When I spotted MONEYBALL (2011) on Netflix, starring Brad Pitt, I pictured yet another sports movie with a stern-but-fair father-figure coach inspiring his misfit players to greatness and the Big Win. I was wrong, so wrong. Written by the great Aaron Sorkin and based on Michael Lewis’s 2003 nonfiction book of the same title, it’s an amazing movie about the business of baseball and a revolutionary approach to leveling the playing field using a controversial statistical method called sabermetrics.
Billy Beane (Pitt), general manager for the Oakland As, is dealt a double blow as his team loses to the New York Yankees in the 2001 postseason and his three star players are snatched up by richer teams. Forced to rebuild his team on a very small budget, he runs across Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who uses a discredited statistical method of evaluating players pioneered by Bill James. Beane recognizes his real problem is he doesn’t have the budget to buy star players. Instead, he decides to gamble his career on Brand’s analysis, resulting in selection based on a team and overall on-base percentage, not the talents of individual players.
Along the way, Beane faces an avalanche of criticism from his scouts, his manager, the press, and his fans, but doggedly sticks with it, resulting in one of the most amazing winning streaks in baseball history.
The acting is top-notch, the dialogue crisp and exciting, the history and insider look at the business of baseball fascinating, and the pacing even and never flagging. The on-field drama is handled almost perfectly, without the sappy melodramatics, and the big wins explode through the understated delivery. In short, it’s a terrific movie, and I’m happy to recommend it.