Friday, March 4, 2011

Rays' rise detailed in Keri's 'The Extra 2%'

Most of us love to root for an underdog. It makes a great story when they overcome long odds to win. George Mason or Butler reaching the Final Four. The 6-seed Packers winning the Super Bowl. The worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, toppling both the Red Sox and Yankees to win the AL pennant.

Behind every great story is a great story. How did they put themselves in the position to do what they did? George Mason and Butler don't fish from the same recruiting ponds as the perennial contenders in the Big East, ACC, or Big 10. And the Rays certainly don't have the resources to outbid Boston or New York for free agents. So how did they make their historic turnaround from doormat to two-time division champ?

It started with an ownership change and a new way of thinking. Whereas original Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli tried throwing money at washed up former stars like Greg Vaughn, Vinny Castilla, and Juan Guzman, the new leadership sought out market inefficiencies they could use to build a winner without breaking the bank. Using new fielding metrics they shored up the defense. They scouted for undervalued arms to construct an effective bullpen. They locked up young stars in long-term deals, adding club options to minimize their risk.

Jonah Keri explains it all in his new release, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. Comparison's to Michael Lewis's Moneyball are inevitable, but this is a very different book. For my full review, see BaseballAmerica.com.

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