David and I finally saw Moneyball yesterday. Before the movie came out, David promised--perhaps a bit unwisely--that if I would go with him to see that movie, he would go with me to see any movie I want. That's probably a deal he didn't need to make considering the movie stars Brad Pitt, but I'll take it.
Moneyball, based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, chronicles the efforts of Oakland A's General Manager, Billy Beane (played by Pitt), to change the way MLB evaluates players, shifting to a more statistical analysis rather than who looks a certain way or who are fan favorites. TCB has already posted a review of the movie, which can be read here.
I agree with some of Tim and other commentators that there are awkward interactions between Billy Beane and the movie's other characters, including the fictional Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman). I think those awkward moments added to the movie. The movie was uncomfortable at times because it dealt with uncomfortable moments. People's jobs were on the line. As the review says, much of the movie was fictionalized or condensed. (I heard all about it on the ride home with David.) Such is the case with movies based on historical events.
The movie deals with the best method to field a team. Which is better--the old school method of scouting and going after big names or the revolutionary method of using statistics? Ultimately, the answer is to utilize both, but that's out of the purview of the movie. Rather, Moneyball triumphs the use of statistics. Critics of statistical analysis in baseball claimed that this dehumanized the game.
Actually, the statistical analysis of play adds to the human drama. There are humans behind those stats.
This is clear with players like Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) and David Justice (Stephen Bishop). We first see Hatteberg silently sitting in his living room surrounded by Christmas lights, probably pondering his seemingly career-ending injury. Enter Beane and an offer to join Oakland with the caveat that he'll have play an entirely new position. Beane wants Hatteberg because of his ability to get on base, foreshadowing Hatteberg's role in helping the A's create a record-breaking winning streak.
Justice was a popular player but was considered by many to be past his prime and on the decline. Justice has to come to terms with the fact that he's not the player he once was, but Beane assures him that they want him for the player he was at the moment, not the player he was in his youth. Justice is encouraged to be a leader on the team.
And then there's Beane himself, who recognizes that as a player he himself wouldn't have been an attractive player using his own methods. And, his methods don't lead to winning the last game of the season (a championship) for Oakland. But, he did field a great team on a limited budget, and his methods were embraced by other teams. His methodology did get a high paying job offer from the Red Sox.
On some level, as a viewer, I wanted the happy ending where Beane got the dream job and then goes on to win his championship using the methodology he espoused. But, he turned the job down to remain closer to his daughter (and for other reasons not covered by the movie, which I also heard about in the car ride home...it was a long trip). And this was an okay resolution too. Beane stays with the As (a team he clearly wants to win with) while remaining a short trip away from the daughter he adores. Sports movies often have a family element, but they usually involve a nuclear family with a wife (who could move cross-country without concern for custody arrangements).
There's human drama behind those stats!
Overall, Moneyball was a good movie with some laugh-out-loud moments. It got me to think about certain elements of baseball. I am typically more of a football movie fan, but I am warming to the idea of seeing more baseball movies.
So, I have two questions for TCB readers.
One--what baseball movies would you suggest I see?
And two--what movie should I make David go see with me? I'm thinking the new Twilight movie. A deal's a deal.