“Moneyball” is well worth your money

On Saturday afternoon, I got a message from a friend of mine − who also gave me my first break at freelance baseball writing − asking if my wife (a.k.a. the lovely “J-La”) and I would like to join he and his wife for a Sunday matinee showing of “Moneyball.”

He and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of the big-screen version of the great Michael Lewis book about the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.  It was an easy sell – we are big fans of the book, and all our wives needed to know was that Brad Pitt plays Beane in the movie.

Oh, and the late NFL game on TV in Los Angeles was a Chargers-Cheifs matchup that didn’t inspire me much.  Yes, the Chargers the “official” AFC team of the L.A. market.  Hope you’re keeping tabs, people – smells to me like the Bolts may be the new tenant at Farmers Field.  But I digress…

For those of you who don’t know the storyline, “Moneyball” chronicles the trials and tribulations of the A’s, a team with payroll constraints struggling to compete with the mega-payrolls of the Yankees and Red Sox of the world.  After being eliminated in the 2001 playoffs by said Yankees, Beane has to put the pieces back together when three of his top players leave via free agency (two of whom end up with – you guessed it – the Yankees and Red Sox).

How does he do this?

With an outside-the-box approach favored by the legendary baseball statistician and author, Bill James that is met by skepticism by the baseball establishment.

In a nutshell, the movie is outstanding and does the book justice.  Pitt and Jonah Hill, who plays Peter Brand (Beane’s assistant GM with an economic degree from Yale) are tremendous. True, some will find issue with the fact that the screenplay did not entirely match the original.  For instance. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays A’s manager Art Howe, doesn’t even physically resemble Howe, and Beane’s relationship with him wasn’t quite as terse in real-life as it was on-screen.  Other than that, I think it captured the essence of the book and is easily one of the best baseball movies I’ve ever seen.

There are also two other tell-tale signs that this is a great film: first, I didn’t look at my watch once; I was even on the edge of my seat even though I knew how the story ends.  Second, our wives (who are baseball fans but knew little about the story) also loved the movie, and not solely because of Pitt.  It’s a compelling story that’s easy to follow.  And you don’t need to be a baseball expert or sabermetrics guru in order to enjoy it.

Don’t believe me?  The film opened to many positive reviews, is already generating well-deserved Oscar buzz for Pitt and made $20.6 million over the weekend – just behind the top-grossing movie, the re-release of “The Lion King.”  And there’s already talk that it could become “the most successful baseball movie of all-time.”  So don’t just take my word for it.

Finally, be sure to keep your eye out for the logo of Inside Edge, the baseball scouting company that yours truly used to write for.  See if you catch it on a binder and on a computer screen.

Does the concept of “Moneyball” really work?  In terms of baseball, I’ll let you decide.  As a movie, it absolutely does.

So much for removing your name from the film, Paul DePodesta.  And I thought your worst decisions were made while you were the Dodgers GM…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

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