After listening to Darren Smith quote from and talk about the book: The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri; I took it upon myself to read this for our site. The quote that made me wince and essentially pissed me off comes from page 267, in Chapter 11: David vs Goliaths. Which is a rather depressing chapter that talked about inequity between teams in baseball. Jonah outlines how big teams are starting to run their franchises like mid / small market teams with analysis and focus on the draft. Darren focused on this:
Building slowly over a long period of time, as the Rays did with their LaMarera draft picks and a decade of losing, might be the only way to get it right.
Overall Darren, and to an extent, other sports talk personalities have taken this quote, and other things Hoyer and Moorad has said, and made is sound like they plan to tank for draft picks and compete in 2020. To be fair, I didn't hear *everything* Darren Smith said. But the outrage about our payroll and our situation as an occasionally competitive mid-market team doesn't settle well with people.
I understand that it is the job of sports talk, to get people hot and bothered. To purposely piss people off, but to use their position, as Hacksaw is specifically guilty off, to generate false notions about a team, is damaging to a teams health. It keeps people from the ballpark.
If you come with me after the jump, I will my review and personal insights from the book, and explain the context of this quote and what I believe it can say about as Darren says "The Reality of Padres Baseball".
Before I get into the book too much. Note that the "quote" above is not in quotes. Its because Jonah didn't quote him. He took a conversation and boiled it down to a notion. He quotes Jed later as saying "Their patience was phenomenal" "I don't think you could do a much better job building a small market team. They never made moves just to fill holes. They looked at a team with the with the highest bullpen ERA and said, 'Why the hell am I going to fix it?' There's no point in plugging holes to win 70 - 75 games instead of 67".
Darren saw this, and the other "quote" and saw this as a "tanking" plan. Basically a way to "rebuild" with purposely sucking. Which no fan wants to hear. However, when you look at the book as a whole, it really puts things in perspective.
OVERALL: The Extra 2% is a book about the Rays history, and the steps that were taken to make that team into a two time AL East Champion, knocking (in 2008) the Yankee's out of the playoffs and (in 2010) the Red Sox.
The book is basically broken up as follows:
1) The Shady History as to how the Rays managed to get an expansion team
2) Vince Naimoli was the owner, and was a cheap douche
3) Chuck LaMar drafted poorly, traded poorly, and was a limp noodle when dealing with Vince Naimoli
4) The new owner + his wall street buddies are smarter and less douchey than Naimoli.
5) Joe Maddon is from Hazelton, and it is unclear if he is a genius, or just insane and lucky. Either way, he gets the best out of baseball players.
6) The new guys just did the opposite of what Naimoli did, and started bringing in some new fans.
7) The new guys are part Billy Beane, part Kevin Towers. Only better because they employ "Arbitrage" to everything they do
8) The new guys beat the Red Sox and Yankees
9) The beat them partly because they hired a bunch of dudes to evaluate and assist in every aspect imaginable.
10) They only won because LaMar's draft picks were not, "all bad" and some were key to making trades, they new more money to "stay" competitive.
11) The Rays need a new stadium.
There is literally an entire chapter about how they need a new stadium. In fact, it could be said, that the whole book is just a build up to how badly the Ray's need a new stadium. I kinda want them to have a new stadium now.
Nothing about this book lead me to believe that the "Way to win" was to lose for 10 years and stockpile draft picks. It took the new owners 2 1/2 years to win the AL East. The book is VERY contradictory as to how their drafts ended up. They spend nearly a whole chapter talking about how Vince Naimoli would not spend money on the draft and ended up with Dewon Brazelton. Or a dozen other crappy picks. No, the reason the Rays were successful because the new ownership drafted well (got Longoria with the 3rd overall pick in their first draft), because they were able to get the best out of crappy signable picks with makeup issues, they robbed several teams on trades, and because they got extremely lucky on several veteran players.
There are several paragraphs that talk about Pat Burrell and how his contract nearly crippled the team, which I found hysterical.
But the bottom line is, the Padres last year WERE the 2008 Rays. Only they got lucky right away. The Padres got lucky on some veteran bounce backs, got the most out of a signable lower round pick with makeup issues (Latos), robbed a couple teams (see White Sox for Clay), and seem to be turning around on the draft.
There is no good reason to tank for draft picks. It lowers revenue, because people do not show up. That does not mean that, if your preseason moves, don't work you should spend your way out of it. No, you need to be patient with some younger guys. Overall the recipe to success in this book is:
1) Draft well
2) Evaluate talent, coach, prevent injuries, work with younger players, know stats at least 2% better than everyone else.
3) Sign young talented players out of their arb years +club option a couple Free Agent years.
4) Get lucky on some Free Agent vets on short term deals
5) Create a homefield advantage however possible.
Now obviously the Padres, this year, are failing at #4 and #5. Its also hard to evaluate talent with Petco killing some of their offensive stats.
As for #5, I think the front office could stand to be more creative. The Rays have cowbells, and some insane guy in right field. We have some insane guys in right field too, but I think there is absolutely room for improvement here. Things to get the home team crown really into games beyond scoreboard queues.
Regardless, I know Darren and Hacksaw both have to piss fans off to get attention, but there is abolutely NOTHING in "The Extra 2%" that would lead me to believe that the Padres have to lose to be competitive. ESPECIALLY in the NL West. All we have to do is spend money wisely, make the most out of what we have. The ONLY meaningful difference between a $150 million payroll, and a $45 million dollar payroll is margin of error. If you lose $8 million a year on Pat Burrell, you can move on to someone else.
Jed has proven, with his 90 win season last year, that hitting gold on the right free agents can help a great deal, missing would suck. Imagine for a moment if Carlos Pena didn't turn it around and get 47 HR in 2008? Or if Matt Garza couldn't calm his temper, or if Longoria hit like Headley in 2010?
Imagine if Ludwick hit .280 with power?
Anyone in baseball can tell you that a part of the game is luck. Pat Burrell screwed the Rays, (and the Padres indirectly), Ludwick screwed us. It doesn't mean we are bad because we don't have a $70 million dollar payroll. We are using that money spending a poop-ton of money on draft picks and signing international players.
As a result of this book I have certain hopes for the Padres:
1) They get Matt Latos a Psychiatrist.
2) They hire a pitch / fx guy to find ways to prevent pitching injuries.
3) They sign Maybin long term and buy out a Free Agent year.
4) They do a better job evaluating defense
5) They try and lock up Stauffer, though it may be too late to do so cheaply
6) They work on creating an environment, that is not just a "Ballpark Experience" but that is also a clear homefield advantage.
7) They keep up the good work.