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Moneyball (2011) - Does it hold up?

A movie based on a book based on a real event with real people played by actors who often don’t look anything like them.

Billy Beane accepts an award for 2018 MLB Executive of the Year
Billy Beane accepts an award for 2018 MLB Executive of the Year
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

This movie is unique among all of the baseball movies I’ve watched for this series for several reasons. Most obviously, it barely features the players. It also doesn’t feature a plotline about anyone who wants to win for the sake of winning. Brad Pitt, as General Manager Billy Beane, explains late in the movie that he doesn’t care about the ring. He cares about getting the ring so that people will understand that what he and Peter Brand (a pseudonym for a character based on Assistant GM Paul DePodesta, played by Jonah Hill) have accomplished and not dismiss them as failures who simply don’t understand.

That last bit is important, because the Athletics find themselves eliminated in a very similar way to how they were eliminated the year before: in Game 5 of the ALDS. And people do immediately poopoo his ideas. However, Red Sox owner John Henry and Athletics owner Steve Schott both recognize his foresight. And, as we are all aware, the things that Beane saw back in 2002 are now just the baseline of where he and his ideas have taken the sport of baseball. The movie doesn’t end with a triumphant cheer from the crowd, but it does end with Billy Beane achieving the thing he most wanted.

Brad Pitt may be the headliner on this movie, but it wasn’t his acting that made this film good. And it certainly wasn’t the action or the other actors - hardly anyone gets and significant screen time besides Pitt. What makes this movie good is the writing and direction. That would usually mean particularly good dialog of one kind or another but in this case, it’s what happens between the dialog that matters. If you go see a Marvel movie you’re going to be inundated with noise, lights, and spectacle. This isn’t a criticism but you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if they were afraid of silence. Of stillness. Moneyball not only fears neither of these things, it relishes them. There are so many long pauses in this film. But they aren’t dead air; you could cut the tension in them with a knife. I’ve seen thrillers with less consistent tension. Will Billy figure out what to do to win the unfair game? Will people believe in his plan long enough for him to try it? Will people work with him as he tries to implement it? Will it succeed? Will it matter? Every time one question is answered another is immediately asked. And then the silence falls down once again. And you watch and you wait. Even if you, as a baseball fan of 20 years or more, already know how it all plays out.

The other thing that struck me the most about this movie is how much more it makes me miss the sport not being played right now than usual. Honestly, my time is so filled with other things that I sometimes forget baseball would ordinarily be being played right now. Sometimes I even worry that when baseball eventually comes back - whether this year or next - that I won’t remember how or want to write about the real thing. It’s been so long since I did any kind of real thought about wins and losses and baseball statistics that I can’t even remember what the last serious statistical article I wrote was about. So in a sense I’ve feared the return of baseball. But this movie made me want it bad. I remember Raul Ibanez and Mike Sweeney and Kit Pellow and Jason Grimsley. I also remember Carlos Pena, Scott Hatteberg, Eric Chavez, and Tim Hudson.

I even specifically remember the Royals almost stopping the A’s streak short of it’s end point in that 11-run comeback game. And hearing about players I remember playing makes me want to watch more baseball very badly. So here’s hoping something can be figured out. I’d hate to have to wait until next year.

Does this movie hold up? Absolutely. You may recall from last week that for my own sake I’ve been seeking out relaxing movies to escape the tension of the real world with; this movie does not fit that bill at all. And well, if you’re afraid it might make you long for real baseball even more than you already do then I would warn you away from it for that reason, too. But if neither of those things concern you - or baseball comes back and real-world tensions ease - this is a truly excellent film and well worth the time you’d spend watching it.

As a final thought, there’s a scene in the film where Billy Beane decides he is going to get Ricardo Rincon from the Cleveland Indians. I have to wonder if that’s how quickly deals really get done. I also wonder at the ethics of offering a trade to San Francisco that Billy had no intention of consummating just to get the Cleveland GM to lower his price. Does that happen often? Wouldn’t it hurt Billy’s ability to deal with other GMs in the future? Even if it has no negative consequences, is it ethical to do so? I probably won’t ever know how realistic that scene was, but I have to admit it was full of tension.


Is it ethical to offer trades you have no intention of making and do you wish Dayton Moore would do it if it would help the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    It’s not ethical and GMDM should avoid it.
    (40 votes)
  • 17%
    It’s not ethical but GMDM should do it anyway.
    (23 votes)
  • 44%
    It’s ethical so GMDM should do it.
    (58 votes)
  • 6%
    It’s ethical, but Dayton shouldn’t do it because it still seems mean.
    (9 votes)
130 votes total Vote Now