It’s Friday, and that means that people will be flocking to the theaters to see new release movies or ones they have wanted to see but were waiting for the crowds to die down. If you want to see something that has to do with baseball though, you’ll have to scour the DVD racks at a store, on-line, or at a friend’s house. I guarantee one of them will have Moneyball, and it is definitely worth the time to watch it if you haven’t already seen it.
I have a page dedicated to baseball movies with short reviews, but I’ll tell you about this movie and what makes it such an appealing film. It was nominated for multiple academy awards, and when that happens for a sports movie you know it must have done something right. For the ladies, it stars Brad Pitt and has players in baseball pants. The only person who might not like Moneyball is Jeremy Giambi because of how he is portrayed, but it is accurate from what I have heard so even he might get a kick of when they show his character dancing on top of a table in the clubhouse.
Moneyball is based off of the book with the same name by Michael Lewis. I own the book, tried to read it when it first came out, then ended up buying the audio version a few years later. It seemed much more interesting from a listening perspective than a reading perspective, although the book has some charts that help showcase information that is hard to convey by speaking. The book is more informational than a story, and I had doubts about how Hollywood was going to make a film adaptation out of it.
They proved me completely wrong, because Moneyball is one of the best baseball movies I have seen. It tells the story of the 2002 Oakland A’s, develops the characters throughout the movie, and uses as many real player names as possible that baseball fans will notice. I caught myself in that “a-ha” moment over and over again seeing players from back then, both on the A’s roster and other team’s as well.
It would have been awesome to see the actual players play themselves, but they would have been 10 years older than what they were in the time period of the film. One of the players that I had no idea played for Oakland back then was Carlos Pena, who was a rookie first baseman that year and was traded to the Detroit Tigers during the season. There are small details like that which even the biggest baseball fan will realize they didn’t know.
Billy Beane, played by Pitt, is the center of the movie, and he is the general manager of the A’s. His job is essentially to put together a competitive ball club with a much lower budget than most teams. Being in a small market, Oakland just doesn’t have the payroll that teams like the Red Sox and Yankees have. His process for creating this team is the basis of the book and the movie.
Moneyball highlights off-the-field GM tactics
The movie follows Beane throughout the course of the season both on and off the field. He deals with his team executive duties as well as family life at home with his daughter. There are also multiple flashbacks to when Beane was a high school senior being scouted himself and his journey up through the Major Leagues. Understanding Beane’s background is important to realize the decisions that he makes and why he makes them. While many old school scouts rely on a prospect’s numbers and physical attributes, Beane tries to see beyond what is right in front of him.
Potential is such an overrated term and can mean a wide range of things. Every player doesn’t have to be an all-star or have a Hall of Fame career. If someone is that type of player, he needs to be paid less than what he is worth and provide more value to the team than what his salary suggests. That is the view of Beane and his understudy Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill). Players have a much different opinion on that matter obviously.
I had my doubts about the movie because there wasn’t a definite ending to the story in the book. It is something that continues after the book. The A’s (spoiler alert) don’t win the World Series, and the apex of the film is the conclusion of their record-breaking winning streak and the final game in that streak. It’s not much of a thriller in the overall picture of the season as a whole, but for a movie, it provides an epic setting that really draws you in. Dramatic music and changing camera angles can do that to a viewer.
If you go look up the schedule, player transactions, and events of the Oakland A’s from the 2002 season, there will be no surprises in the movie in terms of the story line. But if aren’t a baseball historian, the events come as shocking and provide intense moments in the movie. As noted in every movie, some people, places, and events are altered for dramatization purposes. This is true for Moneyball. I have no complaints about the way they portrayed anybody or anything, and everything seemed accurate based on the book and what I know about the real life people and events.
One of my favorite characters in the movie is David Justice. After watching the extra features on the Blu-Ray disc, it turns out the actor who played him was an avid Justice fan growing up and got the chance as a kid to meet him. Then, he went on to get drafted by the Atlanta Braves, whom Justice was playing for at the time, and got to see him around the field a few times during his stint in professional baseball. Ironically, Justice was the character he was cast to play in the movie which meant more to him than anyone else.
There are fictional baseball movies, there are kids’ movies that happen to be about baseball, and there are true baseball stories told through the big screen. Then there is Moneyball. Moneyball may not be one of the greatest stories told in terms of baseball history, but it has changed the way players are evaluated and the types of players teams look for now. That is something not seen by the average fan who only watches the game and doesn’t look beyond it. The meaning behind the title is trying to find the best value players, or in other words the cheapest players who provide just as much value, if not more, than higher priced ones. While other teams have more money to spend, teams like Oakland have far less money but still must compete against baseball’s high rollers.
The A’s did have superstar players on their roster in 2002. They had The Big 3 on their pitching staff in Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder. Billy Koch was a dominant closer. Miguel Tejada was at shortstop and Eric Chavez was handling duties at third base. All of these players were not being paid the mega contracts they would command later on. I think even George Steinbrenner would have had a heart attack trying to sign all of those players as free agents after contract years. Oakland had lost Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi from the previous year, and that was the basis for how the Moneyball theory started. Beane had to replace an MVP in Giambi and an all-star outfielder in Damon.
Moneyball is great not just for baseball fans but for anybody. While there are many intricacies of baseball throughout the film that non baseball lovers may not understand, most good movies have those details that can only be explained later on. The detail and realism are second to none. While many people say a book is better than the movie adaptation, I would beg to differ in this case since the cinema can bring to life what charts and numbers cannot.