An Overzealous Review of The Extra 2%: Chapter 3

Albert Lyu and Carson Cistulli are overzealously reviewing colleague Jonah Keri’s forthcoming book, The Extra 2%. Feel free to read parts one and two and three of the series that’s sweeping — if not the nation — then at least behind the TV where a lot of dust builds up.

In what follows, our intrepid duo attempts to understand the giant and real-life brain teaser otherwise known as original Devil Ray GM Chuck LaMar’s player personnel decisions. Neither Messrs. Cistulli nor Lyu — nor FanGraphs, generally — are responsible for injuries to the human spirit as a result of this discussion.


Cistulli: Hey, Albert, pay attention and stop doing terrible things to that dog. The sound you hear is the people demanding that we continue our sprawling and genre-defining review of Jonah Keri’s book.

When we last left off, we were looking at the futility of the Rays’ early ownership — and, specifically, the misbehavior of Vincent Joseph Naimoli.

Chapter three introduces a second layer of futility to this very depressing and multi-layered cake: the life and times of Rays’ GM Chuck LaMar.

There are two ideas about which I got particularly excited in this chapter. First, is the expansion draft — just as a thing, I mean. It’s really the closest thing the majors have to a fantasy draft. If you’re so inclined, I’d like to examine this — the 1997 expansion draft, specifically, I mean.

The second idea is actually just a sentence. Writing about LaMar, Keri writes that his (i.e. LaMar’s) “claim to fame was being the Zelig of the National League.”

That line almost definitely appeals to me for no other reason than it’s a Woody Allen reference in this book about finance and baseball. It lets me trust the author more, certainly.

Albert: As a sort of recap for those who have short-term memory loss that cycles through 13- or 14-year periods, in the 1997 expansion draft, Tampa Bay (the team this book is about) and Arizona each chose 35 players from the other major league teams’ 40-man rosters and minor league systems. Each of the 28 teams, though, could protect 15 players and an additional three more after each round of the draft.

The expansion teams had several amateur draft restrictions, however, which meant that neither organization would be able to effectively produce homegrown ML talent until at least a few years later (or in this case, a chapter later — tune in to chapter four, coming to a NotGraphs post near you!). At the very least, TB and AZ wouldn’t be able to draw early first-round talent in their first few years, even though draft order is usually determined by previous seasonal standings.

One of LaMar’s first GM-ing moves turned into one of LaMar’s first (of several) GM-ing mistakes. The Astros unashamedly left Bobby Abreu unprotected. And this was 1997, when Abreu was the prototypical five-tool prospect. LaMar picked Abreu — then traded Abreu to the Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Stocker would go on to produce 2.9 WAR the rest of his career and Abreu would produce, uhh, 60.8 WAR.

If you don’t mind me producing a WAR graph, Carson, this is hilarious:

Carson: Yes, it appears as though that move didn’t work out particularly well. And a similar point might be made about the Dmitri Young-for-Mike Kelly trade, as well.

The 1997 expansion draft as a whole* — which saw the 57th and 58th picks post — demonstrates either (a) how difficult prospect mavening is even , (b) how poor these teams were at assessing talent, or (c) a combination of those two things.

*Re-printed at the end of this post.

Albert: We could certainly go through each and every one of LaMar’s errors and his faults and what-not, and analyze and FanGraphs-isize his transactions, but this is NotGraphs and this is undubitably the incorrect domain for something like that.

What I’m interested in hearing from you, though, Carson, is how unique you think it is for an author/journalist/writer like Jonah Keri to be able to get a former executive to willingly identify and elaborate on his previous moves and/or mistakes? Is Jonah some sort of high-level lovable Care Bear? Did Chuck LaMar not know that he was on-the-record and being interviewed? I’m pretty sure that I personally would not want my mistakes recorded, documented, and analyzed to the nth-degree in the (currently) eighth-best selling baseball book on

Carson: First of all, we have to remember that Jonah’s a Canadian person and Canadians are, by their nature, non-threatening and polite. It’s very easy to reveal all manner of otherwise sensitive information to a Canadian person.

Consider some of these facts:

• Over 70% of all psychotherapists working in the US are actually Canadian — or, if not Canadian by birth, are at least Canadian-looking.
• Information about former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson was revealed at an airport bar when a friendly Canadian businessman asked Karl Rove, “So, whaddaya do for work?”
• Michael J. Fox

That’s what we in the industry refer to as a “cavalcade” of evidence, Albert.

In the case of LaMar, specifically, at the risk of sounding reasonable, his behavior actually appears to be remarkably healthy. I’ll suggest — anecdotally, at least — that the happiest people are those who recognize their own fallibility. LaMar appears merely to have a pretty decent sense of his failures.

Clearly Canadian.

Albert: One quote to note (note to quote?) from Jonah’s book is the following on page 60: “The Hit Show needed an extra “S” to properly illustrate its catastrophic effects on the Devil Rays.” The Hi(S)t Show (that’s where the “S” goes, right?) included such seasoned, well-trained, famous, and relatively ancient veterans in Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco, Greg Vaughn, and Fred McGriff. The acquisitions underscore the Devil Rays’ early philosophy in their franchise history to throw heaps of dolla signz at veterans and well-known players to let’s-win-now-or-else at the cost of player development investment and draft prospect bonuses.

