Ed. Note: This article was also featured on WNCX.com.
As September draws to a close, baseball season is coming to an end. The Tribe may not be heading to the playoffs this season, but strangely enough, the Cleveland Indians remained in contention for most of the season despite cutting ties with several high-priced players in recent years. On September 23, Moneyball hits movie theaters nationwide, presenting the story of General Manager Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s and his quest to build a successful baseball team on a budget.
Now you may be wondering, why should I care about this movie as an Indians fan? Well, other than the fact that the movie (like the book) is an inside look into the front office of a real MLB team (pretty cool for a die-hard baseball fan) there is the fact that many of Beane’s principles of building a team on a budget have been applied by smaller-market franchises like Cleveland. Cleveland is one of many MLB teams that have made decisions to build a team with younger, less expensive players when possible, to a pretty good level of success.
The movie is based on the book ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’ by Michael Lewis. That book, published in 2003, focused on the real-life story of GM Beane and his quest to build a successful MLB franchise in Oakland by finding the “diamonds in the rough”; players who may be undervalued by the other teams, who could still contribute in a big way based upon statistical analysis.
The movie stars Pitt as Beane, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as A’s manager Art Howe, and Jonah Hill as A’s assistant GM Peter Brand (a character based on real former A’s assistant GM Paul DePodesta). In real life, the 2002 Oakland A’s operated with a real financial disadvantage compared to the other MLB teams – the A’s payroll that year was only about $40 million, giving the team a 28th place ranking in terms of payroll. Despite the financial disparity, the 2002 A’s finished 1st in the AL West at 103-59, recording the same number of wins as the New York Yankees (103-58) despite the Yanks’ league-leading payroll of $125 mil.
Though the A’s failed to make much noise in the playoffs that year (losing a first-round series to the equally small-market Twins, 3-2), the team continued to show that despite a high payroll, it could be successful.
Another aspect of the movie that should prove to make things interesting is star Brad Pitt’s recent admission to British newspaper The Daily Mail that “It’s shameful how little I know about baseball.” The actor went on to relate that his past sports experience, which includes brief interludes (in high school) as a wrestler and diver, never included a foray into America’s Pastime. “I’m amazed they let me do this movie. Baseball and I didn’t get along that well.”
If anything, this disclosure should make things interesting – the Golden Globe-winning Pitt has proven to be a quality actor in his past works, but how will he do portraying a baseball expert like Beane? Pitt himself went on to tell Mail that “I’m a sucker for the underdog story,” in revealing what drew him to the part initially.
Moneyball makes its official debut in theaters nationwide on 9.23, but Cleveland viewers can preview the movie on Wednesday, 9.21 at Westlake Regal Cinema at Crocker Park thanks to GoFobo.com. Seen the movie? Read the book? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!
Ed. Note: This article was also featured at WNCX.com, available here.