I’m trying to recall the first movie that I watched with Brad Pitt; it was either 12 Monkeys or Spy Game, both excellent movies. Last night I watched a baseball movie, Moneyball, and Brad Pitt was again his magnificent self. Brad Pitt is Billy Beane, the General Manager of the 2002 Oakland A’s. Billy Beane had made it to the Big Dance (The Majors), but there is a difference between making it TO and making it AT Major League Baseball.
He washed out and that fact haunts him during this movie with several timely flashbacks. He does not like failure and is determined to not fail at his current position. Now, he is trying to build a championship team on a playing field that is not level. Small market baseball teams just cannot compete financially with rich teams like the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. In the words of Billy Beane, teams like the A’s were just organ donors or farm teams for those like the Yankees.
Moneyball is a baseball movie, and one of the top ones ever made, but it is much more. Like many, it is based on actual historical events and players, but this film takes us on both a satisfying emotional journey as well as a deep peek into the inter workings of player management from the front office. Baseball has always been a business, run by rich men. Like any business, they follow the Golden Rule. He who has the most gold, rules.
The Oakland A’s had just finished a amazing 102 win season with a heartbreaking 7th game loss in the World series to the New York Yankees. To make matters worse, 3 of their best players were now Free Agents, meaning they could go to another team for much more money. Teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees had much deeper pockets than Oakland, so the inevitable happened. With a limited payroll, it was up to Beane to get creative and try to rebuild the team.
After a failed visit to Cleveland to try to pick up some players, Beane noticed Peter Brand (Johan Hill), a lowly bean-counter for the Cleveland Indians. Peter, however, was a rabid fan of baseball and had graduated from Yale with a degree in economics. Billy was so impressed with Peter and his mastery of both analytics and baseball, that he hired him to come to Oakland. Baseball across the bay would never be the same. The miracle of the Oakland A’s was right around the corner.
The orchestrated duet between Billy and his nerdy number-crusher is a dazzling performance by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Their genuine belief and commitment to their plan and methods are quite uplifting. The seasoned baseball scouts, managers, coaches and other baseball talking heads, analysts and pundits all howled in open derision at their revolutionary baseball analytics. “You cannot do it this way”, they scoffed in unison.
Moneyball is not only a great sports and baseball movie, it is a great movie period. Even if you don’t care for baseball and are bored with economics, chances are that if you love great film and acting, you will be intrigued by this superior film. Billy Beane stated, “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball”, and he his absolutely right in the context of this film. As well as being a root for the rag-tag underdog movie, Moneyball is quite touching, especially the struggles of Billy Beane with his failed baseball past and his current family situation. It also doesn’t hurt to have a Phillip Seymor Hoffman on board or an Aaron Sorkin written screenplay.
It is not your typical sentimental or star-studded hero worship sports movie. It is a true story – based on Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. I rank this movie up in the Top 5 baseball movies ever made. I haven’t watched them all, but I’m thankful that I chose to watch this excellent movie.