Movies · Sports · Trivia

“Moneyball”, or “The Passion of the Beane”

Movies, (and/or TV series) about sports are at a serious handicap because any script pales in comparison to the unscripted, real-live event. That is why the best sports movies have been the ones in which the sport plays as a backdrop, or second fiddle in the film. Another reason is because nit-pickers like myself love to point out every inconsistency, flaw, anachronism, and unrealistic strategies shown in the on-screen games. “Moneyball” has gotten rave reviews because there isn’t much baseball in the film.  They are right – but not for the reasons I just listed. The film’s portrayal of the 2002 Oakland Athletics season is accurate enough. And the way the A’s won their 20th consecutive win – having a 11-0 lead in the 3rd inning, only to allow the Royals to tie it in the 9th (nice to see A.J. Burnett is an uncredited performance as A’s starter Tim Hudson), then finally win on a Scott Hatteberg walk-off Home Run, is true! My nitpick is in the revisionist history the film’s narrative seems to have. I’ll admit, I have not read the book, so I don’t know if that is or is not an accurate adaptation of the author’s style, or the creation of one of the three credited writers. The credibility of the antagonists, aka: “The Baseball Establishment” is given way too much credibility in order to compensate for the fact that the 2002 A’s once again failed to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The main theme of “Moneyball” is that Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the first person trying to revolutionize baseball by building a roster based on sabermetrics and statistical analysis vis-a-vis old-school scouting and “conventional wisdom.” It also gives the impression that the dismantling of the 2001 club is the first time the franchise had been gutted of its high-priced talent. In both cases, not only is it not the first time someone from the Athletics’ franchise tried to re-invent the game, it is not even the second time! Also, not only was this not the first time the A’s have had to rebuild – it is not even the second! History lesson: back in the 1910’s when the A’s were in Philadelphia, manager and owner Connie Mack (the only baseball manager to wear a suit and a uniform) dismantled his dynasty in order to save money on payroll. When he had another pennant winner in the early 1930’s (ahead of the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees!), he did it again! Flash forward to the 1970’s. Owner Charley Finley (another person who kept trying to reinvent the game), dismantled his back-to-back-back World Series winning club (1972-1974) because it was the dawn of free agency, and he knew he could afford to hold on to his talent, as players like Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson went to Yankees. (Wait, what – Jason Giambi was not the first Athletic to go to Bronx as a free agent?! ). As far as people from the Oakland franchise successfully re-inventing baseball – has anyone ever heard of a manager named Tony LaRussa? The film tries to sell Beane as a modern-day Don Quixote, tilting his baseball bat at ballparks across America (including the one also hosts a NFL franchise – hey when Beane does his off-season calisthenics, he shouldn’t be jogging across a pristine outfield grass, he should be crossing the 45 yard line, near to Raiders’ logo.) Strangely enough, this crucifixion of Billy Beane works, and it makes the movie better.

In regards to the nay-Sayers… “Moneyball” uses voice overs of actual pundits, e.g.: Tim McCarver, Bob Costas, but the biggest antagonist to the new-school stats is Joe Morgan. The movie would have you believe that Morgan is the champion of the old-school purist brand of baseball, and that he is the one of the most knowledgeable men on the subject of baseball. The film is right on the former. As for the latter… well there are many popular sports blogs dedicated to pointing out how pundits don’t know what they are talking about, and Joe Morgan is the epitome, and poster boy of awful announcing. Morgan fails to point out that the Minnesota Twins, the team that defeats the A’s in the ALDS, had the 27th highest payroll that year at $40.225M, just half a million dollars higher than the 28th highest, Oakland.

The movie is Brad Pitt’s baby. He personally got this out of development hell. Does he deserve an Oscar nomination? I don’t know – there is going to be some stiff competition from Leonardo DiCaprio, and George Clooney. But I believe that Jonah Hill does deserve a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role of the fictional character Peter Brand.

I really enjoyed the song sung by Casey Beane (Kerris Dorsey), Billy’s daughter. However, someone posted on IMDb that “The Show” was a song released in 2008, six years after the events of the movie take place. Surprisingly, I don’t have an issue with this. I think the producer could not find a song before 2002 that delivers the “true” moral of this story. That the point Casey wants her father to hear is, “Just enjoy the Show.” My Grade = B.


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