Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moneyball

Moneyball
seen @ Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, Jamaica, Queens, NY
9.27.11

I first found out about the book Moneyball several years ago from a different baseball book, which made a number of passing references to it as a shorthand metaphor for the changing nature of the game. I, of course, didn't understand the reference at the time, so I looked it up and decided I wanted to read this book too. I had long ago stopped following baseball on a regular basis, but I never abandoned my love of the game itself. I knew Major League Baseball was going through some difficult times in recent years - the steroid scandal was headline news everywhere, for one thing - but I liked to think that the game itself was relatively unchanged. So reading about things like newer and deeper statistics to determine a player's worth and changes in traditional baseball strategies and philosophies was off-putting at first.

I could understand, however, why a small-market team like the Oakland Athletics would need to embrace such a radically different paradigm. As a New Yorker, I've been long aware of how The Team From the Bronx has had the ability to buy championships through pillaging the remains of less-affluent teams. Even today, I get sick of seeing them in the postseason all the time (partially because it instills in their fans a sense of entitlement that's hard to shake). When I was still a baseball fan, I had given the matter some thought, but I was at a loss as to what could be done about it - and while this new method has proven to be successful for the A's, to an extent, the fact remains that it still has not brought them a pennant, much less a World Series championship.


I was concerned that the film version of Moneyball might gloss over that fact, but to its credit, it didn't. In fact, by acknowledging it, the film builds up to a bigger point about its lead character, Billy Beane, the team's general manager and the main architect of the A's revival: that even if his team didn't go all the way, his ideas have. (I don't think I'm spoiling anything from the movie here; it is based on actual events that are common knowledge.) 

Yes, there are the usual complaints about accuracy. I was concerned when I read that Paul DePodesta, Beane's right hand man during that 2002 season, didn't want to be associated with this film (Jonah Hill's character is basically DePodesta in disguise). I took that to be a bad omen, and indeed, it did bother me somewhat as I first watched the movie, since I did read the book and knew that there was no such person as "Peter Brand." Eventually, though, I stopped thinking about it. I enjoyed the film overall, though I thought it relied too much on real-life footage.


A word about the Jamaica Multiplex, since I don't think I've ever written about it here before. It lies in the heart of downtown Jamaica, right next to the subway and in the middle of a ton of shops and fast food joints. Nothing special about it in terms of appearance; it looks like many other multiplexes across America. It is notable for screening discount family films on the weekends and discount classic films every Monday afternoon. Next month is Hitchcock month. One of these days I'm gonna need to see a classic film there. Still, I don't go here as often as I used to. I think the last film I saw here was Invictus.

2 comments:

  1. It may not feel quite like the classic baseball movie others have achieved, but it's certainly pleasant enough to be enjoyable even by non-sports fan, and features great performances from Hill and Pitt. Good review.

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  2. I think time will treat 'Moneyball' well. It's not so much the story of the A's journey as it is Billy Beane's, which is an important distinction.

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