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The Need to Prove Ourselves

Bennett Miller's Moneyball
The Need to Prove Ourselves

Billy Beane was a “can’t miss” prospect, who in fact missed badly in his professional baseball career as a player. Haunted by being told over and over that he had the five tools—running, throwing, fielding, hitting, and hitting with power—the pressure that was put on him to perform because of his amateur reputation and his big contract forced Billy to try to do something that in his heart he didn’t want to do: play baseball for a living. He had really wanted to go to Stanford to play both football and baseball, and he had the scholarship to do that, but a big-league scout and too much money convinced him to make what he would later call the only decision he ever made “just for the money”. He spent six years in the big leagues with four different teams, never had over 180 at bats, never hit more than .267. He was a miserable failure as a ballplayer.

But then in spring training with his last team, the Oakland A’s, he came to the front office and asked if he could be considered for a job as a scout. It was unheard of for a player to ask for a job as a scout, especially at his age. Scouting was reserved for retired players and non-players, but Beane wanted to do something else. He wanted to run a team, and he decided he might as well stop wasting time, and begin the road to becoming a General Manager.

The movie Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane’s success at becoming and remaining a big league General Manager, even though he has never won a championship, but it is more than that. A Brad Pitt passion project, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker), Moneyball is the story of someone who wanted to change the game of baseball. He wanted to level the playing field on which very rich front offices (e.g. Boston, New York) and very poor ones (e.g. Oakland) competed for talent.

This film had a very tough time getting made, even with great talent like Pitt associated with it. One wonders why because through a judicious use of flashbacks to great performances by Pitt and co-star Jonah Hill (both nominated for Academy Awards), the director Bennett Miller has made a movie that sports fan and geek alike can enjoy because it is not really about baseball: it’s about following a dream and doing what it takes to make that dream happen.

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