So the wife got the Moneyball movie for me from Redbox tonight. I’d read the book about a year ago (unlike Joe Morgan) and really enjoyed it. The book wasn’t entirely fair to scouts, who I learned from attending the Cubs Convention seminars were rather important in assessing talent from the earliest stages of a kid’s baseball career. Contrary to popular belief, the book isn’t just about on-base percentage, but rather about how the Oakland A’s were able to identify and exploit a market inefficiency. I’d highly recommend that everyone read Moneyball (the book) and by the end of this article, I’ll let you know whether you should also watch the movie. Watching it a bit late due to the President’s State of the Union, sorry.
You probably know by now that the Oscar nominations have been announced and “Moneyball” got a few of them. The movie itself got a nomination for Best Picture. Brad Pitt got another Best Actor nomination and Jonah Hill (WTF seriously) got a Best Supporting Actor nomination. A couple technical awards for Best Film Editing (whatever the hell that means) and Sound Mixing (which I assume means they put a bunch of sound effects in a can and shake it around), and finally for Best Adapted Screenplay (because it was a book before it was a movie!).
After wading through the previews, finally got to hit “play”. As a Bay Area native I followed the Oakland A’s during Billy Beane’s rise to fame and the opening scenes really resonated with me as I saw one of my first favorite teams (the Yankees) defeat the A’s in stock footage. I used to think it was awesome that Beane could do so much with so little even before I knew what I know now. I think Brad Pitt did a good job portraying the intensity Beane was described to have in the book. I like the part where he called Fake Scott Boras an asshole. I have to admit I liked Brad Pitt very much and the movie’s not even 10 minutes in.
Jonah Hill, of course, is a dork. He always plays a dork. Sometimes he’s a quiet dork. Sometimes he sucks a boobie in a movie. Sometimes he spouts obscenities like a sailor. I think he’s way typecast in this movie. That’s probably why he got an Oscar nod, because he plays himself. But Jack Nicholson also plays himself in most movies he’s in. Jonah Hill is not Jack Nicholson. He’s not even male Marisa Tomei from “My Cousin Vinny”…and I loved Marisa Tomei. But he serves his purpose. I think he’s supposed to be Keith Law and Paul DePodesta and some other random nerds all rolled into one nerd. I personally prefer the nerds from “Revenge of the Nerds” as they were more awesome. I did enjoy it when Brad Pitt dressed him down though. They seem to have a good dynamic going.
For reference, this is the Jonah Hill I think of:
Obviously, he’s not that guy in this movie.
They talk about Chad Bradford, who throws sidearm/submariner-style. I recall him vividly because I used to think he threw weird and that would make his pitches hard to pick up. Eventually I realized that I could throw the baseball further and harder if I also did it sidearm, though I didn’t scrape my knuckles on the ground because that was too weird even for me.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe is a bit weird-looking. He’s a bit too fat for Art Howe. I also think he’s a bit too evil to be Art Howe, but I guess every movie needs a villain. I remember Art Howe as being a pretty calm, serene personality but that’s just what I saw on TV while still in California.
They also talk about Jeremy Giambi, who I still hate hate HATE because he didn’t fucking slide before the Jeter-to-Posada flip play that’s played ad nauseum. Well, I don’t hate the guy, I just hate that play. Right afterwards they talk about Scott Hatteberg, who they converted to first base, and which is why I think even Alfonso Soriano can be converted to a first baseman if the Cubs decide they want to try. They probably won’t, but just sayin’.
There’s a subplot with Beane and his daughter which is kind of sweet. Lots of tension is created with just family dynamics and arguments with the scouts and Fake Art Seymour Hoffman. Kind of cool how they did that without blowing up Chicago with a bunch of Transformers. They also have flashbacks to Beane the prospect, who like most prospects didn’t pan out. That’s baseball.
“Intangibles”…lulz. Yeah, they use that word. I hate that word. I want tangibles. The nerds with their computers analyzed the hell out of the tangibles to find the right players to get the A’s to multiple playoff berths. Naturally the spring training scenes were kind of hard to watch because the actors/players had to suck so bad, but it all came together in the end. The part where they decided to go with Hatteberg over Carlos Pena was comical though given what we know now (plus Fake Carlos Pena looks like he just got out of prison), but I am very very aware of the part where Scott Hatteberg hit the game-winning home run during their epic 20-game win streak as I left early to get home on BART. DAMMIT!
The scene where Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill try to get Ricardo Rincon from the Indians is pretty awesome. Just trust me on this one.
I love the Bill James bullshit, by the way. This is what the Cubs should have tried to do before everyone else figured it out and made things even harder for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to fix this club. This is what Jim Hendry should have tried to do instead of valuing batting average and home runs. It’s a bit too late now because the cat is way out of the bag, but “Moneyball” isn’t about OBP itself; it’s about figuring out an advantage based on something nobody else has figured out yet and then exploiting the crap out of it before people catch on. The Cubs didn’t catch on for a very long time, but now they have a set of guys who might be able to play some catch up and then find the next market inefficiency. I am aware that Beane’s A’s didn’t get to the World Series, but they did make it to the playoffs pretty frequently before the bottom fell out, and that’s another story.
This is one of the reasons why you should read the book, and watch the movie. It’s not exactly Oscar material despite what the Academy says, but it’s entertaining and educational. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs here at World Series Dreaming if we didn’t try to point you in the right direction to learn something.