Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill
America’s Pastime has been a beloved game for over a century, but through its history there have only been a number of times when something really spectacular happened. Moneyball documents one of those moments when everything that made sense was thrown out the window and the nontraditional triumphed.
It all started with Billy Beane, once a first-round draft choice by the New York Mets and touted as a 5-tool baseball player and an upcoming superstar. Beane never met those expectations and after a few years, quit to become a baseball scout and then eventually made his way as the Oakland Athletics general manager. He has a powerful presence whenever he walks into the room. Everyone knows he’s the boss, even though not everyone respects his opinion. He also never mingles with his players, never travels with the team, and never watches the games.
After a crushing defeat in the 2001 ALDS to the New York Yankees, the A’s are forced to rebuild after their three star players, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen, hit the free agent market for more money than the A’s can afford to keep them. Things seem very doubtful until Beane meets Peter Brand (Hill), a young Yale graduate with a degree in economics. Brand and Beane develop a very unique idea on how to solve their limited payroll situation by scouting certain players that, to them, are underpaid yet efficient. This includes a submarine pitcher, Chad Bradford, and player with high on-base percentages like Scott Hatteberg and David Justice.
Beane is met with great hostility from the team’s scouts, manager of the A’s Art Howe (Hoffman), and baseball analysts through the early portion of the new season. In order to force his hand on the tactics he wants to see put into place, Beane trades away their star rookie, Carlos Pena, to make sure Howe will play Hatteberg. Once the strategy is finally understood by the players and the managers, the Oakland A’s went on an absolute tear, capped off by a 20-game winning streak, which stands at the American League record.
As a baseball fan myself, I remember witnessing many of the moments that were shown during the film. Reliving the 20-game win streak, especially the walk-off home run by Hatteberg after squandering an 11-0 lead, gave me the chills, like all good sports movies should. And this game of baseball is evidently a lot more than just a game to the players, managers, and fans involved. To many, it’s a love in your life that will stay a part of you for as long as you live. For those players and managers, it’s a part of them that they simply don’t want to let go. The snippets of Beane’s personal life and the portrayal of Hatteberg and Justice show just that.
Brad Pitt gives Beane the charisma and passion that the character needs for the audience to really root for. On top of that, the duo of Pitt and Jonah Hill is one that I never thought could work, but in Moneyball they’re quite the team. And so is the writing team of Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, who have written a witty and well-balanced film full of information for the baseball lovers, and fun for the casual audience.
This film went through its number of aches and pains through the process of being completed, but somehow managed to pull off a crowd-pleasing sports movie that’s comparable to other memorable movies like Rudy and Field of Dreams. Plus, you can sense this film speaks volumes more than just a baseball game, such as the economic woes and the unfair playing field from large corporations. Beane attempted to break the barrier of these conditions, and did so by swinging for the fences. Too bad he came up short and is still searching for a World Series Championship ring.