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Moneyball, best clean movie this year!

Jonathan Hinshaw - Sunday, October 02, 2011

Just saw a great movie, with no sex, drugs, nothing blew up, not even a drunk appeared.  Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt (Sev7en, Ocean’s 11, 12, 13), Jonah Hill (Super Bad, Knocked Up), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Mission Impossible III, Magnolia), Robin Wright (Unbreakable, Princess Bride), Chris Pratt (Wanted, Bride Wars), Steven Bishop (The Rundown, Friday Night Lights), and Jack Mcgee (Crash, 21) is that movie.


It is great family entertainment, and had a lot of messages for us business folks.  It is based on the true story of Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, who is handicapped with the lowest salary allowance in the game. If he ever wants to win the World Series, Billy has to change the way baseball is played. Billy decides to go up against tradition and the old way of doing things, where scouts looked for young promising players, paid them a lot to join, and expected them to turn into stars a few years later.  He has a salary cap of a little under 40 million, the Yankees are at 120 million.  So he can’t pay the big numbers. 

When he looses three key players in one season, he makes a decision to do things a new way.  He meets Jonah Hill while trying to make a deal for another player, strikes up a conversation, realizes he is into statistics.  Economics degree from Yale, he is using a computer program written by a security guard at a meat processing plant.  Not a prescription for success.  But since he has nothing to lose, Brad hires him, and they are all in. 

They use statistical analysis to determine who will join their team.  No matter if the guy has played somewhere else, and is too old to be productive (Steven Bishop at age 36), or if the player has played at one position and cannot play there any more (Chris Pratt, a catcher with a bad arm), they are evaluated by how many times they get on base, and how that affects the score.  So the catcher is now a first baseman, who doesn’t have to throw to second base anymore.  Robin Wright plays Brad’s ex-wife, lots of others you will recognize; all the scouts are famous for character parts, which is what the scouts are all about.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the team coach, who actually determines who plays what position.  When he and Brad disagree as to who plays what spot, Brad trades a couple of guys, just to be sure the message gets through, he wants a certain player to play a certain spot. 

So does it work, you will have to see for yourself.  Let me say that it seems at first it is not gonna happen.  Then momentum builds, and it looks like it is.  The key to Brad’s job is the last game.  If you lose it, you have lost the season, at least in his mind.  You baseball fans know this already, so this is not a spoiler.  They set a record of a bunch of wins in a row, a real winning streak.  It is exciting to watch, the baseball game is full of superstitions.  Brad never watches the team play, it is bad luck.  The only game that he comes to see, they lose a 11 run lead!  So some of those superstitions are not just folk-lore, they really happen.

The movie is one of those flash-back types, so popular today.  We see Brad as a young boy playing ball, then in high school, then getting signed by a major league team.  He moves from one team to another, not exactly on the rise with each move.  In fact, it is more of a step down than up in most cases.  Pretty rare not to have drinking, sex, women who throw themselves at the stars, etc.  We are not shown that part of the ball game, though it is probably there, just not glorified this time.    

You may think, not much drama in watching a ball game or several years of ball games.  There is, trust me.  We have emotional ups and downs, Jonah gets to be in the spotlight when it looks like the system is flawed, Brad is fighting his own demons, lot going on.  The movie ends up on a good note, you will have to see it, or know you baseball to realize where it is going.  Great movie, 4 innings.   

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