includes DRaysBay. As one of the very first to join "Sports Blog Nation" as it was being created by the guys over at Athletics Nation, the Devil Rays blog was officially the sixth of six, following McCovey Chronicles, Red Reporter, Lookout Landing, and Bleed Cubbie Blue; preceding Minor League Ball, a creation by John Sickels.
For those interested in taking a walk down memory lane, these were the first five articles published under the DRaysBay name, all by Bloom:
The inaugural post, the origin of this species we call baseball analysis, launching the deep dive into Ball on a Budget that hasn't relented in a decade.
A real window into the past, David and a few other Rays bloggers from the internet's early days discuss the state of the Rays over a three part feature to commemorate the start of the blog.
The first news update on the site, which includes some aspiration for the potential of Robby Hammock. Later articles would follow up with the latest on Baldelli and another certain Devil Ray's recovery.
For those interested in Part Three of this discussion, you can find it here.
Rightfully so, this post focused on the recent announcement that the Rays had brought in a new set of announcers to be the voices of the Rays: Andy Freed, from Triple-A Pawtucket as the new play-by-play man, and Dave Wills of the White Sox, provided color commentary.
The change was part of a new strategy of teams owning the rights to their own radio broadcasts, and they would prove to be excellent hires, with both men remaining in their posts to this day and continuing to be among the best in the game.
Many changes would be in store for the site as well, David would welcome many new faces and the website would blossom into the statistically driven, free flowing, obsessive place it is today. Many thanks to David for his investment and creativity that birthed so much.
Memories and Well Wishes
To further commemorate this anniversary, I reached out to a few luminaries and former managers to ask for a favorite memory regarding DRaysBay, or at least for their thoughts on the site. Their responses are below:
There are very few areas one can simultaneously engage both intellectually and emotionally to the extent one can with sports, and ever since I first stumbled on DRaysBay during the RJ/Tommy era -- at around the same time I left Florida -- it's been my sanctuary for just that. Someday I'll probably write a personal essay about this that no one will want to read, but Danny asked for two sentences. Put briefly, I come here because it's a reflection of home that I'm fiercely proud of. DRaysBay has always had both a brain and a heart.
I know someone who said that DRaysBay is the best fan site out there. When I was in the press box, people said they enjoyed reading the stuff. The day the first stage of the stadium proposal went live, I got a text from someone in the front office who thanked us for the hard work and the story was buzzing around the office. From proposing stadiums to stalking GM's in interviews, DRaysBay has always been a source of pride and entertainment for me. Several members are lucky enough to call me a friend...have I humblebragges enough for Dickie yet?
DRaysBay is the central hub for Rays fans on the internet. In addition to the local sports eBar environment, it also produced one of the finest baseball writers locally or nationally.
Favorite memory: The Swagger of Rafael Soriano.
R.J. Anderson has evolved in a must-read on all matters regarding the Major Leagues, but this piece in particular stands out as one of the first pieces in which he started finding his voice.
I joined the staff at DRaysBay when I was 14, in August of 2005. When I joined, Vince Naimoli was still the owner, Chuck LaMar was still the GM, and Lou Piniella was going through the motions in his last season. To think that the Rays would go from that team to pennant-winners in the three years that I was affiliated with the site is absolutely incredible in retrospect, and being involved with DRaysBay gave me a front-row seat to the transition.
When I think of all the experiences that I had writing for the site, interviewing folks affiliated with the team, staying on top of every morsel of information, and basically making the site a centerpiece of my life... it's incredibly gratifying to see that it has made it ten years. It even outlasted the Maddon/Friedman duo!
Those three years were an amazing time to follow the Rays, and they were quite impactful on my life. I'll never forget David Bloom -- who brought me on as a writer -- and the many talented writers that I was privileged to work with, particularly R.J. Anderson. Others -- Jake Larsen and some of the early folks at SBN -- also deserve recognition for their efforts and support of the site as well. Hopefully, making it ten years means that the site has reached the status of an institution... and that it will be around for many years to come.
Before the internet was flooded with saber-influence, DRaysBay was an early adopter in the saber-blog world, and served as a place where smart, reasoned fans could talk about those ideas. That was always the draw. Being a part of it over the last seven years is something I'm very proud of. So, don't screw it up, Danny.
Back in the winter and spring of 2008, I was studying abroad in Denmark and although I didn't quite realize it at the time, had a serious case of homesickness. I'd discovered DRaysBay and Fire Joe Morgan shortly before leaving on the trip, and ended up compulsively checking both sites multiples times a day and inhaling anything written by R.J. or Tommy. They were my introduction to the wonderful world of blogs, Twitter, sabermetrics, and--more broadly speaking--to applying critical thinking to sports. DRaysBay kept me connected to home, while providing me with a way to follow along with the Rays as they took the whole American League by surprise. What a year.
Favorite memory: Theendless Sonnanstine vs. Jackson debates. Defending BJ Upton again and again and again...and again. This Week In Sun Sports. Our epic stadium proposal in 2011 (complete with renderings!). Casey fraking Kotchman's eye puss. CB Jones' hilarious "Choose Your Own Adventure" (and the near-subsequent lawsuit that caused). The saber 101 series. Gomesrage. Velociraptor Jesus. The Great Pumpkin. And of course, Fiddle Cat.
In addition to their impressive baseball acumen, Tommy and Sternfan are two of the best site-runners around. They made DRB an enjoyable place for many, including me.
DRaysBay was one of the original six sites I started the entire company with and has always been a place that has fostered intelligent fan analysis and nurtured some of the brightest around. It will always hold a sentimental spot in my heart because, along with my own site Athletics Nation, it exemplifies that in our sports blog team network a small market team like the Rays or the A's can stand up with just as much passion and importance as the Yankees or Red Sox.
DRaysBay was an invaluable source of information and support during the three years I spent obsessing over the Rays for The Extra 2%. If I were to rate this website on a scale of 1 to 7, I would give it a 6.9420.
Thank you for being a part of DRaysBay. We exist to shine a light on the Tampa Bay Rays, their methods of genius and their methods of madness, and to engage you the reader in a conversation about this very special team. The underdog, the small market team, the unexpected and unlikeliest, and sometimes the unfortunate. We are all merely fans of this team and this great game, and we appreciate your support.
Thank you for reading DRaysBay.