Jonah Keri’s new book The Extra 2% tells the tale of how the Tampa Bay Rays went from worst to first by constantly attempting to gain a 52-48 edge in any of their dealings both on the field and off.  Of course, don’t forget that you’ll be able to discuss the book with Mr. Keri at the next Getting Booked: The Getting Blanked Baseball Book Club, next Monday, March 28th at 7:00 PM at Opera Bob’s in Toronto.

But for today, I bring the book up because it appears as though the Rays’ rivals in the American League East are beginning to adopt similar policies with their attempts to gain an edge.  Consider the case of Cesar Cabral.

Cabral was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rule 5 Draft off the roster of the Boston Red Sox during the Winter Meetings.  Unfortunately, the Dominican born left hand reliever wasn’t going to make the active roster with the Rays, and so as baseball rules insist, he was put on waivers before being returned to the Red Sox.  The Toronto Blue Jays, with space on the roster for a lefty reliever, stepped up and made a waiver claim on Cabral.

But not so fast.

You see, months earlier, general manager Alex Anthopoulos had made a handshake agreement with Theo Epstein, GM of the Red Sox, that he would not seek to claim any of the team’s available players during the Rule 5 Draft if Boston allowed three of their coaches to interview for the manager’s position with the Blue Jays.  Of course, Toronto ended up hiring John Farrell, the Red Sox former pitching coach, and they kept their promise during the Rule 5 Draft.

As Richard Griffin from the Toronto Star explains:

Anthopoulos believes that in this particular case, even though Cabral was technically still Sox property that he was not flying in the face of his handshake promise. Rule 5 details specify that if the Rays do not keep Cabral on the major-league roster, they have to return him to Boston or strike a side deal for a similar type prospect. When the Jays claimed Cabral they assumed that same responsibility toward Boston, which technically means the Jays had taken a Red Sox prospect.

Farrell said he had never seen Cabral, while Anthopoulos said that he had called Epstein in advance of the waiver claim to let him know, hoping to work out a deal. He said he had asked Theo to give some names from the Jays’ farm that might satisfy him, but the names Epstein sent were more valuable to the Jays so they put him back on waivers. The Rays then claimed him back.

So, in the end, the Jays didn’t get to keep Cabral, but perhaps more importantly the entire process shows how general managers in the AL East are attempting to gain that extra 2% that Keri has written about by any means necessary.  And that’s partly why it’s baseball’s toughest division.

And The Rest

The Barry Bonds trial jury has been selected, and surprisingly didn’t include the guy in the picture.

The Washington Post gives us reason to cheer for Toronto Blue Jays forgotten Spring Training invitee Chad Cordero, who is attempting a comeback after losing a daughter.

Getting Blanked contributor Dave Gershman asks when will the Evan Longoria contract cease being the best in baseball.

Things got a little bit hectic in a Spring Training tilt between the Nationals and Cardinals, inspiring one columnist to wonder if a ton of hit batsmen wasn’t the result of something that Nyjer Morgan did last season.

FanGraphs looks at when character and makeup matter.

Have you ever wanted to see what a Major League Baseball contract looks like?

The religion of prediction: a book review of Wizardry.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas asks if the Rangers trading of Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli was really a good move.  #PlanBetter

Chipper Jones is clearly jealous of all the attention that Luke Scott got for sharing his conspiracy theories.  Is back water full of lead?  Is that why these guys are like this?

San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson hopes to be ready for Opening Day.

Shane Victorino is showing the signs of his collision with Raul Ibanez yesterday.

As a bit of a digression, Hardball Talks asks where you store your ketchup.  I’m a fridge man myself.

And finally, Ichiro is an electric performer. Please avoid if you’re prone to seizures.

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