New York Magazine
Published Sep 18, 2011
(Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, adapted from Michael Lewis’s game-changing nonfiction best seller, is an inside-baseball story that transcends inside baseball. On one level, it’s a conventional sports-underdog narrative in which Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) hits on a way to make serious contenders out of a small-market team with a fraction of the resources of, say, the Yankees. But the fortunes of the A’s aren’t transformed by the usual formula comeback—a slugger regaining his confidence or a wayward pitcher learning to locate his fastball. Moneyball is the first go-for-it sports film to turn on … spreadsheets. It’s The Bad News Bears for M.B.A.’s.
The movie doesn’t quite come together, but it’s full of smart, cynical talk, and it’s very entertaining. The title itself has a subversive kick, since the businessmen who run the game work hard to keep you from connecting our two great American pastimes, let alone yoking them together into a myth-deflating new word. Moneyball opens in anti-romantic gloom, in 2001, with Beane by himself in the darkened Oakland Coliseum listening to a radio broadcast of his team across the country being beaten in the playoffs by the Yankees. (Beane doesn’t watch games in person—he thinks he’s jinxed.) A title card informs you that the Yanks have almost four times the players’-salary budget of the A’s, and they’re about to flaunt their bankroll again by snatching one of Beane’s stars, Jason Giambi. (The Red Sox take the other, Johnny Damon.) Beane vents to the owner that the A’s are like a farm system for richer teams (or, worse, like organ donors) and pleads, in vain, for more money. Later, he mocks a table of scouts for trying to find substitutes at bargain-basement prices for sluggers like Giambi and Damon instead of thinking outside the batter’s box. Read More…