Confession: I’m not a baseball fan.
I played Little League when I was a kid, mostly at the insistence of my parents, but I never developed the love and admiration for the sport that so many others seemed to have. It just never appealed to me. Thus, I know very little about the history of the game. Sure, I’m familiar with Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, and I’m begrudgingly aware of Derek Jeter, but if you asked me about Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics? No clue.
After losing all three of the franchise’s highest-profile players to teams with deeper pockets, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is desperate. He’s been asked to replace his stars and to rebuild a successful team, but his scouts are all trying to find the next big thing, instead of solving the problem: the team’s miniscule budget means they can’t afford a single big-impact player, let alone three.
After graduating from Yale with a degree in economics, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) views the game differently than just about everyone else in the universe. To Brand, baseball is all about statistics, and he’s developed a revolutionary scouting program designed to measure a player’s offensive capabilities. In a chance meeting with Beane, he claims that any team can be competitive, despite the size of their budget, simply by adopting his method.
In a decision that ostracizes him from his scouts, the team manager, and the fans, Beane begins to put together a team of players that no other franchise wants, players that the A’s can easily afford on their shoestring budget. Where everyone else sees a group of misfits and rejects that are past their prime (if they ever had one), Beane and Brand see a team that has the potential to get on base and win games, a team that could possibly change the sport of baseball forever.
The film’s best scenes involve the interaction between the awkward, enthusiastic genius of Brand and the swaggering, no-nonsense confidence of Beane. The bond that forms between the characters feels authentic, and Pitt and Hill display tremendous on-screen chemistry as their friendship develops. The film also has a lot more humor than the trailer indicates, particularly in scenes between Beane and his assembly of trainers and scouts.
Director Bennett Miller, working from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, makes a smart decision by focusing on the business behind the game, rather than the game itself. Miller also makes effective use of flashbacks to Beane’s own failed MLB career, and his quest for glory as the A’s general manager almost feels like an opportunity to reclaim some of what he lost when he finally left the game and headed for the front office.
Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, Moneyball is an exceptional film, made all the more interesting by the fact that it’s a (mostly) true story.