Lead Baseball Writer for Grantland.com, Business Journalist and New York Times Bestselling Author
Montreal's Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. A New York Times bestseller, Keri's book tells the unlikely story of how three financial whiz kids with no baseball experience turned a disastrous organization—The Tampa Bay Rays—into World Series contenders by implementing the same strategies that fuel financial sector success. A deft storyteller, Keri offers a nuanced look into innovation and how incorporating that little edge—that extra 2%—can help transform any organization, from a pro sports team to a Fortune 100 company to the neighborhood gas station.
Keri's latest book on the Montreal Expos hits shelves March 2014.
The Fine Line Between Winning and Losing
In this talk, author Jonah Keri walks us through the essential difference between winning and losing strategies. The Tampa Bay Rays baseball team used cutting-edge analysis and unconventional thinking to go from worst to first. The Montreal Expos, another small-market team, faced the same economic challenges and did many things right—but ultimately failed. It doesn't take much for a winning strategy to go wrong. Little things add up. When they're good, they can make the difference between winning and losing. When they're bad, they can eradicate any forward momentum you have. Keri speaks on how to maintain momentum, seize optimal strategies, and avoid the little pitfalls that can cause big problems. Drawing on his research for his two books, The Extra 2% and The Definitive History of the Montreal Expos, Keri provides key insights from a lifetime marrying baseball and statistics to worthwhile strategy.
In God We Trust; All Other Must Bring Data
People used to rely on their gut instinct instead of data. Take baseball: For the first 100-plus years of baseball's existence, the men in charge of the sport relied on intuition and memory to run their teams. Some concepts worked. Many did not. Turns out the human mind is unreliable. We fixate on specific memories, then throw out others that contradict what we've learned. We become a biased observers of events, unable to make clear-headed decisions, because we're too invested in our core beliefs.
That's where big data comes in. Branch Rickey began using numbers to build a moribund Dodgers franchise into a bunch of winners. Eschewing biases against non-white players he recruited the great Jackie Robinson. Rickey even made smaller decisions based on granular data like pitcher-batter match-ups. Still, those concepts stagnated for another few decades, before the Oakland A's pounced on the value of big data—which is how they developed the concept of Moneyball. Today, all professional sports teams rely on data to some extent. But the best teams use it to govern every move, all the way down to what they feed their athletes. We face the same inflection point in the business world, where the most successful companies use complex algorithms to dominate their market (e.g. Amazon's incredible growth, despite toiling in a low-margin business), while those stuck in old ways fade into irrelevance.
In this talk, author and Grantland writer Jonah Keri goes inside the human mind to show us that what we think we know isn't so, and how a firm grounding in data holds the key to overcoming biases, and making informed decisions—in sports, and in business.
The Extra 2%
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. When former Goldman Sachs colleagues Stuart Sternberg and Matthew Silverman 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 twenty-first-century franchise that could compete with their bigger, stronger, richer rivals—and prevail.
Together with “boy genius” general manager Andrew Friedman, the new Rays owners jettisoned the old ways of doing things, substituting their own innovative ideas about employee development, marketing and public relations, and personnel management. They exorcized the “devil” from the team’s nickname, developed metrics that let them take advantage of undervalued aspects of the game, like defense, and hired a forward-thinking field manager as dedicated to unconventional strategy as they were. By quantifying the game’s intangibles—that extra 2% that separates a winning organization from a losing one—they were able to deliver to Tampa Bay something that Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” had never brought to Oakland: an American League pennant.
A book about what happens when you apply your business skills to your life’s passion, The Extra 2% is an informative and entertaining case study for any organization that wants to go from worst to first.
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