This year’s box office was beginning to feel like a terrible baseball game with a lineup that featured wizards, pirates, superheroes, Justin Bieber, talking robots, exotic Brazilian birds, and apes. The occasional surprises were short-lived, like the feeling you get when a batter finally hits a single down the left field line after three scoreless innings, only to be caught in a double play on the next pitch. I was ready to pack up, leave the stadium, and boycott Hollywood altogether when an unlikely pinch-hitter came in to save the game. Enter Moneyball and the home-run story of an improbable Oakland ball club.
Based on Michael Lewis’s 2003 bestseller, Moneyball tells the story of the cash-strapped Oakland Athletics who successfully competed against the moneyed franchises that simply bought talent, and thus, success. Nine years ago, the Oakland Athletics featured the American League MVP Miguel Tejada and the menacing pitching trio of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder—all while having one of the lowest budgets in the league. The organization’s success raised the question: How did the team with the sixth smallest payroll in the majors win 102 games in a season?
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who revolutionized the way we think about baseball through the use of analytical statistics, a study otherwise known as sabermetrics. Beane relies on the knowledge of Paul DePodesta, portrayed by Jonah Hill, a Harvard statistical guru who outsmarts the subjective nature of baseball through a sharp analysis of the numbers. But the movie also highlights the human element of baseball. Beane is an athlete who failed to live up to his potential and reinvents himself as a front office manager; DePodesta is an outsider who has never played baseball. When Jonah Hill sat down with the real DePodesta to ask why he chose this job over the luxurious life of a Harvard billionaire, DePodesta answered, “I love baseball. I couldn’t do anything else.”
Moneyball goes beyond the underdog story. It is the story of a franchise that combined baseball and statistics to win an unfair game. The movie is in theaters starting today and will run at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m. at Laemmle Theater in the Claremont Village throughout the week.