I read Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game five or six years ago because I wanted to feed my thirst for nerdy baseball statistics and analytics. For those of you who are not familiar with Moneyball, it’s about how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, basically revolutionized the way players are scouted, analyzed and evaluated in drafts and in the minor leagues. This helped him build a winner in Oakland despite having a payroll 1/5th the size of some of the richer ball clubs (ahem… Yankees). Beane ignored conventional statistics (HR, RBI, SB, AVG) and focused his draft strategies more on on base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) and a strategy known as Sabermatics.
The theory behind these strategies was to find the true value of a player independent of the rest of his team, game, etc (It’s easier to have 100 RBI, for example, on a team with lot’s of great hitters). Because most teams still used traditional statistics and scouting methods, Beane figured this would help his team find players that other teams simply overlooked, sign them for cheaper, and get the largest possible output from them. That’s Moneyball. Everybody got that?
Anyway, I enjoyed the book, especially the behind the scenes looks at Beane having to convince everyone to “drink the cool-aid,” so to speak, and follow this completely new strategy that basically spit in the face of everything every scout had been learning for the last 100 years. I also enjoyed learning about how Beane would dig through the scrap heaps to find specific players, target them, and acquire them, often to the surprise (and dismay) of his own employees and colleagues. It is a cool baseball story, but even I had to skim or skip some of the more analytical parts of the book.
There were too many numbers even for me, so I was pretty surprised to hear this book was being made into a movie this year. Sure there was a story in there somewhere, but how could they not only find it, but make it into a two hour movie that would be compelling to a national audience? Welp, I watched the trailer this morning and I’m happy to say I might just be very wrong. The film adaptation (titled simply Moneyball) stars Brad Pitt as Beane and Jonah Hill as his assistant (odd not seeing him play a drunk slob). I think the producers of Moneyball did a great job getting Pitt for this role. He’s an excellent actor who can really carry a film and a huge box office draw, which is important when casting a movie based on a book about statistical analysis, right? If Dermott Mulrooney was playing Beane, I don’t think anyone would go see it (maybe not even his family). Hill, on the other hand, has a unique quality about him that allows you to almost immediately root for whatever character he plays, even when he plays a jerk (Superbad). I think this is a good on-screen pair and I’m excited to see how their relationship pans out on screen over the course of a two-hour film.
The trailer looks very solid (think this year’s Social Network). The characters are compelling, the dialogue seems witty and engaging, and the baseball scenes look amazing. They even made the front office drama look very compelling! Also, it’s a movie about baseball, so I’m already half way in before I even see the trailer. That being said, they could have made the trailer with the only two-and-a-half minutes of compelling footage in the entire movie. Something tells me that’s not the case with Moneyball though. I’m sure writers and producers have enhanced or even made up some elements in order to make this a more compelling drama (anything having to do with Beane’s daughter, for example), but that’s why films are only “based” on true stories. If they have to add a couple of tear-jerking scenes so that my girlfriend will agree to see it with me, that’s fine by me. Either way, I know I’ll go see it when it hits theaters in September.
I mean hey, if they made a movie about Facebook compelling, why not baseball statistics too?
For those of you who are curious, here’s the official Moneyball trailer:
image courtesy of: http://thesevensees.com
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