“Moneyball” is a movie that is heavily promoted and advertised with baseball imagery, yet it isn’t necessarily a baseball movie.
“Moneyball” centers on former failed player turned Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his intense resolve to find a way to win during the 2002 season. His team has a payroll of $40 million compared with other teams like the Yankees and Red Sox with over $150 million.
Because other teams can freely outspend Beane and buy all of his best players, the film focuses on Beane’s attempt to buck the hierarchy of major league baseball and to “change the way the game is played forever.”
In an attempt to compete with these larger markets teams, Beane enlists the help of a chubby, nerdy and recent graduate of Yale, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who eventually becomes assistant general manager. Brand creates a new system of scouting, evaluating and assessing undervalued and unappreciated players based on complicated statistics and formulas known as Sabermetrics.
After going against experienced scouts’ advice, as well as Oakland’s own baseball manager Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the Athletics sign and trade for players who can do one thing and one thing only- get on base and produce runs, thus winning the game.
The season begins poorly, with the team losing 11 games in a row and many calling for Beane to be fired. Eventually, the A’s begin to string along many wins in row including a record setting 20 games. They compile the best record in major league baseball and have a chance to compete for a championship.
Besides the baseball content, there is very little time dedicated to actual play on the field, with the film focusing on the politics and the characters involved in the story. Pitt absolutely shines in the movie as being a fiery, almost overwhelmingly competitive baseball executive, who also cares very deeply for his daughter of a previously failed marriage.
Hill is no slouch either as he makes his debut into the genre of drama. He convincingly portrays a character who never played baseball, much less any other sport. Yet, he seems to possess knowledge of evaluation and selection of players that the expert scouts do not seem to understand. While Hill illustrates why a certain player’s OBP (On Base Percentage) can win a certain amount of games for the A’s, those same scouts discuss that player’s girlfriend and the fact that her ugliness makes him a player with no confidence.
“Moneyball” is one of the more unique sports movies ever, simply because baseball serves as the backdrop for the film, rather than having it as the star. The film never really follows any of the players, yet it never really needs to because of the enticing roles played by Pitt and Hill. The themes of revolution, change and even economics are enough to keep the audience wanting to know more about the operations and inner-workings of baseball’s underbelly.
While many people find themselves wanting to root and cheer for a big play in the series or the game-winning homerun on the field during sport/drama films, “Moneyball” convinces you to change that logic in the same fashion that Billy Beane ultimately changed the game of baseball to this day.
– Anthony Garcia, Staff Writer