I just finished reading Jonah Keri's first book, The Extra 2% - How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. As has become vogue for this particular book (seriously, check out extra2percent.com, there are close to a million reviews), I have decided to write a little review of my thoughts on the book.
The book details the history of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays franchise and the copious changes that were made by new ownership to make the Rays a competitive team. I was wary of purchasing the book at first, as I had no real connection with the Rays, but decided to go ahead and buy it anyways since I was able to purchase it on Amazon.com for less than a third of the cost of a tank of gas. Plus, Keri told me on twitter (twitter.com/JonahKeri) that the book would be "similar to how Moneyball was nominally about the A's, but really about a lot more." So I took his word for it. As it turns out, in the time between that conversation and today, I have taken a volunteer position at TheProcessReport.com, a Rays-centric site. By the way, Jonah Keri also wrote the forward for TPR 11 which is coming out very soon.
Enough about that, what were my thoughts on the book? I'm going to start out with the cover. It's a hardcover book with a sleeve that is not at all attached. So in the process of reading the book, the cover slides around, which I found to be slightly annoying. I'm just more of a paperback guy. (If I'm griping about the cover slipping on the book, there must not be much to complain about in the content.)
The foreword of the book was written by Mark Cuban. Yes, that Mark Cuban. This fits perfectly within the book, as Cuban has run the Dallas Mavericks franchise in a very similar way as the Rays' ownership has run their franchise.
The book tends to follow a (mostly) chronological order. It begins in Chapter 1 in 1988 with a vote in the Illinois State Senate and follows the history of the franchise up until 2010, leaving a hint of a Matt Garza trade to the Cubs. (It eventually happened.) Personally, I found the history very interesting, as I was between 2-10 years old when a lot of this was happening. Keri provides ample background and it is quickly apparent the amount of research that went into the book. He clearly explains the politics that went into creating the Rays franchise. He also covers the history of the Vince Naimoli ownership years and the changes that led to a new ownership group. Eventually, he gets into a few of the key moves that the Rays have made over the years to become competitive and many of the struggles that they face to stay competitive in an increasingly unfair situation.
It's a very interesting book, to the say the least. There are a few places where the content drifts into Wall Street-speak (it's in the title, after all), especially when describing the history of Stuart Sternberg. I felt the history was a little too deep here, swerving off into the history of how SLK was purchased by Goldman Sachs, etc. My other major critique of the book is that the author tends to repeat himself, nearly verbatim, in quite a few places. The same information may find its way into multiple chapters. It works well to drive the point home, but seems unnecessary.
Overall, the book is a very good read. There are a few places of humor scattered throughout and a plethora of information that permeates nearly every paragraph. It describes very well the history of how the Rays became what they are today. It also gives great insight into the process that the team takes to pursue competitiveness in the toughest division in baseball. It is definitely a must-read for Rays fans, baseball history fans and overall baseball fans alike. If I were to give it a rating on a scale of Jamie Moyer's fastball to Mariano Rivera's cutter, I would give it a...James Shields changeup. Well above average and something any baseball fan can enjoy.