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“Moneyball” Revealing Look Into the Mind of the Majors

Harry Hamm
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“Moneyball” is a movie about a man, not a sport.

That man is the current Oakland Athletics GM, Billy Beane, who in 2002 managed to make the Athletics a contending team with a total player salary budget of only $40 million. (Good thing Pujols wasn’t on that team.) The season included a winning streak of 20 straight games.

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Beane,  played by Brad Pitt, was a loner who never enjoyed going to his team’s games and never traveled on the team charter. A former professional baseball player himself, Beane was noted as saying he didn’t like to mingle with his players. Beane didn’t even enjoy watching or listening continually to the games. He’d turn the radio on and off, and watch the TV in spurts with the sound off. It wasn’t that he didn’t love the game. He just couldn’t stand the tension.

Beane was (and is) anything but your usual baseball General Manager.

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While having a confab with the Cleveland Indians, Beane accidentally meets a bookish young stats genius who works for them named Peter Brand, played very effectively by Jonah Hill. (Hill also delivers most of the film’s deadpan comic relief.) He is so impressed with Brand’s theoretical computer analysis of finding the right ball players, Beane hires him as Assistant GM for the Athletics. Brand  and Beane then embark on a brave on-a-budget restructuring of the team based on statistics, and not “star power.”

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“Moneyball” shows baseball as a business, and it isn’t very pretty. The cast is stellar, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as the A’s manager and Robin Wright as Beane’s ex-wife. There is only one thing Beane loves more than the challenge of his work, and that is his daughter from his marriage, played convincingly by Tammy Blanchard. Turns out Billy has a heart after all.

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A very muscular Brad Pitt turns in a splendid,  award-winning performance as the tortured and driven Billy Beane. Hill is perfect as the bookish Peter Brand. “Moneyball” is based on the best selling book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game.” It’s a fascinating, well-written movie with a terrific cast and a very stylized visual style. If you’re expecting the usual brand of sports movie with a upbeat ending, you’ll be disappointed.

“Moneyball” is real life, baseball style.

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