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Robert Trigaux

New Rays book examines how Wall Street smarts, tactics helped revive lackluster franchise



bookcoverextra2.jpgWake up and good morning. With baseball season looming and less than a week after FanFest at Tropicana Field, I admit it does not take much to get me rambling about the prospects for this year's Tampa Bay Rays. So it's especially interesting to see a new Cinderella story book with a business spin about the Rays. It comes out on March 8 and is called The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. Here's a link to the book at

When former Goldman Sachs colleagues Stuart Sternberg (the man with the money) and Matt Silverman (his designated chief of the Rays organization) assumed control of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005, it looked as if they were buying the baseball equivalent of a penny stock. But the incoming regime came armed with a master plan: to leverage their skill at trading, valuation, and management to build a model 21st-century franchise that could compete with their bigger, stronger, richer rivals. And prevail. That, at least, is how Random House summarizes the new book (though it's officially published by ESPN) by sports writer and financial journalist Jonah Keri.

Is this a Rays version of Michael Lewis' Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game? Keep in mind that the Rays owners (along with general manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, of course) delivered to Tampa Bay something that Oakland Athletics Billy Beane’s Moneyball has yet to bring to Oakland: an American League pennant.

Extra 2% author Keri certainly dotes on the Rays ownership team in this MarketWatch/Wall Street Journal video interview. Why did he write this book? His dual background in business and baseball and the analysis-driven approach of Sternberg-Silverman-Friedman trio. Keri talks about how the Rays' trade of Delmon Young to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett started a series of leveraged trades over the years that made the Rays stronger. Keri says the Rays could very well sneak in behind the Boston Red Sox and ahead of the New York Yankees this season as the wild card for the playoffs.

Is this a legitimate argument? When the Rays became the Beast of the East, winning the toughest American League eastern division in 2008 and repeated in 2010 over the Yankees and Red Sox, some major mojo was at work against such seriously high payroll teams. Sportwriter Peter Gammons, in commenting on the new book, says it will let readers "answer the question 'What was Tampa Bay thinking?’ as well as understand how difficult it will always be for a team in that market to open its competitive window for longer than three years at a time."

Of course, the real proof of the Rays' "genius" as suggested by this book is whether this year's gamble with aging Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon proves as smart as Rays fans hope.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 7:25am]


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