An Overzealous Review of The Extra 2%: Chapter 4

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 and/or four of this literary tour de force.

In what follows, our interlocutors discuss the short, but mostly troubled, episode in history that was the Rays’ performance in the amateur draft before the Sternberg takeover.


Cistulli: Albert, I feel compelled to begin our discussion of chapter four (entitled “New Blood” — a.k.a. almost, but not entirely, the name of the first Rambo movie) by noting that the brief intermission between our most recent and the current posts is not, as a reader might suspect, due to our lack of zeal concerning Mr. Jonah Keri’s book, but actually due to an overabundance of same.

In point of fact, since we finished our exchange last Friday afternoon, I’ve been almost entirely incapacitated by exhaustion, and have just now crawled to my keyboard and typed out this brief message. Am I wearing pants? Hard to tell.

All of which is to say: for those who buy this book, maybe ask your girl* to clear all your appointments for the day.

*Also, make sure you still live in the year 1963 before you refer to your secretary as “girl.”

Albert: Carson, I feel likewise, not that the book has been a toll — it has been a wonderful read thus far, the chapter-by-chapter review — it’s almost like too much vacation, too many Hawaiian sunset beaches, too long of a spring break, too many non-alcoholic Pina Coladas, that you just need to spend a few weeks at home just chilling or playing Pro Evolution Soccer or taking a quiet walk around the neighborhood, just so things are, you know, a little bit different.

Cistulli: Albert, you know what the reader does not, and that’s that I’m not not not not not not playing PES as we compose this document. I’m liking AS Bari’s chances this season in Serie A — not to win everything, but perhaps to qualify for a UEFA Cup berth.

More relevant to our discussion of the present chapter, however, might be, you know, an actual discussion of the present chapter, which concerns the Rays’ varying levels of success with the amateur draft (in those years, that is, where they’ve elected not to forfeit all their picks to sign Dave Martinez).

Am I correct or not that you had a sort of quiz for the readership involving scout Fernando Arango and The One That Got Away?

Nothing exudes decadent living quite like a finely crafted pina colada.

Albert: Righti-o. For four grueling pages in the book, Mr. Jonah decided to grab the reader with teases and hints in his interview with Mr. Arango, in which Arango’s biography is properly writ. In what follows, the reader is taken on a journey with said scout in his search for “The One” player to rule them all. As Arango follows a “paunchy, thick-bodied kid” around who was written off by multiple front office / scouting director / cross checker types in the organization. Yet, Jonah leaves the reader hanging for a few excruciating pages before he actually tells us who this player is.

Here are some details concerning the soap opera of Arango’s and the Devil Rays’ venture with “The One That Got Away”:

1. The Rays invited Arango’s player to pre-draft workout — no other team had invited.
2. Said player ran a 60-yard dash in 7.1 seconds as recorded by Arango — good for this player’s size/body.
3. A meeting between player and Arango took place over Grand Slam breakfasts at a Denny’s.
4. This player crushed a ball off the top of the left-field foul pole in front of TB scouts.
5. Player was tried out at catcher.
6. Player “looked like Lou Gehrig,” according to Arango.
7. Player would hit 40 home runs in the big leagues, according to Arango.

According to Dollar Sign on the Muscle, scouts are wrong 92% of the time. This was not one of those 92% of the time times.

Cistulli: Well, I won’t reveal the identity of the mystery player, but it should be acknowledged that the reason the Rays passed on him is very similar to the reason that most other teams passed on him — which is, because they were looking at this player’s weaknesses (body type, lack of position) and not his strengths.

The scout Tony Lucadello, whose life is chronicled excellently in Mark Winegardner’s Prophet of the Sandlots regarded this as one of the most common mistakes among his colleagues — that they would almost search out the negative qualities, such that they were most likely to endorse prospects who were least-flawed as opposed to most-talented.

At the risk of alienating every single reader from the present work, allow me to suggest that Keri’s and Lucadello’s point was made as early as 1817 by John Keats, who, in a letter, coined the phrased “negative capability,” as follows:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason – Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates every other consideration.

The last half of that last sentence is the great one for me, and one that, in my world, entirely applies to talent evaluation and player personnel decisions — namely, in that the best clubs attempt to be excellent, as opposed to avoid being terrible.

Albert: I’m not sure what you’re meandering about but I take it that the smart cookies who read NotGraphs and your posts are fully engaged in such a digression. I, on the other hand, still feel relatively new, so maybe I need to be broken in a bit more.

As far as least-flawed/most-talented prospects, at least perceived by scouts across baseball in the late 90s and early 2000s, here are a list of possibly abled bodies that Arango may have scouted, in alphabetical order (just to throw you off):

Jason Bay, Coco Crisp, Adam Dunn, Morgan Ensberg, Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, Aubrey Huff, Ian Kinsler, Justin Morneau, Albert Pujols, Grady Sizemore, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino.

A fine list of players who weren’t huge draft prospects, a few of them diamonds in the rough, ranging from late second-rounders to 6th/7th rounders to 29th rounders.

Any last quasi-philosophical thoughts about drafts and scouting before we close the book on “New Blood”?

Cistulli: Um, I think I’m probably spent so far as philosophy goes, quasi or otherwise. But I’d like to note that Bari just got ca-rushed by Chievo Verona. Like, 6-0. Terrible.

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