Saturday, October 22, 2011

Moneyball (Rhoades)

Keeps Score

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My boss at Reader’s Digest was an excellent statistician. He used regression analysis (a technique applied to the Digest’s mailings to predict response) in order to forecast winning baseball games. He often won the office pool.
Now I find out that baseball teams have been using statistical analysis themselves. In particular, Oakland Athletic’s General Manager Billy Beane.
And they’ve made a movie about it starring Brad Pitt as Billy. It also features butterball Jonah Hill as his assistant general manager and a brief turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman as his numerically resistant team manager.
“Moneyball” is currently winning innings at the Tropic Cinema. It tells the story how Billy Beane played the numbers to overcome the odds between his small franchise and teams with 5X the spending power for recruiting top players.
Who would think a movie about statistics would be interesting? But keep in mind, we have a wry and humorous script by masterminds Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (“Social Network,” TV’s “West Wing”).
This is the story of the Oakland A’s in the early 2000s, underdogs in a sport with no salary caps, an inherently unfair system where bigger teams can afford the better players.
Brad Pitt does great in a role that allows him to wear T-shirts. Pitt believes sports movies are appealing because they’re about “overcoming adversity.” He says, “I’m a sucker for an underdog story.”
“It’s complicated material,” Pitt admits.
Aside from the statistical mumbo jumbo (now used by most Major League teams) this is mainly a behind-the-dugout look at the challenges and pressures of running a ball team.
Director Bennett Miller (“Capote”) agrees. “At the end of the day, it’s the story of our values. It’s a film about baseball, but something else deeper is happening.”
Yes, movies about the National Pastime are always gripping – from “The Lou Gehrig Story” to “Eight Men Out” to “The Natural” – especially if you throw in some real baseball players, a true story, and compelling stars.
Maybe “Moneyball” won’t be a home run, but it’s certainly a base hit with a man on third.
[from Solares Hill]

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