A's Await Film, but Without the Ending they Wanted

August 24th, 2011

The New York Times
By Tyler Kepner
August 23, 2011

The Oakland Athletics close their home schedule Sept. 22, and the next day they open their run in theaters everywhere. The movie version of “Moneyball,” about the rise of the A’s under Billy Beane, will depict a moment in time that is much different from today. Its inspiration will watch in that context.

“I’ve seen a couple of cuts, and there is a bit of nostalgia about it,” Beane said on the phone this week. “I forgot some of the guys on that team. It’s been a while.”

Beane is still the Athletics’ general manager, and he speaks somewhat reluctantly about the movie, other than to acknowledge there are worse things in life than having Brad Pitt play you on film. He says he does not want to distract from his job, which has become far more challenging than it was from 2000 through 2003, when the A’s made the playoffs each season.

The version that held on for a 6-5 win arrived at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night is still 15 games out of first place in the American League West. Competitive for two months, the A’s collapsed under the weight of injuries to their rotation. This will almost surely be their fifth season in a row without reaching the postseason.

“Billy was on to something, and it worked pretty well, so much so that other teams caught onto it,” said Craig Breslow, the Yale-educated Oakland reliever who has read the Michael Lewis book that inspired the movie.

“For a while, it was a market inefficiency. Certain players were undervalued, and Billy could identify them, the guys who projected well. Now, we’re obviously not going to be able to outbid some of the other teams that are using those same metrics. Now guys that hit home runs and get on base a lot cost $20 million a year. Where’s the next place to look?”

That is the question Beane struggles to solve. The subtitle of Lewis’s masterpiece was “The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” and in Oakland’s case, the game is even less fair than it was before.

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