Billy Beane (Brad Pitt): “He gets on base a lot. Do I care if it’s by a walk or by a hit?”

[Silence] Beane points to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill).

Brand: “No, you do not.”

And so goes the scene where Beane introduces us to the core concept of Moneyball, the baseball movie released to critical acclaim last Friday. Based on Michael Lewis’s best-selling book, Moneyball tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. It tells the story of Beane’s attempt to use statistical analysis to convert his cash-strapped, losing team, into a playoff contender during the 2002 season. Beane pairs up with Peter Brand, a nerdy, chubby and socially awkward Yale graduate, who helps convince Beane that the traditional system of evaluating baseball talent is broken.

Moneyball is going to get get an Oscar nomination for “Best Picture.” You heard it here first. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Brad Pitt is a boss

Brad Pitt does a great job of conveying the pressure of being a GM in the MLB. His good looks, toned physique and nice flow don’t hurt either.

2. Dry humor for the win

Jonah Hill’s cluelessness and terror at being surrounded by professional athletes–shown by his blank flabby face and awkward silences–is hilarious. Moneyball is much funnier than I expected, and Hill’s performance adds crucial comic relief to the drama of the movie.

3. Oakland getting its reps

San Francisco, in general, steals a lot of Oakland’s light. But the home of the A’s, Raiders and Warriors gets a lot of screen time in Moneyball. There are cool shots of the industrial shipping areas on the water and the golden East Bay hills. The movie even had its red-carpet premier at the Paramount theater in downtown Oakland.

Moneyball movie

Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball.

4. Early 2000s baseball players

Chad Bradford, Bernie Williams, Ray Durham, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Giambi, Scott Hatteberg and Johnny Damon and Miguel Tejada when they were with the A’s. Enough said.

5. Rethinking baseball strategy

Moneyball makes you reevaluate who you praise when a baseball team is hot, and who you blame when a team is losing. I had never  thought that GMs could have such an effect on a team’s record, but Moneyball makes Billy Beane look like the brainchild behind Oakland’s success in 2002. The movie also makes the A’s manager at the time, Art Howe, look like he had zero effect on the team’s performance. Do owners or bench coaches have more of an effect than I thought? The movie makes me interested to learn more about which ingredients make up a winning (or losing) ball club.

6. Right mix of drama and sports

This movie could appeal to a cinema lover or sports fan. There’s plenty of juicy dialogue between Beane and Brand and dramatic scenes portraying Beane’s anguish, but there are also plenty of tense baseball games and flashbacks to Beane’s own baseball career.

7. Watching the pain of breaking bad news to a player

Beane puts Brand on the spot when he forces him to inform Carlos Peña (yes, Carlos Peña played for the A’s) that he’s been traded to Cleveland. There’s another tough scene when Beane has to tell relief pitcher Mike Magnante that he’s been cut, just days before Magnante would become eligible for an MLB pension.

Further Reading:

Forbes: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the book that the movie Moneyball was based on. 

Los Angeles Times: Movie Review: Moneyball.

Los Angeles Times: Decoding ‘Moneybal’: Does the Pitt pic line up with real life?

Physorg.com: New film adapts baseball strategy book for the big screen

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