Notes on Moneyball

So let’s get off cosmology and talk a little baseball.

I finally saw Moneyball last night, in time for the Oscars.  Some comments:

  • For weeks Moneyball has been at the top of my Netflix queue, but they never sent it to me, so I finally had to get it on-demand from Verizon.  Netflix is having problems with its business model, seems to me.
  • Paul DePodesta (the original for Jonah Hill’s character) didn’t allow his name to be used in the movie.  I don’t know which came first — DePodesta refusing permission to use his name or the decision to make the character fat and unathletic (DePodesta is neither).  Oddly, they also made the character a Yale graduate, whereas DePodesta went to Harvard.  Maybe Aaron Sorkin was tired of writing about Harvard characters after The Social Network.  Or maybe they thought that going to Yale went along with being fat and unathletic.  (Jonah Hill was terrific, by the way.)
  • The movie glosses over the central difficulty with the pure Moneyball approach — that it ignores the player’s character in favor of his statistics.  The scene where Billy Beane yells at Jeremy Giambi is great — but we aren’t reminded that the scouts explicitly warned Billy about Giambi’s character when his name came up before the season.  On-base percentage isn’t everything.
  • Of the nominated movies I’ve seen, I think The Descendants probably has a better adapted screenplay than Moneyball.  But the Ricardo Rincon trade scene with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill was Aaron Sorkin at his best — almost as good as the opening scene of The Social Network. Nobody writes dialogue for intelligent people as well as Sorkin.
  • I was wondering how the movie would handle the ending; after all (spoiler alert, I guess), Billy Beane has never won anything with his Moneyball theory.  It takes the odd approach of using the Red Sox World Series win in 2004 as its happy ending — since John Henry embraced Moneyball when he bought the franchise.  OK, I guess…  The problem for Billy Beane, of course, was that once big-budget teams started copying his methods, he was pretty much back where he started — trying to make things work with a shoestring budget.
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2 thoughts on “Notes on Moneyball

  1. Saw the movie a couple of weeks ago. Okay I guess. Read the book several months ago. I’ve read a lt of Michael Lewis stuff including “the Big Short”. IMHO, “The Tree of Life” was the absolute worst movie to be nominated. “The Help” is scheduled to arrive from Netflx on Monday.

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  2. Dunno about this movie, but I finally saw Hugo (in 3D, on the big screen) just in time to root for it for the Oscars. What a wonderful film! It absolutely deserves to be seen in a theater, if you can. (The Capitol in Arlington brought it back for an encore run.) My comment on leaving the theater was, I’m going to buy this one; the question is, should it be my first-ever Blu-ray purchase? The answer was yes.

    I like this idea of yours of blogging about movies. (Beats my recent efforts about dead mice in walls.) The Nebula/Bradbury Awards ballot is out now; it would be interesting to work through the list.

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