Lead Baseball Writer for Grantland, NYT Bestselling Author of Up, Up, and Away and The Extra 2%
Montreal's Jonah Keri is the author of bestselling book Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business. It tells the definitive story of the Montreal Expos—what happened to one of baseball's most beloved teams, and what can we learn from its storied past? The Globe and Mail called it “a genius hunk of a book.” He is also the author of New York Times bestseller The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. The book shares 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 leadership. He reveals how incorporating that little edge—that extra 2%—and focusing on vision and planning can make a difference in organization, from a pro sports team to a Fortune 100 company to the neighborhood gas station.
The Importance of Vision
Few organizations ever had worse timing than the Montreal Expos did in 1994. After 25 years of botched plans, false starts, and near-misses, the Expos finally assembled the kind of baseball team that could win the big one. On August 11, 1994, they led the National League East by six games, having blown past the supposedly unbeatable Atlanta Braves. Then, a labor impasse torpedoed the entire season and the World Series got cancelled, scuttling Montreal's dreams of a championship season. Unfortunately, Expos fans never got a chance to see what team might have done over a full season. Owner and managing partner Claude Brochu ordered general manager Kevin Malone to dump four of the team's best players as quickly as possible, to avoid a deadline date that would've seen their 1995 salaries kick in. In this talk, Jonah Keri explores the team's lack of vision and inability to commit to a winning team, keep fans engaged after the strike, and build what would have become a sustainable, winning product. These are the lessons every business must take to heart. It's easy to get caught up in the deadlines and challenges of today. But without the discipline to forge a strong long-term plan, the competition is going to eat your lunch. This valuable and entertaining keynote explores the importance of planning, of foresight, and of vision.
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 Up, Up, and Away, 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, 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.
Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Busines
2014 is the 20th anniversary of the strike that killed baseball in Montreal, and the 10th anniversary of the team's move to Washington, DC. But the memories aren't dead—not by a long shot. The Expos pinwheel cap is still sported by Montrealers, former fans, and by many more in the U.S. and Canada as a fashion item. Expos loyalists are still spotted at Blue Jays games and wherever the Washington Nationals play (often cheering against them). Every year there are rumours that Montreal—as North America's largest market without a baseball team—could host Major League Baseball again.
There has never been a major English-language book on the entire franchise history. There also hasn't been a sportswriter as uniquely qualified to tell the whole story, and to make it appeal to baseball fans across Canada AND south of the border. Jonah Keri writes the chief baseball column for Grantland, and routinely makes appearances in Canadian media such as The Jeff Blair Show, Prime Time Sports, and Off the Record. The author of the New York Times baseball bestseller The Extra 2%, Keri is one of the new generation of high-profile sports writers equally facile with sabermetrics and traditional baseball reporting. He has interviewed everyone for this book (EVERYONE: including the ownership that allowed the team to be moved), and fans can expect to hear from just about every player and personality from the Expos' unforgettable 35 years in baseball.
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.