The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First




When pitchers and catchers report to the start of spring training each season, it’s a time for renewed optimism. At the start of spring training, the fans of every major league baseball team think that this could be their year if everything goes right. That is, of course, unless your favorite team happened to be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays under the ownership of Vincent J. Naimoli.


What happens when three financial-industry whiz kids and certified baseball nuts take over an ailing Major League franchise and implement the same strategies that fueled their success on Wall Street? In the case of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, an American League championship happens – the culmination of one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history.
In The Extra 2%, financial journalist and sportswriter Jonah Keri chronicles the remarkable story of one team’s Cinderella journey from divisional doormat to World Series contender. By quantifying the game’s intangibles, they were able to deliver to Tampa Bay an American League pennant. This is an informative and entertaining case study for any organization that wants to go from worst to first.
©2011 Jonah Keri (P)2011 Dreamscape Media, LLC


‘The Extra 2%’ is really the tale of two major league baseball teams. The first team is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays under the ownership of Vincent J. Naimoli from 1998 until 2005. The second is the Tampa Bay Rays under the ownership of Stuart Sternberg with team President Matt Silverman and General Manager Andrew Friedman from 2005 until essentially the present day. If you’re thinking that other than dropping the word “Devil” from the name and a change in management, the franchise is the same, you could not be more incorrect.
The Devil Rays under Naimoli’s reign of terror were bad on the field and hated off of it. ‘The Extra 2%’ documents quite well the failings that came with Naimoli’s tenure as owner. My favorite Naimoli stories include how he once played the “do you know who I am?” card and how the St. Petersburg High School marching band once canceled playing the national anthem at a Devil Rays game because Naimoli told them that if they wanted to get into the stadium, they would all have to purchase tickets to the game. Naimoli hired the wrong people and only seemed to succeed in alienating his employees, fans, sponsors and reporters assigned to cover the team. Under Naimoli’s leadership, the Devil Rays were so bad and their games so poorly attended that Major League Baseball considered contracting the franchise before it had even been around a decade.
Enter Stuart Sternberg, a Wall Street Businessman who at first benefited from the fact that he wasn’t Naimoli. He would bring in fellow Wall Street executives Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman to run the franchise, and they would have the Rays in the World Series by the year 2008.
Both Naimoli and Sternburg were successful businessmen. The difference is that when Naimoli applied his usual business tactics to a baseball team, they flopped. When Sternburg/Silverman/Friedman applied their methods to running the franchise, it flourished.
‘The Extra 2%’ chronicles exactly how the Wall Street trio took a team from worst to first. Everything from hiring the right manager to execute their vision to making sure that the team philosophy was the same from the lowest levels of minor league ball all the way to the top of the major league club.
Yet baseball is only a small part of the whole story. Under Naimoli, the Devil Rays were one of the most unfriendly teams in all of pro sports when it came to fan relations. Sternburg and his allies did a lot of work to rebrand the team’s image, including offering free stadium parking for 2 years. Naimoli could be ruthless to anyone who brought outside food into the stadium, but after his exit the ushers were retrained to be more accommodating to fans.
‘The Extra 2%’ is definitely a book about baseball and definitely a book about business. It isn’t a book that is going to appeal to everyone, and in a way, that’s a shame. Even if the Rays hadn’t started to win a few seasons after Sternberg took control of the team, I think a lot of things still would have gone right for them anyway. Winning games can cure a lot of problems for a struggling sports team, but a lot of what was ailing Tampa Bay was cured by better customer service. That is a lesson that a lot of businesses would do well to learn, and the sooner the better.


Jonah Keri writes about baseball for Grantland. I typically enjoy his columns and was happy to see this book available in audio. Keri has written several other books, including an oral history of the Montreal Expos but that is sadly not available in audio as of yet.
There are a few concepts in the book that might go over the heads of some readers. These items are usually found in the statistical analysis sections of the book. However, Keri does an admirable job of trying to make everything relatable. You might not understand a particular stat, but you should have no problem following the real world illustrations Keri uses to show their importance.


Sean Pratt, narrating under the name of Lloyd James, does a decent job with his reading. There’s not a lot of acting to be done outside of portraying disbelief at some of the antics of Vince Naimoli. Unfortunately, there were a couple of names he mispronounced, but I’m willing to overlook that because of one thing – He delivered one of the best impressions of Mr. Burns from ‘The Simpsons’ that I have ever heard.


A nice sounding audio track. It is clear, and there is no sudden shift in volume. Music and sound effects are completely absent from the track as well, which is good. All of the chapter stops match up with those found in the book. You really can’t ask for much more.


‘The Extra 2%’ is a worthwhile sequel to ‘Moneyball’ by Michael Lewis. Jonah Keri manages to cover all the bases when it comes to telling the story of the Tampa Bay franchise. He covers the city’s near misses from when the governor of Illinois literally stopped time to keep the White Sox in Chicago to almost landing the San Francisco Giants. He then moves on to the disastrous years of Naimoli’s ownership before a thorough examination of how Sternberg, Silverman and Friedman engineered the complete turnaround of the franchise. Finally, Keri examines some of the issues that the Rays are likely to face, and be forced to overcome, in the future.
It doesn’t matter if you are a baseball fan or someone who is interested in how to run a successful business. ‘The Extra 2%’ is both highly informative and incredibly entertaining.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First Jonah Keri Lloyd James Dreamscape Media Sports 06/02/2011 9 hours, 43 minutes 8.5/10