The “Moneyball” trailer debuted this past week, and Ken Tremendous, AKA Michael Shur, AKA one of the brilliant minds behind the brilliant but departed Fire Joe Morgan said it all.
My only question about the Moneyball movie is: how braggy is Billy Beane that he wrote, produced, and is starring in a movie about himself?!
Of course, Billy Beane was the subject of Moneyball. Michael Lewis, of The Blind Side fame, penned the surprisingly engaging tale of a small market team thinking outside the batters box in order to compete with big money clubs. Now it seems Lewis and Hollywood are hoping lightning strikes twice after The Blind Side grossed a staggering $255 million during its theatrical run and garnered an Academy Award for star Sandra Bullock.
Perhaps nothing in recent baseball memory has provoked as much controversy as Moneyball. It certain finds itself on a shortlist with PEDs, Barry Bonds, and the All-Star Game deciding home field advantage as one of the most polarizing issues in MLB. Fire Joe Morgan did an excellent job calling out players, managers, journalists and, yes, announcers who railed against the idea that players could be whittled down to an equation. And those same media types delighted every October when Billy Beane’s teams lost to the Yankees or Red Sox, as if playoff loses negated all of the incredible work the Athletic’s front office managed on a shoestring budget.
Moneyball came along at a perfect time for baseball, when star players were highly overvalued and contracts were running amock. Teams wised up – notably the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers, who were run by various Beane disciples at different times over the last decade. There was a paradigm shift in baseball, a conscious decision to look at different skill sets in players, pick up reclamation projects and Rule 5 draft guys on the cheap. Obviously, not everything has changed – my hometown Mets owe about $500 billion to Jason Bay, Luis Castillo and the victims of Bernie Madoff (numbers approximate). But teams began to look at the draft, free agency and trades in a new way.
Of course, that does not necessarily translate to reality. The top 12 budget teams in baseball spend over $100 million each, and the Angels, Mets, Cubs and Dodgers are all languishing below .500 in the standings. That would be a bad investment. Meanwhile, the low budget Rays are storming towards the two most expensive teams in baseball and the thrifty Indians are atop the $100 million Tigers.
The principles may not be in practice at the moment, but Billy Beane was undoubtedly on to something, and Lewis does a great job of threading it all together. The Moneyball movie will be inextricably linked to The Blind Side, and will be judged against the latter’s huge box office gross. This is slightly unfair – the book is really good (seriously, who knew Scott Hatteberg was compelling?), but it has a downer ending. In The Blind Side, Michael Oher gets drafted and is currently mauling defense ends in Baltimore. In Moneyball, Billy Beane basically tells everyone to go eff themselves – his tactics only work in the regular season, and the playoffs are a crapshoot. Not exactly a Hollywood ending.
Maybe Moneyball captures that same magic. Somehow, I think it would be more poetic if it snuck into the Best Picture nominees list out of nowhere, only to lose to the big budget Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates of the Caribbean is the New York Yankees of films – big, bloated, full of stars and universally hated.
Plus you just KNOW Alex Rodriguez wishes he could wear eyeliner like Johnny Depp.