October 18, 2011

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 82, Issue 3

Movies: 'Moneyball' shows another side of America's pastime

Photo caption: A behind-the-scenes look at "Moneyball." (Flickr photo by Georgio)

Photo caption: A behind-the-scenes look at "Moneyball." (Flickr photo by Georgio)

During his 2011 film Moneyball, director Bennett Miller tells the true story of the plight of the Oakland A's baseball team during the early 2000's. General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, led his team, anchored by Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen, to the American League Division Series in 2001, only to be eliminated by the New York Yankees.

During the offseason, Beane found his organization in trouble, with the departure of his best players to big-budget teams. He found himself unable to afford to pay anyone of that caliber to replace them.

While unsuccessfully trying to acquire players from the Cleveland Indians' GM Mark Shapiro, Beane noticed that Shapiro seemed to listen to the advice of Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill. Beane discovered Brand used a philosophy that chooses players based off computer-based statistics that focus on underrated stats such as on-base-percentage instead of stolen bases or defensive ability. This method allowed for the acquisition of undervalued, and therefore cheap, players that fit the A's tight budget.

Beane brought Brand to Oakland to assist in rebuilding the team using this mathematical theory, which goes against all conventional baseball wisdom. The entire organization (especially the old school scouts) was extremely skeptical of this new approach. The scouts and Head Coach Art Howe, played by Philip Seymore Hoffman, were convinced that Beane was leading the organization to destruction and did everything in their power to undermine his strategy. Did the A's finally clench victory, or were their hopes lost like a fly ball caught in the sun? You'll have to see for yourself.

The chemistry between Pitt and Hill was charming. It was fun to watch interactions between the no-nonsense Beane and the geeky, fresh-out-of-college Brand. Scenes with Beane's daughter, Casey, played by Kerris Dorsey, remind the audience that baseball is not just about winning games, and that jobs and livelihoods are also at stake. Pitt realistically portrayed his multifaceted character as GM, father, fan, and ex-player with grace.

Moneyball did an excellent job of portraying the suspense and tension felt in games. The audience was silently cheering on the A's with bated breath. Every error that was made was met with a sigh. Every run scored by the opponent was echoed by a groan. It was as if the audience was supporting their own teams and knew that sinking feeling when another number is added to the scoreboard in favor of the opponent.

The film felt real.

It was also refreshing to see a baseball movie that focuses on the managerial side of the game, instead of a player's struggle.

Moneyball is not necessarily a baseball movie, similar to how Field of Dreams is not a baseball movie. It is a film about trying to make necessary and unconventional changes to a system that has been set in its ways for a very long time. It is about trying to fix something, while no one else thinks it needs fixing in the first place.

The movie is accessible to audiences who don't have strong baseball knowledge, yet also satisfies seasoned fans of the game. Anyone who is a loyal fan of a team that tries its best to compete against the big boys will truly sympathize with Beane's and Brand's struggle and enjoy this film.

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