January 9, 2011
By, Susan Slusser
“Moneyball” comes out on DVD tomorrow, Jan. 10, and the extras are worth a look, especially a feature entitled, “Billy Beane: Re-Inventing the Game,” which includes the A’s GM discussing his career and that 2002 “Moneyball” season.
Among other things, the feature addresses a few (though not nearly all) of the facts that the movie overlooked, including Sandy Alderson’s importance in kick-starting the whole “Moneyball” notion (using advanced metrics along with more traditional scouting reports), and Beane also notes that as much as anything, the concept of “Moneyball” – as presented in Michael Lewis’ best-selling book – is a product, really, of….Lewis. “A lot of the uniqueness comes in how Michael sees things,” Beane said.
That’s what I enjoyed about the book – Lewis’ ability to take small details and use them to examine a much larger topic, much as he has done in his other bestsellers. In the process, some of the more obvious factors that helped the team win, particularly the Big Three and 2002 MVP Miguel Tejada, were virtually ignored, but the fact that the book was such a hit, made Beane a cult hero in the business world and spawned a Hollywood movie says something about Lewis’ sharp eye for compelling stories.
It’s nice to see the real Beane on the DVD, period, because it might give viewers a better appreciation for the acting performance Brad Pitt turns in. Beane isn’t well known enough for this to be one of those bio-pics where just about everyone is familiar with the main character and can judge how well the actor captures that person, but I’ve covered Beane for 14 years and I think Pitt got every little nuance, every mannerism, exactly right. Even though this is Beane in an interview setting, not in his usual casual wear on a baseball field, you can still get something of a sense of his personality. The movie has found surprisingly strong support from non-sports fans, or occasional sports fans, and many of them had little idea who Beane was before the movie’s release. I hope Oscar voters who don’t know Beane take the time to watch this feature.