When Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane was a teenager, Major League Baseball scouts told him he had something special. They told him he could be the face of an organization. They told them he had everything he needed to be a star. Beane then left a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University on the table in order to play big league ball. But instead of becoming the MVP-caliber star they told him he would be, his playing career fizzled out.
“Moneyball” shows Beane's history, and how his decisions affected his managing career of the poor-by-baseball-standards Oakland A’s. The A's are a team that can’t match the financial ability that teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have in signing the best players in the league.
Beane was desperate to find a way that would make him and his team able to compete against the super teams. By chance, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a recent Yale graduate in economics. Brand introduces Beane to a new way to evaluate players. Instead of trying to guess how confident a player is or how much power a guy has, you use the statistics that scouts don’t usually look at.
In order to win in baseball you need runs, and in order to get runs you need to get on base. So with this new philosophy, Beane started looking at stats like walks per at-bat and overall on-base percentage. It’s called sabermetrics, and as you may imagine it was not met with much applause from baseball traditionalists who believed that experienced scouts could see things that numbers could not.
Brad Pitt plays Beane, a guy who desperately wants to challenge the status quo and win games at the same time. Pitt’s performance is central to the film and he nails it. Both he and director Bennett Miller (“Capote”) do a wonderful job in getting across how obsessive Beane was while trying to get his new system to work and succeed.
“Moneyball” gets a bit too conventional when it comes to the more baseball-centric parts of the movie. But when it comes to studying a man desperate for success as an underdog, the movie becomes much more fascinating than your average David vs. Goliath sports movie.
I do wish Miller had delved more into the details of sabermetrics and how it changed the game, but I guess if you want more information on that you could read the book. Instead, the movie is very accessible to non-baseball fans because of its focus on Beane and his universal story of finding success.
There haven’t been many quality movies about sports, mostly because they’re all pretty much the same story. “Moneyball” is different not because of its story, but because of its context and presentation. Miller and Pitt take a traditional story about success and disappointment in sports and give it a unique treatment. They don’t emphasize the beating your physical body takes in preparing for success in sports, but the beating your conscience takes.