Moneyball: Baseball Hall of Fame

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Let me start with a small introduction to the current review: we can’t even imagine how many schemes athletic team managements hide. And we don’t know how much strength it must take to change a system. This week we are reviewing another film – “Moneyball” – with Brad Pitt as the protagonist. Directed by Bennett Miller, with Aaron Sorkin as the screenwriter, it was released worldwide in 2011 to tell the story of a key period in the history of the low-budget Oakland as baseball team, as it moved from failure to triumph. The movie is about a search for a new baseball strategy — with insights that show how a little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom can gain an advantage over big money. 

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball
Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball

Last week we covered the first part of our overview of sport management, based on a real-life story, recorded in Michael Lewis’s book  “The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game”. We also mentioned that one of his specialties is the deep and thorough investigation of every agenda that is covered in his books. Moneyball is the same. It is the best story Michael Lewis has told in his career as a writer.

 

 

Essentially, the plot of the book shows how sports team manager Billy Bean, who has also worked as a scout, can change an ultimately traditional game with fresh, insightful knowledge and turn a poorly-rated baseball team into a valuable franchise. He directs  his primary effort into collecting players, not for money, but for winning. Thus, instead of making bets on the chance to recruit prospective players with the lure of large salaries, he looks for capabilities that promise success (and ultimately assembles a team of underdogs). However, it is not for nothing that Billy Bean decides to transform the conventional model of the baseball team.

 

You Would Find a Successful Future

In the film, while the dramatic actor Brad Pitt plays Billy Bean’s character, the truth of Bean’s past life emerges, an earlier life that affects his attitude to the system from top to bottom. From the earliest years of his life, Billy was fond of playing baseball. The scouts, who are used to finding opportunity by exaggerating a player’s real abilities, persuade him to leave school and dedicate his life baseball. “You would find a successful future”, they say. However, strange as it may seem, he found only failure. After playing for a series of clubs, he gave up and began working as a baseball scout and a sports manager.

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Brad Pitt as Billy Beane and Jonah Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball

After another disaster of a summer season, the As are looking for new players to recruit, but instead of investments in upgraded sports facilities, Billy hires Cleveland analyst Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill. Together they rebuild the system of Moneyball, getting the game’s former excitement back and clearing away all counter-productive prejudices. They survey dozens of films, recording the games of opposing teams, and observe them in detail to make their best bets. Billy Bean withstands the social pressure that follows him. Other managers, coaches, and team members do not support Billy constantly. On the contrary, they are looking for a chance to show that he is unprofessional, to make it easy to push him aside.

Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball
Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball

Unfortunately, for the Oakland As, losing a game means something different compared to the Yankees, for example. Why? It has to do with money and financial running room. The risks are doubled, as the Oakland As have no leeway to make a mistake. Everything Billy and Peter do affects the fate of their players directly. Unlike the Yankees, who are more established in the game, the Oakland As must play as perfectly as they can – the price of losing is too high a price to pay.

Simultaneously, Billy is trying to resolve his personal traumas, the connections to his past. Almost the whole timeline of his memories interacts with the events in the plot, as each decision has a standing of its own. In the end, Billy changes not only the system but his relationship with his daughter. He’s willing to hold fast to all ideas and possibilities for becoming an excellent father at the same time that he is becoming a proficient manager. So, as we discover, the director makes his passion for baseball a vantage point for observing his daughter’s personality.

 

On Being True to Each Other

Father, manager, friend, and self-critical man – so many characters the director reveals at the same time. But one common theme is the fact that Billy’s struggles and the painful gaps between the present and the past converge – as the Oakland As’ winning games continue, Billy is willing to trust himself, and learn that he is really gifted.  We can see how he believes in the players and their success, fighting for every chance to find a new angle to win.

From the movie Moneball
From the movie Moneball

Billy Bean always believes that people remember only the last play and never all that went before, so it is important to win the final game. But that, unfortunately, is not to be. And do you think Billy stops trying to win the league championship? No, he goes on trying, till the moment of the film’s release. Moreover, he declines the opportunity to become a team manager with an annual salary of 12 million dollars, not bad, yes? He still lives in California and still works for the Oakland As, literally still making legends.

To my mind, we have to watch the whole film to understand how much people can be true to each other and their life work. It’s inspiring, and it charges you with positive energy! So, what should we do: never stop believing in a miracle, in ourselves, live the way we do and love the people around us. Never stop trying, and triumph will come!

 

Read more reviews from the author.

Photos: MovieStillsDB

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