In truth, Moneyball isn’t really a baseball movie even though it revolves around the national pastime. It’s really about one man Billy Beane and his quest to change the way things are done. The same battle could be seen in any other sport or industry because people are naturally resistant to change. Beane’s new way of evaluating players hasn’t brought him the ultimate success, a World Series championship. But it did change the game for other baseball teams who had greater resources than him, namely the Boston Red Sox, who he famously spurned a few years before they finally overcame the Curse of the Bambino.
But back to the movie. I won’t use the old baseball cliché and say they hit it out of the park, but it was a terrific film filled with humor and great performances, namely from, yes, Brad Pitt, who really made you believe that he was Billy Beane. I had a couple of favorite scenes, one of which was of Beane and then Oakland A’s coach (and future Texas Rangers manager) Ron Washington trying to convince Scott Hatteberg to switch positions to play for the A’s. I also loved the scene with Beane at the trading deadline trying to manipulate and cajole other general managers so that he can get the player he wants. It was fun trying to picture Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees doing the exact same thing.
One of my rules for movies that are based on true stories is they have to make me want to learn more about the story afterwards for me to really consider it a good movie. Moneyball did just that. For example, I hadn’t known much about Beane’s struggles to reach the big leagues as a player or the tension that existed between him and manager Art Howe. In what Howe says was an unfair portrayal, the movie depicts him as an immovable obstacle to Beane’s grand plan, refusing to play the players that the numbers game led Beane to sign.
I doubt we’ll ever know whether Beane or Howe was right. Moneyball focuses on the regular season success that the A’s achieved under Beane’s blueprint. But for all the brilliance of Beane’s plan, the ultimate prize continues to elude him.
Thanks to Brett Farmiloe for the Billy Beane photo.