Contrary to the portrayal in the movie “Moneyball,” one former A’s player says he wasn’t aware of the revolutionary movement taking place in the team’s front office at the time.
“There was no talk of ‘Moneyball’ when I was there,” says ex-A’s pitcher Mark Mulder. “You never heard anything like that.”
Mulder, a current ESPN broadcaster, made his comments while watching his former A’s teammate Tim Hudson pitch on Wednesday Night Baseball on ESPN.
“Moneyball” is the name of a book about the success the low-budget A’s achieved from 1999-2006 despite competing against teams that had the financial means to buy better players. The best-selling book was later turned into an Academy Award-nominated movie.
The term “Moneyball” represents the way the A’s searched for economic deficiencies in the marketplace that would allow them to compete despite having little money available for their payroll. (at the time they realized that players with good on-base percentages were undervalued). The movie made it seem like GM Billy Beane was in the clubhouse interacting with the players and teaching them about some of the principles, and that the media was aware of everything. Mulder doesn’t remember it that way, and he says he wasn’t aware anything special was going on in the front office.
Since the movie “Moneyball” first came out, reviews have been very mixed. Some casual viewers like it while others thought it was nothing special. Former A’s manager Art Howe was unhappy with the way the movie depicted him, and other baseball people find it to be inaccurate. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is one of those people.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Rizzo gave the following reason for boycotting the movie: “It depicts baseball people as dummies who sit in a room and spit tobacco and say stupid things.”
L.B. already gave you his take on the Best Picture-nominated film, and I agree with most of his analysis. The movie intentionally neglects to talk about superstars like Miguel Tejada and Barry Zito and has some factual inaccuracies. That being said, I disagree with Rizzo that it makes baseball people look stupid. If anything, I thought it was the exact opposite.
To a general audience, Billy Beane is depicted as a badass who defied the odds and put together a winning team when everyone told him he was insane. Not only was he depicted as a visionary, but scenes like the one where he puts Jeremy Giambi in his place make him look like the man. By leaving out names like Tejada, Zito, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson, the makers of the film made it look like Beane put together a playoff team with literally no stars. So he spit some tobacco — big deal.
What Beane was able to accomplish in 2002 was truly remarkable, and I think the movie did a good job — perhaps even too good — of showing that. Sure, it made trades and transactions sound a lot more simple than they actually are, but those things are a must for cinema value. I’m not really sure how Rizzo got the impression that it makes baseball people look like idiots.
I realize I’m several months late to this discussion, but I finally saw “Moneyball” over the weekend and wanted to share a few thoughts on the movie. (I don’t go to the theater too often so I usually wait until movies come out on the premium channels before I finally see them, hence my lateness to the Best Picture party.)
Anyhow, I read Moneyball the book when it first came out and loved it. The concepts in the book were so inspiring I actually got into sabermetrics for a while and even began reading some old Bill James books. I haven’t read the book for years, but I do remember quite a bit from it, and I thought the movie did a good job with its adaptation. Still, I couldn’t help but figure non-baseball fans would be lost watching the film. Luckily that wasn’t the case for most viewers.
Overall, the movie was well done and enjoyable, though it’s not the kind of film I’d want to watch over and over. The story line made it easy to fall in love with the A’s and what Billy Beane was trying to accomplish in the 2002 season. Even though I’m an Angels fan and pleased beyond belief that the team won the World Series that year, it was impossible not to root for the underdog A’s story.
The acting, particularly from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, was excellent. I remember thinking there was no way I could take a goofball like Jonah Hill seriously in role like that, but that never even crossed my mind while watching it. Both men had me believing they were baseball experts.
With Game 6 of the World Series postponed until Thursday night, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he was going to hit the movie theater to watch Moneyball.
Moneyball has been viewed controversially since the book was released in 2003. It helped change baseball and it shaped the way front offices conducted business. Many people viewed it as progressive, but others felt differently. La Russa is one of those people. The Cardinals manager disagrees with the importance of on-base percentage, which was championed in the book.
“On-base percentage is one of the most dangerous concepts of the last seven, eight years because it forces some executives and coaches and players to think that it’s all about getting on base by drawing walks,” La Russa said to the media Wednesday.
“The fact is that the guys that have the best on-base percentage are really dangerous hitters whenever they get a pitch in the zone. So if a pitcher knows that, he works on the edges. So the question is do they get a good pitch to hit?”
Sounds like the words of a grumpy man, but hey, how many World Series rings does he have and how many do I have?
Rangers manager Ron Washington, who was a coach in Oakland while Moneyball went on, enjoyed the movie. But he recognizes that it was meant to entertain, and that it had its shortcomings.
Moneyball was a success its first week in the theaters, grossing over $20 million. Critics seemed to enjoy it, viewers seemed to enjoy it, and Brad Pitt had a fun time making it. But one person who predictably did not enjoy it was Art Howe. The former A’s manager is unhappy with the way he was portrayed in the movie. According to Big League Stew, here’s what Howe told SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio:
Considering the book wasn’t real favorable to me to start with I figured it would be something like this but to be honest with you it is very disappointing to know that you spent seven years in an organization and gave your heart and soul to it and helped them go to the postseason your last three years there and win over 100 games your last two seasons and this is the way evidently your boss (Beane) feels about you.
“They never called me to get my slant on things as far as the movie was concerned. So, I mean, it’s coming from someone. I don’t know who it is but maybe it is Hollywood to make it sell, I guess. I don’t know. It’s disappointing. I spent my whole career trying to build a good reputation and I think I did that but this movie certainly doesn’t help it. And it is definitely unfair and untrue. If you ask any player that ever played for me they would say that they never saw this side of me, ever.”
Moneyball is a book written by Michael Lewis in 2003. It was so well-written and influential that it caused many fans and media members to start viewing and analyzing baseball in different ways. It also gave other teams in the sport ideas about how to run their franchises. The book was so influential and controversial that it seemed to cause a rift between the newer stat-geek types and the older scout types. And it was such a successful book that some people decided it would be a good idea to turn it into a movie and even cast Brad Pitt to play the lead role of Oakland A’s GM, Billy Beane. Sounds great right? One huge problem: they were only about five years too late. Apparently someone else saw that because as Fanhouse points out, they’ve canceled production of the movie.
On Friday, Columbia Pictures topper Amy Pascal placed the picture into “limited turnaround,” giving the filmmaker the chance to set it up at another studio, with Warner Bros. and Paramount the prime targets.
The move came after Pascal read a rewrite that Soderbergh did to Steven Zaillian’s script and found it very different from the earlier scripts she championed. Pascal was uncomfortable enough with how the vision had changed that she applied the brakes.
Soderbergh and Pitt’s CAA reps spent the weekend attempting to get another studio to play ball.
I’m not too familiar with all that studio-speak, but from what I gather it’s set to be a high-budget film and it doesn’t currently have a home. That’s good news to me because I couldn’t see where it would fit in. By now the concept of “Moneyball” to a baseball fan is so old that it really wouldn’t be introducing anything new. Moreover, to the people intrigued by Moneyball because they’re learning it for the first time, there are very few remnants of it left in Oakland; most of the players on the A’s or drafted by the A’s at the time of the book are out of baseball, sucking, or on a different team. Furthermore, Billy Beane hasn’t built a successful team for three years and most of the high school players he ripped on in the book have become stars — the movie would just make him look like a fraud. So who was their intended audience? Sports fans to whom this concept is five years old or my sister who loves Brad Pitt but still thinks Rickey Henderson and Mark McGwire plays for the A’s? Good call in canceling production.