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Great Movies Guys Won't Never See -- MONEYBALL
In 1996, a young man from the suburbs of Philadelphia who had spent his entire elementary school years in Italy would be faced with a dilemma -- go pro at 18, or go play at Duke with an SAT score well over 1400 (in the days when 1600 was a perfect score). Had it not been for a single unfortunate incident at a hotel in Eagle County Colorado seven years later, people would call this guy the Air Apparent. Instead he's the most polarizing figure in sports, polarizing even more because he is allowed to get endorsements and league MVP trophies. A) that's the economy in the year 2008 for you and B) just who the f*ck is David Stern to throw stones? This phenom's name was Kobe Bryant, and at age 17, he had faced a dilemma just like the protagonist in the new film "Moneyball", a film that is not what you think -- critics say that Aaron Sorkin's trying to make everything now like Social Network, but the dialogue could not have been more natural and diverse. I just got done watching "Easy A" with Emma Stone who offers to blow Louie on the HBO show "Lucky Louie", and the sexpot Aly Michaelka who's ripened like a motherf*cker since that one show on Disney that my cool downs' syndrome kid used to watch when I'd take him home. She has bloomed to the point that she makes Amanda Bynes look 10 years old and have you seen Amanda Bynes lately? Easy A, for a chick film, brings it. You want to see a film where every line comes off fast and "clever" like Social Network, it's Easy A. Moneyball is more like the show Numb3rs.
Moneyball has lots of weird errors in it. For example, Miguel Tejada, Barry Zito and Eric Chavez were all on the 2002 Oakland A's and they're not even mentioned let alone portrayed. Grady Fuson is a well-known front office man on the Rangers, and when he left the A's, Beane was pissed and tried hiring him back...yet in Moneyball, he's the head scout who has the nerve to tell the general manager Beane that he's ruining all their progress. There is no mention about how Scott Hatteburg's contract had expired minutes before getting that phone call...his wife was not looking at him with concern because she has a bummer for a husband just sitting on the couch with a beer depressed...she was watching the clock. Concerned. Yet the original screenplay for Moneyball, penned around 2008 by a guy who wasn't Sorkin, is almost nothing like what you're seeing. When Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt are initially talking, the scene goes on for 10 F*CKING PAGES. They don't even meet until about 25 minutes in. That line where the scout says "ugly girlfriend = no confidence", was put in there by Sorkin...who got a tan and is now humping Kristin Davis, the lone cast member of Sex And The City who I actually believe could get some sex from somebody, anybody (the brunette).
The year was 1979. The New York Mets have found this 17-year old player named Billy Beane who they really want to bring to spring training. He's got a full ride to Stanford that he wants to take, and so the scouts are authorized to give him a substantial cash offer under the pretext of skipping college. And thus the youngster, blessed with smarts and athleticism not seen in most of the human population...had a decision to make that no one should have to face. A Stanford degree would have taken care of this guy. Guaranteed. The only way baseball could have been anything but a stupid decision is if he truly did become the next Willie Stargell. Unlike Kobe, this turned out not to be true for Billy Beane. A good player, but four teams in four years until given his outright release. Yet from then on, the Stanford side of him would kick in. He becomes general manager of the Oakland Athletics in the late 90s during a time when this Philadelphia-based franchise was slowly recovering from their first miserable decade ever in 100 years.
Moneyball chronicles the 2002 Oakland Athletics season. The movie begins at the end of the 2001 season. With Isringhausen, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon (I hate the name Johnny by the way), they got to the post season and went up 2-0 on the Yankees all so Derek Jeter could make the play of the century with the As about to sweep them, outsmarting two freaking teams at once by taking it upon himself to run across the diamond and be the cutoff man and throw Giambi out at the plate. The Athletics would lose in five games, and Billy Beane and his scouts would be left to try to figure out what to do for 2002 and beyond...because those three guys I mentioned above, Giambi and them, would leave for their paydays.
The Oakland Athletics spent 38 million dollars for their team while the Yankees spent almost 120 million, and almost beat them...now they had to do it without a shred of appealing talent. They had Carlos Pena and David Justice during this 2002 season that's portrayed in Moneyball, and quite frankly I didn't know Justice could be such a penile. (My favorite Braves were always Terry Pendleton, Ron Gant and John Smoltz).
