We all love watching sports movies and over the years we have seen some great ones such as Any Given Sunday, Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, Jerry Maguire just to name a few. The reason why we enjoy these films thoroughly is, because we simply love seeing the drama pan out of the underdog, as he defies what is expected of him to rise up above. Like Jerry Maguire, Moneyball, has a similar story in the sense that these films are both based on true experiences. Also, in a bigger sense, the protagonists in the films revolutionised how things are done in sport by implementing their new philosophies.
The film is based on the sports biographical book of Michael Lewis that is also entitled Moneyball and was published in 2003. The film was also directed by Bennett Miller who has made some great movies in the past such as his documentary entitled The Cruise and his better-known film, Capote, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Director category. Moneyball has received numerous positive reviews since it has been released and it also received six Academy Award nominations, which includes nominations for Best Actor and Best Picture.
The successful movieis probably one of the best sports films that you could ever see. What makes it an even better movie, is its star-studded cast with Brad Pitt taking up the role of the main protagonist and Philip Seymour Hoffman as well as Jonah Hill playing supporting roles. It is arguably one of the best performances of Hill, as it is the first time that one can see him act in a more serious role, rather than the films that we are used to seeing him in like Get Him to the Greek and Superbad.
The film begins with Billie Beane (Brad Pitt) who is the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball side upset by his team’s loss in the last game of the 2001 post-season. What adds to his stress is that three of the club’s key players are being transferred as free agents. This causes struggles for Beane, as he needs to assemble a new squad for the upcoming season on a tight budget. During the process of restructuring his team, Beane meets up with the board of the Cleveland Indians in order to discuss their trading options. This is where the Oakland As General Manager meets a young Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who is a Yale economics graduate that has never played baseball, but uses his knowledge of stats to assess the value of players in an unorthodox manner.
Peter Brand grabbed Beane’s attention immediately, as he was curious to find out how Brand’s “absurd” methods are implemented. The GM who was a former Major League Baseball player himself showed lots of promise as a rising star to the game, but did not rake in success. He asked Brand if he would have drafted him after he had finished high school and Brand said that he would only have drafted him in the 9th round. According to Brand, Beane should have accepted the Stanford University scholarship instead. Beane is then convinced to hire Brand as the assistant GM of the Oakland Athletics.
When trying to implement the then ‘avant-garde’ sabermetric system to their player selection process, the scouting management staff was very reluctant about the plan, as they based their previous selections on the physicality of players, which was the traditional approach.
However, they had eventually accepted Brand’s system where he selects players based on their OBP (on-base percentage). The Oakland As managed to assemble a team of ‘misfits’, players that are unwanted by any of the other MLB franchises. Some challenges arose, as some scouts dismissed Brand’s system in a hostile manner and therefore were fired. In addition, what was arguably the biggest struggle, was the tug of war that occurred within the As’ set up. The coach, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), refused to field the team in the manner that they were designed to; instead he used them in the conventional way. Thus, the Oakland As starting off the season dismally, as they lost the majority of their games.
The tensions were already highly strung between Howe and Beane, as the two had a disagreement over Howe’s contract. Tensions soared even higher, as Beane transferred some of the team’s top rated players (according to the traditional system), which forced Howe to utilise the underrated new recruits in the way that they were accustomed to. The team’s horrible streak continued, leaving the critics with much to say about the newly implemented system. The struggle for wins paralleled the internal and external struggle of the acceptance of the sabermetric system.
These are not the only challenges that Beane has to overcome, as he has to juggle is life of baseball with his family life. The As General Manager tries to make time for his young daughter, Casey (Kerris Dorsey), who lives with his ex-wife and her partner. Beane realises that the divorce also has an affect on his daughter, as the song that she sang mentions that she is ‘caught in the middle’. What adds to the challenges of him seeing his daughter is that his work requires him to travel around the country week in and week out, but the strong bond between him and Casey is what helps them to overcome those hurdles.
Meanwhile, at the As camp Beane manages to convince the owner of the As to continue using Brand’s system. The team gradually starts to win games, which took some of the critics by surprise, but they still showed disregard for the system, as they felt that the Oakland As were lucky. Eventually the As have the best record in their division as they manage to pull off the 19 consecutive game winning streak, which is level with the then American League record.
In As’ game against the Kansas City Royals, they strive for their 20th win in succession, which would see them break the record. They seemed well on their way of achieving that feat, as the As created a comfortable lead of 11-0. Beane, being superstitious, did not attend game, as he believed it was bad luck. However, his daughter convinced him to go to the match. As he arrived, the Royals to were working their way back into the game, until they could manage to level the scores. In the final innings, Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), one of Brand’s initial selections, hits a home run to help win the match and to attain the all time American record for the longest successive winning streak.
Although Beane is proud of the success of the team and the newly implemented system, he is still disappointed by the Oakland As’ loss to the Minnesota Twins in the first round play-offs. The GM of the As is then offered a contract to join the Boston Red Sox, as they realised that the sabermetric method has revolutionised baseball. Despite the huge sum of money that he is offered, Beane turned the offer down remaining loyal to the Oakland As. A few years later, the Red Sox win the World Series with the use of the sabermetric system.
So we know that the theme of sport is vital in the film, but one cannot argue that the film is not about solving problems against the toughest hurdles. Also, it is about being bold enough to fight, so that one can make a change with something that one truly believes in. Here Beane shows that it is possible to defeat all of these obstacles, by sticking to one’s guns and powering through. Whether it is to prove the world of baseball wrong or overcoming the barriers of one’s personal relationships, it is possible as long as one is perseverant and determined.