Rental Review - Moneyball

Moneyball (2011), PG-13, 133 minutes - Ok, so this wasn't so much a rental as a 'I bought it months ago but just hadn't had a chance to watch it' movie.  I know I am way behind the curve on this one, but Moneyball was a wonderful film.

Moneyball is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Lewis, and tells the story of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, and how, in the early 2000's he and his Assistant GM Peter Brand adopted what was considered a new and radical way of evaluating players.  They began focusing on statistics like on base percentage and other advanced metrics more than the long time 'tried and true' categories like batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.  Beane (played by Brad Pitt) came to this line of thinking after his Oakland A's team had been knocked out of the playoffs by the New York Yankees, then lost their three best players because they could not afford to match the monstrous contracts offered to those players by teams like the Yankees and Red Sox (Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen).  He knew that without a larger budget, he wouldn't be able to replace the production of those players through standard means (i.e. going out and signing an equally talented player).  Beane and Brand (played by Jonah Hill) go about putting a team together that the A's can afford based on their advanced metrics.  Their strategy met a good bit of resistance from long time scouts as well as the team's manager (Art Howe, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) and coaching staff.  So much resistance, that Howe flat out refused to play some players that Beane had brought into the fold.

Moneyball is a great, true life story that is well acted and has a good bit of suspense.  I remember the poor start to that season that the A's had and their subsequent turn around.  But I didn't remember other facts about that season (which I won't spoil here).  I also didn't realize that Billy Beane had been a top prospect himself at one time.  He didn't pan out on the big league level, and this fact adds an interesting dynamic to his relationship with scouts after becoming a General Manager.  I do have one small gripe with the movie: it focuses almost entirely on the players that Beane and Brand brought into Oakland leading into the season (Scott Hatteburg, David Justice, Jeremy Giambi) .  It barely mentions or references the fact that Oakland already had a pretty solid group of young players like Tim Hudson, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, and Mark Mulder.  All of whom became stars and ended up with other teams that could pay larger contracts down the road.  Their contribution to that team's accomplishments that season are totally overlooked by this film.  This doesn't diminish the story in any way, it's just an example of how some things get left out of Hollywood adaptations.

Moneyball is definitely worth checking out, whether or not you are a baseball fan.  If you are a fan of the game, you'll only appreciate it that much more.  It was nominated for a couple of Oscars last year, and I think the praise it received was well justified.  I only wish I had gotten a chance to sit down with Moneyball sooner.

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