Moneyball, Not a Movie About Baseball

Moneyball isn’t a film about playing baseball. And after re-watching a little of Meet Joe Black the other night at 3 a.m., I realized the extent to which Brad Pitt has improved as an actor since 1998. Pitt excels in Moneyball; his performance fits the part. (Although, if I were casting director, Pitt would still look too pretty to be the Oakland A’s GM.) I enjoyed Jonah Hill in a serious role—assistant to the GM (Pitt), because Superbad, for instance, I didn’t find humorous. Philip Seymour Hoffman played a quiet man, fuming under a rough exterior; he seems to fade into the background, which is appropriate for a manager of the league’s loosing baseball team. Seymour Hoffman plays are far better “everyman” than Pitt. But, perhaps Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, is no everyman.

Beane had a chance at baseball stardom in his younger days, but wasn’t good enough to be a real player. We see Beane working-out. We see Beane drunkenly acknowledge to Peter Brand (Hill) that he was a lousy baseball player even in his prime. But, Beane was never helpless, even when he was down-and-out, soliciting newcomer to baseball, Brand, for advice.

Like most great sports movies (think Rudy) the arc of the story is about beating the odds. But, Moneyball delivers an inspirational sports movie with a twist. Instead of focusing on the field, the movie takes us deep inside the inner workings of the game. And, the payoff is worth the anticipation. The twist: the triumph didn’t happen because the A’s had more heart, or talent; the A’s won because Brand studied economics at Yale and was good at math. The A’s won because they were consistently average—consistency was the key to that 20-game winning streak.

Moneyball is a story about the internal structure of baseball shifting; it’s about Beane challenging the status quo, beating out big-money teams like the NY Yankees. Baseball fans beware: This isn’t a movie about the A’s winning in baseball; it’s a movie about Beane winning in business.

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