Deep Thought: Internet paywall edition

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In the wake of Rob Neyer’s announcement that he’s leaving ESPN yesterday, I’ve encountered a good dozen or more people on Twitter, on various message boards and in comments sections saying something to the effect of “I used to read Neyer all the time, but since he’s been behind a paywall, I haven’t read him in years.”

Which is crazy, because Rob’s time behind ESPN’s Insider paywall was relatively brief and ended years ago. His blog went behind the paywall in 2004.  It was out and free again no later than 2007 and may have been out as earlier.  It’s been free ever since.

There are an increasing number of media outlets looking to put sports content behind paywalls these days. Newsday has done it for a good year or more. The Dallas Morning News will be doing it soon.  That’s their prerogative, of course, and I wish them well. But they should look at the Neyer example and realize that once you go pay, people move on and it’s very, very hard to get them back.

Neyer’s brand was ultimately too strong to kill, but I don’t think that applies to everyone.  There are just too many choices out there.

UPDATE:  Paywalls kill, yo.

Felix Hernandez will miss 3-4 weeks with shoulder bursitis

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Mariners’ right-hander Felix Hernandez is looking at a 3-4 week recovery period, the team announced on Friday. Hernandez has been officially diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder after getting pulled from his last start against the Tigers on Tuesday.

It’s not the first shoulder issue the 31-year-old righty has dealt with during his career. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes that Hernandez was previously diagnosed with bursitis during a minor league stint in 2005, several weeks prior to making his major league start for Seattle. This time around, however, the injury is coupled with a few years of not-so-sharp stuff, waning velocity and career-low numbers, and while it’s certainly not a worst-case diagnosis, it seems like greater cause for concern.

Without Felix, the Mariners will keep rolling with James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo and Chase De Jong in their rotation. They’ll also keep Ben Gamel in right field, with starting right fielder Mitch Haniger expected to miss 3-4 weeks after sustaining a Grade 2 strain in his right oblique on Tuesday.

Rays acquire RHP Drew Smith from Tigers

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The Rays acquired minor league reliever Drew Smith from the Tigers on Friday, per a team announcement. The move will close the loop on the trade the two teams began in January for backup outfielder Mikie Mahtook.

Smith, 23, pitched his first full season in Single-A West Michigan in 2016, turning in a 2.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 in 48 2/3 innings. The right-hander is still several levels away from making any impact on the Rays’ major league roster, but appears to be progressing steadily in two seasons of pro ball and has delivered two runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in his first 11 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland this season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that he’ll be reassigned to the Rays’ High-A Charlotte this week.