by Tony Medley
Run time 133
OK for chldren.
I realized that
baseball was run by people low on intelligence and common sense when I
was a freshman pitcher at UCLA. I was facing a batter with two outs and
runners on second and third. I got two strikes on him and threw him a
low-breaking curve. Completely fooled, he looked like a contortionist as
he stuck is butt back and then reached over the plate and barely got his
bat on the ball, weakly popping it up to our second baseman, who ran
around like a chicken with its head chopped off and let it drop on the
fringe of the infield as the two runners scored. Our coach came out to
pull me. I told him he couldn't pull me. I had thrown a perfect pitch
and the guy had been lucky to barely get his bat on the ball and pop it
up and, anyway, our second baseman should have caught it. If he wanted
to pull someone for that pitch and hit, he should pull the second
baseman, not me. His mind was closed and he pulled me.
The idiocy of
baseball is that if I had grooved a fastball and the guy had hit a shot
but lined out to the third baseman, he would have left me in. Baseball
makes the exact same decisions today. It is filled with managers and
executives who wouldn't know logical analysis if it hit them in the
head. I walked off the field, into the dugout, took off my uniform and
never threw another pitch, getting out while the getting was good.
Dealing with that kind of reasoning wasn't something I wanted to face
for the rest of my life.
(Brad Pitt), on the other hand, forsook a Stanford academic scholarship
to play ball. It turned out he didn't have major league talent, but
ended up as General Manager of the Oakland A's. This found him in the
quandary of running a team that didn't have the money to compete with
the wealthy oligarchs of the baseball world like the New York Yankees.
Based on the
book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael
Lewis, which I read, from a script by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin,
this is the story of how he took on
the baseball establishment that was (is) wedded to antiquated thinking
and false premises, and changed the game by evaluating players in a
completely different way. Expertly directed by Bennett Miller (Capote),
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill give Oscar®-quality performances as Beane and
his statistical guru, Peter Brand, respectively, helped by fine
performances by the entire cast.
Pitt gives what
I think is the best performance of his career as an executive going
against the grain, not only of the baseball establishment, but of his
staff, filled with baseball antiquarians. Leading the naysayers is his
manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who could also qualify for an
Oscar® nomination as a laconic guy who fights Beane at every turn). As
the A's fortunes turn, the movie has the broadcasters giving Howe all
the credit. I wonder what Howe's take on this is, since it paints him as
kind of a hypocrite, fighting Beane's changes tooth and nail, but
apparently accepting the accolades when they are thrown at him.
Hill has crossed
over from comedy to drama, which started with his fine performance in
Cyrus. No longer obscenely fat, he's now an accomplished dramatic
actor, even though he does have a few funny lines.
Adding to the
verisimilitude of the film is that all the baseball scenes of actual
play are stunningly effective. There aren't any scenes of unathletic
movie stars like William Bendix trying to look like Babe Ruth. All of
the guys cast as baseball players actually look like real athletes,
especially Stephen Bishop who plays David Justice.
There is one bad
plot hole that probably won't bother anybody but me. Beane and Brand
list the things they have to do to enhance their on base percentage,
which was the basis for their revolutionary mode of operation. One thing
was that Brand tells batters that if they get the first strike called on
them, so that the count is 0-1, their collective batting averages
plummet more than 200 points. Then, later they say that they want
hitters to work the pitcher deep into the count so he will throw more
pitches. Well, what is it? Are they supposed to swing at the first pitch
if it's a strike, or are they supposed to take the first pitch, even if
it is a strike which will cause their batting average to plummet?
This is a film
about a guy fighting the establishment. I don't think one has to be a
baseball fan, or even know anything about it, to enjoy it.