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THE EXTRA 2% by Jonah Keri


How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First

by Jonah Keri

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-345-51765-4
Publisher: ESPN Books/Ballantine

This incisive account of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ rise from the cellar to the pennant suggests that baseball is a business like any other—and unlike any other.

Those who run any of the struggling Major League franchises will find that Tampa Bay’s ascent in the toughest division in baseball—where the competition for the comparatively low-payroll upstarts includes the perennially successful, big-market Yankees and Red Sox—isn’t a matter of luck or magic, but shrewd Wall Street strategizing. As documented by Bloomberg Sports baseball analyst Keri (editor: Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong, 2006), the Devil Rays had nowhere to go but up, after an owner known more for his penny-pinching than any baseball or public-relations acumen gave way to a brain trust of younger executives who applied principles from their financial careers (“positive arbitrage”) to the sport they loved. Though the author lacks the narrative flair of Michael Lewis, he also faced a tougher challenge. Among the principles imported from Wall Street was not to share the trade secrets underscoring decisions made by the front office and its “Mystery Men.” If there are significant holes in the storytelling—Keri provides little about the era of manager Lou Piniella, whom the Devil Rays acquired at the cost of a star outfielder—there is also significant revelation.

Challenges remain for the Rays in terms of market size and the need for a new stadium, but this book shows how having a plan and sticking to it allows a team with financial savvy to trump those with deeper pockets.