Review: Moneyball – Comes Up One Run Short
‘Moneyball’ sadly proves what the Oakland Athletics were trying to avoid in the first place: if you don’t win the World Series, anything you did that season will be forgotten. Going into the movie, I had no idea that the A’s won twenty games in the early 2000′s, eclipsing all other winning streak records. Brad Pitt decided that we should remember that team and how it changed Baseball forever.
‘Moneyball’ stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the General Manager of the A’s. Beane was drafted out of high school as an unmatched talent during his youth to play baseball for the New York Mets. He had all the gifts a star athlete would need to succeed, but was considered a bust in Major League Baseball language when he folded under pressure. He signed on as GM for the last team he played for, the Oakland Athletics. Following the disappointing loss in the 2001 ALDS (American League Divisional Series) to the New York Yankees, management wasn’t going to step up to the plate and raise the team’s payroll. This lead to the low-budget Oakland A’s losing three of their most recognized players, first baseman Jason Giambi, outfielder Johnny Damon, and relief pitcher Jason Isringhausen all at the end of 2001 in free agency to clubs with deeper pockets.
In the movie, Beane is trying to find a method to fill the spots of the lost players using the same theories baseball GMs have used for years, replace a player with a similar player; however, Beane knew his plan wasn’t going to work as the players they lost could not possibly be replaced by a singular talent in their price range. He ends up meeting greenhorn Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who has a new theory on scouting players. This particular scouting method is referred as Sabermetrics (coined by Bill James in the 70’s). This method allowed one of the lowest payroll teams (the Oakland A’s) to compete with the bigger market teams (the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees) for a fraction of the cost.
That about sums up the idea behind ‘Moneyball‘ but how is it as a film? I guess the film’s biggest problem is that it feels more like a glitzy documentary than a big motion picture. Brad Pitt plays it by the numbers (literally), but critics still believe his role is strong enough for him to get consideration come Oscar season. I have to admit, I wasn’t really smitten by Brad Pitt; on the other hand, I thought Johan Hill was strong in his role as Beane’s assistant. He added an extra dimension that the film definitely needed, with his great comedic timing and bright-eyed optimism. Here’s hoping it leads to stronger roles for him in the future.
‘Moneyball’ is a fine look at one of the most fascinating aspects of Baseball that frequently gets overlooked, statistics. While a movie about crunching numbers isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, I saw many similarities to ‘A Beautiful Mind’ with the focus on mathematics. ‘Moneyball’ comes just one run short of greatness, but is required for anyone in love with our national pastime.
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