Moneyball – Movie Review – Why I Believe You Got Math In My Baseball

Posted by on September 24, 2011 at 10:00 am

“Would I have been your first round pick?” Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) says, lounging while on the phone with Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young Economics major from Yale. “Yeah, you were a good player.” But Beane laughs him off. “Seriously, would I be your first round pick?” A pause. “Ninth round, no signing bonus.” Early on, we see a young Beane just out of high school impress some talent scouts for the New York Mets. He takes the once-in-a-lifetime deal to play pro ball over a full-ride scholarship and ultimately fails to be the star player they picked him for. Now general manager of the Oakland A’s, the mathematical scheme Peter proposes to him can boil Beane and other players down to mere statistics through objective analysis. He can then take those players, undervalued by the broad baseball community for either their stance or party lifestyle, and create a playoff-ready team after a series of departures gut his lineup. It won’t be easy for Beane to convince his partners, though…

The story goes that days before filming on Moneyball was to begin, director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Solaris, Contagion) was booted from the film for wanting to create a more unorthodox pic featuring more documentary-style features with the actual players (yes, this all actually happened). Bennett Miller replaced him while Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steve Zaillian (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) rewrote the script. The result is a very smart story and an emotionally resonant, clean and almost meditative direction (as in Miller’s last big film, the excellent Capote) juxtaposed.

Surrounded by a council of old men who believe he’s off his rocker for even suggesting they ditch their advice (“He has an ugly girlfriend, so he has no confidence.”) for a spreadsheet of numbers, Billy goes all in with Peter, adding and removing players from his club to squeeze every possible dollar and stat boost possible. His rapid-fire speakerphone calls with other managers to trade players is a sight. As the games progress, we get to hear the commentary from sports programs of the era putting down his statistics-backed lineup, even chalking up victories to his on-field manager (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), whom Billy forces to use his starters in an… inventive way. While his contemporaries weren’t very kind to Beane and his controversial methods, time was, as the Red Sox championship two years later was chalked up to the same statistics-based roster building. Moneyball is a drama with a lot of laughs and for those who don’t know a thing about baseball, namely myself, you’ll end up rooting for this underdog small market team and see how baseball was changed forever.

9/10 FleshEatingZipper

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