'Moneyball' starring Brad Pitt: movie review
Brad Pitt's great, but the movie, 'Moneyball,' glorifies baseball strategy a little too much.
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The answer was to remake the game. Instead of using seasoned scouts and coaches to seek out promising ballplayers using traditional methods and hunches, Beane had a "better" idea. Utilizing the system of resident spreadsheet nerd and recent Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (a composite character played by Jonah Hill), he single-mindedly went after low-priced, overlooked players with a high on-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS. These are the players who actually score runs.Skip to next paragraph
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Director Bennett Miller, whose feature debut was the excellent "Capote," knows that a tangle of flow charts and on-base statistics isn't going to cut it with audiences, even though that tangle is central to Beane's make-over of the game. Miller keeps the wonk factor to a blessed minimum. Some of the film's funniest moments play against the wonkiness, as when Peter, faced with a roomful of leathery, cynical scouts, calmly cites his stats while managing to look both imperious and mortified.
At the same time, Miller must also realize that "Moneyball," at least superficially, deromanticizes the game by reducing its successes to mundane number crunching. This is why he plays up Beane as a maverick, a glorious eccentric, even though what Beane is doing is, by ordinary standards, anathema to the spirit of baseball. (Beane's counterpart is the A's grizzled manager, Art Howe, wonderfully played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.) In place of the traditional sentimentalism about the glory of the game, Miller substitutes a dubious alternative scenario in which Beane's hard-earned successes are played down. That's how "Moneyball" works "heart" into a movie about the inutility of making front office decisions with your heart instead of your head.
The 2002 Oakland A's may not have won the division pennant or the World Series, but they came pretty close. They had a phenomenal run. The filmmakers, although they pay lip service to the competition-free values of gamesmanship, make it seem as if winning it all and winning nothing are life's only two options. They buy all too eagerly into Beane's funk at not being champ.
They also buy a bit too dearly into the whole OPS methodology. The A's, after all, had only the seventh-highest major league OPS percentage in 2002, and the third highest in their division. (The film neglects to mention this.) Obviously other factors were at work in their success. And, you may have noticed, heavily bankrolled teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox aren't exactly hurting in the wins columns these days.
"Moneyball" presents a misleading story line in order to prop up Billy Beane as some kind of would-be miracle worker antihero. In truth, he's just another tobacco-chewing go-getter trying to make sense of a game that, thankfully, has never quite made sense. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for some strong language.)