The current Rays as we now know it is almost a complete 180 of the early Devil Rays. The Hit Show relied on building a team around veterans with washed-up minor leaguers, while the current Rays are built around young stars and prospects, acquiring veterans to fill in the team’s needs and gaps.


The 1997 Expansion Draft (courtesy of Baseball Reference):

OvPck Tm From Team
1 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Tony Saunders LHP Florida Marlins
2 Arizona Diamondbacks Brian Anderson LHP Cleveland Indians
3 Arizona Diamondbacks Jeff Suppan RHP Boston Red Sox
4 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Quinton McCracken OF Colorado Rockies
5 Arizona Diamondbacks Gabe Alvarez 3B San Diego Padres
6 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Bobby Abreu OF Houston Astros
7 Arizona Diamondbacks Jorge Fabregas C Chicago White Sox
8 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Miguel Cairo 2B Chicago Cubs
9 Arizona Diamondbacks Karim Garcia OF Los Angeles Dodgers
10 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Rich Butler OF Toronto Blue Jays
11 Arizona Diamondbacks Edwin Diaz IF Texas Rangers
12 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Bob Smith 3B Atlanta Braves
13 Arizona Diamondbacks Cory Lidle RHP New York Mets
14 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Jason Johnson RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
15 Arizona Diamondbacks Joel Adamson LHP Milwaukee Brewers
16 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Dmitri Young 1B Cincinnati Reds
17 Arizona Diamondbacks Ben Ford RHP New York Yankees
18 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Esteban Yan RHP Baltimore Orioles
19 Arizona Diamondbacks Yamil Benitez OF Kansas City Royals
20 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Mike Difelice C St. Louis Cardinals
21 Arizona Diamondbacks Neil Weber LHP Montreal Expos
22 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Bubba Trammell OF Detroit Tigers
23 Arizona Diamondbacks Jason Boyd RHP Philadelphia Phillies
24 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Andy Sheets IF Seattle Mariners
25 Arizona Diamondbacks Brent Brede OF Minnesota Twins
26 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Dennis Springer RHP Anaheim Angels
27 Arizona Diamondbacks Tony Batista IF Oakland Athletics
28 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Dan Carlson RHP San Francisco Giants
29 Arizona Diamondbacks Tom Martin LHP Houston Astros
30 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Brian Boehringer RHP New York Yankees
31 Arizona Diamondbacks Omar Daal LHP Toronto Blue Jays
32 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Mike Duvall LHP Florida Marlins
33 Arizona Diamondbacks Scott Winchester RHP Cincinnati Reds
34 Tampa Bay Devil Rays John LeRoy RHP Atlanta Braves
35 Arizona Diamondbacks Clint Sodowsky RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
36 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Jim Mecir RHP Boston Red Sox
37 Arizona Diamondbacks Danny Klassen IF Milwaukee Brewers
38 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Bryan Rekar RHP Colorado Rockies
39 Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Drews RHP Detroit Tigers
40 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Rick Gorecki RHP Los Angeles Dodgers
41 Arizona Diamondbacks Todd Erdos RHP San Diego Padres
42 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Ramon Tatis LHP Chicago Cubs
43 Arizona Diamondbacks Chris Clemons RHP Chicago White Sox
44 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Kerry Robinson OF St. Louis Cardinals
45 Arizona Diamondbacks David Dellucci OF Baltimore Orioles
46 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Steve Cox 1B Oakland Athletics
47 Arizona Diamondbacks Damian Miller C Minnesota Twins
48 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Albie Lopez RHP Cleveland Indians
49 Arizona Diamondbacks Hector Carrasco RHP Kansas City Royals
50 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Jose Paniagua RHP Montreal Expos
51 Arizona Diamondbacks Hanley Frias SS Texas Rangers
52 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Carlos Mendoza OF New York Mets
53 Arizona Diamondbacks Bob Wolcott RHP Seattle Mariners
54 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Kevin Sefcik LF Philadelphia Phillies
55 Arizona Diamondbacks Mike Bell 3B Anaheim Angels
56 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Santos Hernandez RHP San Francisco Giants
57 Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Randa 3B Pittsburgh Pirates
58 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Randy Winn OF Florida Marlins
59 Arizona Diamondbacks Jesus Martinez LHP Los Angeles Dodgers
60 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Terrell Wade LHP Atlanta Braves
61 Arizona Diamondbacks Russ Springer RHP Houston Astros
62 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Aaron Ledesma IF Baltimore Orioles
63 Arizona Diamondbacks Bryan Corey RHP Detroit Tigers
64 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Brooks Kieschnick OF Chicago Cubs
65 Arizona Diamondbacks Kelly Stinnett C Milwaukee Brewers
66 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Luke Wilcox OF New York Yankees
67 Arizona Diamondbacks Chuck McElroy LHP Chicago White Sox
68 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Herbert Perry IF Cleveland Indians
69 Arizona Diamondbacks Marty Janzen RHP Toronto Blue Jays
70 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Vaughn Eshelman LHP Oakland Athletics

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Anyone know if this will be available for the Sony Reader? I want to buy it, but don’t see at their storefront.