Every movie is written to have a rise and fall in action. A hero is present and must be broken so that his return is triumphant. Moneyball, written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, follows this recipe…but with a few exceptions.
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the manager for the Oakland A’s and he has had trouble getting to the World Series. He got close, as the movie’s opening scene shows, as they lose to the Yankees in the American League Division Series.
Beane has to deal with a low salary verses teams with deeper pockets. The A’s constantly have to find and develop players, which are being scouted and signed by teams like St. Louis, New York and Boston.
Billy is fighting for his team and for a championship. With very little help from the owner and the scouts, Billy finds himself in a hole.
“There are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s 50 feet of crap…then there’s us.”
This isn’t the first time that Billy Beane has fallen. As a high school student, Beane was one of the top players in the MLB draft. As a five-tool player, the New York Mets gave Beane an offer. His career, which looked promising, fell flat and ended after six years in the league. With his playing career over, Beane turned to the final team that took a chance on him, the Oakland A’s, and went to the managerial side of the business.
If you have seen the movie, you know Jonah Hill plays Cleveland Indian’s intern Peter Brand. The parking garage scene in the movie is the first time that Billy hears about Bill James and his theory of sabermetrics. But in reality, there is no Peter Brand and Billy learned about sabermetrics from someone else.
Peter Brand is a fictional character created by Aaron Sorkin. Paul DePodesta (the real Peter Brand) actually helped teach Beane about sabermetrics. But using sabermetrics wasn’t about creating a better team; it was about creating an affordable team that could compete. Depodesta was essential in helping creating the team, but it was Sandy Alderson, the former Oakland manager, that mentored Beane and had begun using the system.
Beane and his team of “misfits” go on an unbelievable winning streak after the trade deadline in 2002. The A’s win 20 games in a row, something that has never been done by any other team. Beane has the first truly successful experience with sabermetrics and he shows the rest of the MLB what stats and the undervalued can accomplish. Even though they lost the ALDS for the second straight year, the legacy of Beane and his win streak remains.
The rise and fall of Beane flows as he earns the record and then loses the championship, but it does not stop there. He was offered the GM position of the Boston Red Sox but he turned it down to stay in Oakland. Unfortunately, Beane then began taking criticism after the A’s began to struggle and fall below .500.
I love Moneyball. I think it is a great movie. But so many people think that it is just a documentary about Billy, Peter and the A’s. The think that I wish would change and that would be fixed is that people would know that certain parts of the movies are real. Moneyball did a great job of showing his attitude change after losing the game, to realizing that he did something incredible with this team. If nothing else, it serves as a good reminder for Beane about his accomplishments when everyone else counted him out.
*Featured Image belongs to Columbia Pictures