There is not much that I didn’t love about Moneyball. As Brad Pitt says twice in the film: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Moneyball tells the story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and their General Manager Billy Beane (Pitt). After losing three key players from the previous season, Beane takes the advice of recent Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who uses a statistical approach to winning. “Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. ”
They set out together to form the best team they can with the limited money they have. These days, who of us isn’t used to being told to deliver higher results with fewer resources?
Ostracized by his peers, Beane’s new method proves rocky at first, until things gel and helped lead to a season that includes breaking an American League all time winning streak record of 20 games.
What’s interesting is the movie isn’t about baseball. It’s about strategy. Moneyball is best when it tries to subtract the humanity of baseball into a cold, hard numbers game, but proves itself wrong. That struggle between the pair makes this a genuinely great film. Pitt is distant, but makes you care for Beane and understand his internal conflicts. Hill is completely believable as a numbers geek who is just starting to find his way.
It is curious that Moneyball is somewhat gloomy in the way that it represents baseball as a business. Pitt’s character has several moments where he struggles with it. The fact is all professional sports are businesses first. Fans know all too well about the layers that need to be peeled back to get to the heart of it all. Moneyball does too.
Side note: Who woulda thought two hours of statistical analysis would prove to be so emotional and interesting?