I love baseball and – baseball movies. “Field of Dreams,” “The Sandlot” and “The Natural” are some of my favorites. Each has a terrific story set against a diamond backdrop.
Baseball once was the most popular professional sport, but now it is eclipsed by football.
Sports fans will tell you that baseball is now an old person’s sport. It’s slow, prodding and lacking the quick action of football. They will tell you that baseball needs to change to become relevant again.
“Moneyball” speaks to the old person’s game. It’s based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland As.
Brad Pitt plays Beane, and we enter his life when the As have just lost an elimination game for the 2001 playoffs. The As are about to lose their three best players, and Beane is faced with recreating a team – with no money.
At a meeting with the Cleveland Indians, Beane happens upon Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a recent graduate from Yale with a degree in economics. He’s a statistical nerd, and in him Beane finds a new way of looking at baseball.
Brand tells Beane that the goal in baseball is to get on base. Nothing else matters; if you can’t get on base, you can’t win.
Brand believes, statistically, you can build a baseball team by signing players who can simply get on base. And there are dozens of affordable players who can get on base.
These two set off to rebuild a team with little money, gathering a bunch of what baseball purists would call misfits. All of this upsets the organization under Beane.
But Beane delivers a team to put on the field. At first the manager (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) doesn’t buy into the concept, and the team loses.
To make sure the players he wants on the field get to play, Beane trades players to force the manager to play the team Beane wants. And when that team takes the field, the team starts winning.
Beane continuously says he knows that unless the team wins, what he believes about baseball will be swept away and forgotten.
He wants to see the change he believes needs to happen in baseball to come about. If he loses, then people will dismiss what he has done in Oakland.
Some say this movie is about loving statistics, but I don’t see it. I see “Moneyball” as a movie about what happens when an institution faces a needed change but is unwilling to embrace it.
I guess you could say that someone like Brian McLaren is the Billy Beane of the church.
Many voices declare that the change happening in the church is wrong, misguided, destined to fail. It sounds like what is presented in “Moneyball.”
I liked this movie, for it shows the danger of attempting change. To use a well-worn phrase, it shows the danger that comes when you feel the need to get out of your boat.
Peter did not get to walk on water until he got out of the boat, and Beane did not get a chance to introduce a breath of fresh air into baseball until he got out of his.
That’s a good story, no matter the backdrop.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language.
Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (based on the book by Michael Lewis)
Cast: Brad Pitt: Billy Beane; Jonah Hill: Peter Brand; Philip Seymour Hoffman: Art Howe; Robin Wright: Sharon; Chris Pratt: Steven Hatteberg; Stephen Bishop: David Justice.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.