Justice by 2002 was 37 years old and had the distinction of being a Yankee bust. George Steinbrenner gave him a 7-million-a-year contract and Justice the Judas helped them sweep the poor Braves in the 99 World Series, then went into a decline that prompted Georgie to pay half of Justice's salary to PLAY AGAINST HIM.
Carlos Pena meanwhile was and is a GREAT baseball player, and manager Art Howe's favorite. But Scott Hatteburg, a former washout catcher, was discovered to have an on-base percentage that was off the charts. We'll get to why that matters in the next paragraph.
So Beane originally tries to get more money from the owner, doesn't happen. He starts trying to make a bunch of trades with people...they don't budge because he has nobody appealing and no extra cash to throw in. During a trip to see the general manager in Cleveland, he's in a room full of Cleveland associates who give their GM the "no" signal. One of which is a young Yale economics graduate named Peter Brand (not his real name, it's like Paul De...something)-- the man who will help Beane CHANGE THE GAME.
Brand, after reading a book by a guy named Billy James, realizes that since the way to win a baseball game is to get more runs then the opponent, that means that they have to get on base more than their opponent. Brand notices other things such as that a player's batting average goes down 75 points every time he begins an at bat by go down 0-1 in the count. Walks are gold...bunts are shit. Don't bunt. And when they bunt, throw to first. Forget second. There's 360 degrees of field around second base where a ball can logically be thrown if it's off, 180 at most around first. Stuff like that.
Yet there are problems. The scouts accuse Billy Beane of course of trying to get revenge against the system because of the way scouts in 1979 told him all this stuff to suck him away from Stanford under false pretenses. (One of which is Fuson, and that black dude with the toothpick in his mouth who teaches Hatteburg how to play first base is someone you might know if you're from Texas -- Ron Washington, the skipper of your 2-time defending AL champion Rangers) Beane's daughter is the coolest girl I've ever seen and a guitar prodigy, and he barely gets to see her. The players he acquires are not only amazed to the point of bewilderment that someone, anyone's giving them a shot at the majors, but are playing positions like first base for the FIRST TIME IN THEIR BASEBALL LIVES. Try and imagine how retarded this seems. You go through six levels of minor league ball in order to get to the majors before ever playing the position you're playing in the seventh. That translates in Moneyball to a freaking major league baseball team that actually LACKS CONFIDENCE.
Because Beane is a Stanford man technically and Brand is a Yale man most definitely, they don't explain what they're doing to any of the baseball people outside of the scouts until they end up 10 games below 500 in May. This means that Art Howe is left to basically feel like a Chicago Bull under Jerry Krause -- his contract is about to expire and Beane doesn't give a damn, and he's left to play with Justice as a designated hitter and PENA ON THE BENCH!!! Their ONLY FIRST BASEMAN!!!!
Yet the A's will win 20 games in a row...a record that stood in the game of baseball for the extent of its' existence. And in the twentieth game, though they blow an 11-0 lead (you read that right), someone named Scott Hatteburg saves the day with his bat. Brand, James, Beane...did you guys take Sheldon's brain from the Big Bang Theory and teach him baseball?
Sabermetrics, the official term for the math used in Moneyball, would eventually be adapted by the Boston Red Sox who would win the 2004 and 2007 World Series with it. Remember how confused you were the day you heard in 2003 that the Red Sox had let go Nomar Garciaparra for three guys you didn't know? Orlando Cabrera and them? Ah-hah. Moneyball.
Billy Beane throws alot of stuff around this movie, probably because the film almost never leaves the Oakland A's lockerroom. I'm not even kidding. Watching Moneyball at times feels like being in a f*cking stuffy ass submarine and might seem overwhelmingly boring if you don't like baseball....but I'm an up-the-gut geek when it comes to baseball, football, basketball and boxing when Mike Tyson was fighting. I understand exactly what's happening in Moneyball, and because of the fantastic screenplay that even makes math interesting, it earns a spot...as a Great Movie Guys May Never See.