While I enjoyed the book “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis, I probably enjoyed the movie better. The movie’s narrative felt a bit more crisp, but many of the small things from the book managed to make it into the movie, like the reference to Kevin Youkilis as the “Greek God of Walks.” Art Howe is portayed, by Philip Seymour Hoffman no less, as kind of an old school manager, but I also see him as a manager trying to do what he can to help his next contract, as he was in the last year of his contract in 2002. Billy Beane had to shake things up to get the team he wanted on the field, and he eventually proved to be correct in his player choices, even though the team did not ultimately win the World Series (spoiler alert?)
I grew up a fan of the Athletics, and remember many of the teams from the glory years of the late ’80s and early ’90s. By the time the “Moneyball” A’s rolled around, I was already on the east coast and not really following the team as much. However, I do remember the 20-game winning streak in 2002 featured in the book and movie. The A’s team of the early ’00s was a team built on pitching, and couldn’t compete on spending like the bigger market clubs. Even to this day, they are trying to build a stadium elsewhere that will allow them to make some money to spend on the team. As an Athletics fan from back in the day, I would love to see Beane’s methods pay off in Oakland.
The Chicago Cubs have a general manager opening, and Beane has been mentioned as a possible option. However, I would really like to see him stay in Oakland and continue doing what he is there, hopefully with a bit more money in the future. But we’ll find out what happens after this season. “Peter Brand,” the pseudonym of Paul DePodesta in the movie, eventually parlayed his success in Oakland as Assistant GM to being the GM for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He currently works for the New York Mets. While he was not the first person to look at advanced statistics, he was probably the most famous due to Moneyball.
One small issue that I had with the movie is the short shrift given to the true patriarch of advanced statistics in baseball Bill James. He was given a pretty substantial portion of the book, and was only briefly mentioned in two spots in the movie. However, talking about statistics probably would have made the movie pretty boring, and they did a good enough job through montages and Beane’s discussions with “Peter Brand.”
My favorite scene from the movie was towards the beginning of the movie, when Beane sits down with a room full of his scouts and listens to them talk about players in the “traditional” way, including a scout saying that a player with an ugly girlfriend lacks confidence. This line garnered laughs in the theater, and it was the first of a few moments that were pretty humorous when presented on screen. However, I did wonder how many of the people in the theater had read the book, and how many people were watching the movie because of Brad Pitt.
Speaking of Brad Pitt, he does put on a pretty good performance as Billy Beane. Beane was a former “can’t miss” prospect who flamed out of professional baseball straight into being a scout for the Athletics. His competitive fire was portrayed well by Pitt, who gives one of his strongest performances in my opinion. One other reason the movie works a bit better than the book is the story of Beane’s personal life, especially his relationship with his daughter. I remember this as being a smaller part of the book narrative, but I could be wrong.
Overall, I give the movie 9 out of 10. They had just enough baseball action and managed to convey the theme of the book well. Great performances by everyone involved, and I think you can see the movie without reading the book, though I do encourage you to read the book, or any other of Lewis’s books. “Blind Side” is much better as a book than a movie, even though Sandra Bullock is much more attractive than the real Leigh Ann Touhy.
Until next time…