Review: Moneyball the Movie

moneyball quoteWe’re taking a new direction here at BadJocks. After more than 16 years of reporting on the bad things people in sports do, we’re going to turn our attention to sports media: the movies, TV shows, sports radio stations, podcasts, books and other related resources that talk about sports. And for my first review, I’d like to talk about Moneyball (the movie, not the book, although I also read the book and it’s also very good) which came out in 2011 and stars Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as he attempts to put together a baseball team on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft or trade for players.

It also stars Jonah Hill who, believe it or not, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Peter Brand, Bean’s computer genius.  Hill’s character didn’t really exist in the book, and is more an amalgamation of several number-crunchers who helped Bean develop his “money ball” philosophy. I think Hill was nominated because he always looked freaked out to be in the same room with his boss, but that could also be because he had to act across from Brad Pitt. But still, good casting if that’s what they were going for.

I’ve seen the movie several times and never get tired of the story. I think that’s what makes it a good sports movie for me.  Some are “one and done” and that’s okay . . . sometimes. Even if you think you know the story (or read the book and haven’t seen the moview) it’s worth the two hours and 13 minutes to see this story play out. Pitt is pitch-perfect (if you pardon the pun) as Bean, the washed up former ballplayer who now manages the Oakland A’s, a team that’s so cheap they charge players for sodas in the clubhouse.  Trying to compete with the likes of the Yankees and the Red Sox with their big-market, deep-pocketed owners seems like an impossible task. But Bean decides to stop playing the game (selecting players to draft or trade for) as it’s always been played and start looking at things differently. What does a base hit cost you? What does a run cost you? Does it make sense to bunt or steal a base? All the things we were taught were important part of the game as Little Leaguers are challenged . . . and for good reason. This isn’t just a good sports lesson, it’s a good LIFE lesson.

In the end, Bean doesn’t win a World Series with his new methods (which a typical Hollywood film would have done with a fictional story) but he does manage to change the way the game is played, for better or worse.  I also think the film benefits from some great performances by guys playing actual former A’s (including Chris Pratt) and the director’s eye for making the stadium and the games come alive, even over a long season.

Is it the greatest baseball movie every made? It won’t tug at your heartstrings like Pride of the Yankees or make you laugh like Major League, but it will make you think.

It is not currently available on Netflix (too bad) but is available for purchase on Amazon (link below) but can probably also be found at your local library, which is where I got my copy.