Wingedbeaver's Reviews > The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First

The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri
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Mar 22, 11

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bookshelves: first-reads
Read from February 21 to March 01, 2011

With non-fiction books, sometimes the title of a book means everything. It pulls the reader in. It tells us what we’re going learn. It sets expectations. When the title doesn’t match the content or the content doesn’t live up to the title, when the expectations aren’t met, an otherwise good book can fall flat. That’s what happened with Jonah Keri’s new book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. I’ve heard about this book for some time and as a huge American League East baseball fan I was eager to read it, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to the hype I had built for it. I hoped to read an interesting analysis on how the Rays new owners used Wall Street Strategies to turn around what had been a horrible franchise stuck in the hardest division in professional sports. I envisioned the next generation Moneyball, possibly a mix of Freakanomics and Ball Four, but all I got was a history of Tampa Bay’s dealings with baseball. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have read a history of Tampa’s dealing with baseball or that the material wasn’t interesting, I enjoyed what the book had to say on these topics. My problem was that the book never seemed to effectively address the topics suggested by the title.
Other then pointing out that the new owners of the Tampa Bay Rays came directly from jobs on Wall Street, Keri fails to convincingly show how Wall Street strategies turned the team’s fortunes around. He points out that most of the key components of the present team were drafted by the previous management. The only effect the new owners had with these players was signing them to cheap long term contracts before they became superstars, but that is far from a new strategy, Cleveland and Texas GM John Hart made that strategy famous a decade ago. Many of the moves of the new management team, including the signing of Pat Burrell, blew up in their faces. Keri highlights the pick up of career minor leaguer Dan Johnson as if it was a major coop, but the guy hit one homerun that happened to lead to one Ray win and was never heard from again.
The one valid point Keri seems to make is about the new management’s attempts to fix the team’s relationship with the community, but even that falls flat in the end. Keri spends a ton of time on both how Vincent Naimoli, the first Ray owner, pushed the Bay community away and the various outside the box techniques the new owners have used to try and bring them back. If anything this may be where Wall Street strategies would turn around the franchise. Who knows more about marketing then Wall Street? But the book ends by pointing out that Tampa’s attendance still comes in at the bottom of the Major League. All these new strategies have had no effect on bringing the community back at all making the time spent talking about the strategies in context of turning the franchise around seem frivolous.
I also feel that Keri was unsure who he was writing the book for. At times he explained simple details of the game of baseball as if he was writing to someone who was not familiar with it. At other times, he brushed over baseball ideas as if he assumed his audience would know what he was talking about. As a baseball fan, I was confused why he chose to explain the simple old fashioned concepts but brush over the more complex newer ones.
If you’re interested in reading about the history of the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa’s attempts to get a major league team, this is a good enough read. There is a lot of interesting information here that most baseball enthusiasts will enjoy. If you’re only interested in how Wall Street strategies turned the team around then stay away. Keri’s hypothesis falls flat and on many occasions is proven false by his own writing. This book, unfortunately, is not the next Moneyball.

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