Moneyball was a hit. It made a killing at the box office, it garnered an Oscar nomination, and most importantly, it restored some much needed dignity to the baseball movie genre. After being subjected to out-of-touch flops like Summer Catch and The Scout, Moneyball was a breath of fresh air for baseball fans, and personally, I loved it.
With regard to baseball, the film was authentic. I deem myself a stickler for attention to detail and Moneyball passed the test with honors. Everything was just right, from the baseball lingo to the elephant logo-ed BP hats - Brad Pitt even packed a few dips for good measure. The film reeked of baseball accuracy - for once, my nit-picking skills sat idle and I was able to simply enjoy the show.
As a movie itself, I found it entertaining from beginning to end. The writing was witty, the acting was spot on, and the story was balanced in a way that enabled both baseball fans and those foreign to the game to follow and enjoy. The film also shed light on the front office side of baseball, a perspective never truly featured or explored in the past (sorry Little Big League).
The movie, anchored by the chemistry and banter of Pitt and Hill, was an all-around success - but really, what fun is that? Here are some thoughts that went through my head while watching Hollywood's latest take on baseball.
World's sexiest GM: Seriously, how cool do you think Billy Beane tried to play it off when he found out Brad Pitt was playing him? Probably acted all nonchalant like he didn't even know who he was: Brad Pi...Pitt? Oh yeah, I think I know that name. He was voted World's Sexiest Man in 1995 and 2000 or something, wasn't he? Yeah, I guess he'll do - I mean whoever you guys think best captures my essence, I'm good with.
Perfect role in jeopardy: I was legitimately upset that Philip Seymour Hoffman played Art Howe in this movie because I have been saying for years that he would kill it as his voice twin, Buck Showalter. With the blond hair he's already a spitting image of him, but the voice similarity puts it over the top, it's uncanny. If having already played a manager in a baseball movie prevents PSH from taking a future role as Buck I will be devastated.
The Big Three: I realize that it doesn't do much for the underdog story, but how do you make a movie about the 2002 Oakland Athletics and not mention the fact that it had the best rotation in baseball? Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder were baseball's "Big Three," and may have even had a slightly larger impact on Oakland's 103 wins than featured character Chad Bradford. The three were downright dominant - in fact, the A's not winning a title with this triumvirate of aces makes the Heat's "Big Three" coming up short last season look like child's play.
What about us? : In addition to superb pitching, the A's had a solid lineup full of contributors who also went overlooked in the film. With Miguel Tejada at short and Eric Chavez at third, Oakland boasted one of the strongest left sides of the infield in the game, both offensively and defensively. As for the outfield, there was more than just an old and decrepit David Justice out there: the 2002 season was right around the prime of both Terrence Long and Jermaine Dye's careers. The rest of the lineup was peppered with notable names, such as Mark Ellis, Ray Durham, and Eric Byrnes. I realize it's not easy to make a movie with 15 main characters, but maybe throw them a line or something to acknowledge their existence. How let down was the guy cast as superstar Miguel Tejada when he read the script?
Hatty over Peña: And then there was this guy named Carlos Peña. I swear they only refer to him as "Peña" in the movie just so no one hears the name "Carlos Peña" and realizes it's the All-Star currently playing down in Tampa Bay. Poor Art Howe. Is there even any debate that a rookie Carlos Peña should have been playing over Scott Hatteberg? Hey, I like Hatty as much as the next guy and I realize he was part of the master plan, but put yourself in Art Howe's position: do you start your power-hitting rookie sensation, or a washed-up catcher who's never played the position before but walks a lot? It's a no-brainer. Billy Beane thought so too - in a questionable move, he quickly shipped Peña out of town, raising eyebrows everywhere and giving way to one of the best trade explanations of all time: "He was making the rest of the team look bad."
Not just an actor: Whoever played David Justice can swing it! The scene where he and Billy are talking in the batting cages features a smooth swing and some solid (and loud) contact. Squaring up ball after ball while shooting a scene can't be easy - hats off to an actor who doesn't have to fake athleticism.
Heads up Mench! : I am dying to know what size hat Jonah Hill is wearing throughout the movie - it has to be at least an 8, right?
Earworm Alert: The song that Billy's daughter sings to him may be the catchiest tune of all time - I find myself whistling or humming it at least once a day.
Boston Baked Beane: Here's my final question: had he taken the job in Boston, what would a Billy Beane Red Sox lineup look like? Throughout the movie they paint this small-market, low-budget portrait of Beane finding loopholes around the almighty dollar. The A's didn't have money and Beane had to work around it - the low payroll was the driving force behind his system, which seemed to be the antithesis of how things work in Boston. Despite the movie crediting the Red Sox' 2004 World Series to Beane's system, the two clubs were operating on two separate wavelengths. This key difference is ultimately why I believe he stayed in Oakland.
I think Beane likes not having the resources - he feeds off of it, and in the worst case, it's a built-in excuse. If they become a contender, he's a genius - if they come up short, it's because they don't have the money to compete. In Boston, there are no excuses - you have the money, you have the resources. It's the total opposite - winning is expected, lose and you're a heel. I'm not saying Beane couldn't have won in Boston, but he's a small market GM with small market methods - that's his game, and he knows it.
Speaking of Boston, is it me or is John Henry the epitome of cool in this movie? Only in Hollywood.
A League of their Own
Rookie of the Year
For Love of the Game