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Book Review: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst To First (Ballantine, 2011)
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Book Review: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst To First (Ballantine, 2011) - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst To First (Ballantine, 2011)

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst To First (Ballantine, 2011)

For ten years, Major League Baseball’s Tampa Ray Devil Rays weren’t even bottom-feeders in baseball’s most competitive division; they were the bottom that the bottom –feeders fed upon. Perennial cellar-dwellers, the team cursed itself throughout the first decade of its existence with overpriced players well past their primes, an apathetic fan base, and a stadium that was the joke of league.

In The Extra 2%, Jonah Keri documents the Tampa franchise’s dismal history and examines how, in 2005, Stuart Sternberg, a Wall Street investor and baseball junkie, purchased the team, and with strategies grounded in his Wall Street experience, took the renamed Rays to their first World Series.

Keri explains how the Rays’ divisional rivals, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, with their enormous television contracts and huge local markets, can afford to spend above-value for the league’s best free-agent players, and how both teams can handle expensive mistakes simply by absorbing the financial losses and replacing their mistakes with the next big-name, overpriced superstars. The Rays, handcuffed by the realities of a much smaller market and much tinier revenue streams, had to find some other way to be competitive.

With strategies not unlike the approach profiled in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, the Rays sought a competitive advantage in places the larger-market teams weren’t looking, buying players whose talents were undervalued and selling players whose skills were overvalued. They locked down young talent with early, long-term contracts, then traded that talent away when it became sought-after by teams with higher payrolls. The buy-low-sell-high mentality, combined with new ways to look at baseball’s statistics and with a manager willing to trust the system (as opposed to the conventional wisdom), meant a lot of strange moves on the baseball diamond, scoffed at by many until the wins piled up and the Rays were among the best teams in baseball with annual payrolls less than a fourth what the Yankees carried.

If you’re looking for specific ideas for gaining an advantage in business against big competition, you are unlikely to find it here. However, what you will find in Keri’s book is a mindset, a willingness to exploit the flaws in conventional thinking and the excellent attitude that enables David to slay Goliath. The near absence of illustrative details is partly the hush-hush protectiveness of a group that is less than eager to communicate to other teams its secrets, which is understandable, but if you love a good turnaround story with young protagonists, reserve yourself a weekend and dive in. It’s tough to read this and not ask yourself where in your own life you might be able to apply some of these principals.

 

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Book Review: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst To First (Ballantine, 2011) - Executive Leadership Articles

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