Writing Assignment -- Write a Movie Review

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Review of Moneyball

"It's hard not to be romantic about baseball" – Billy Beane

Moneyball is a fascinating cinematic take on how newer methods of statistical information gathering have steered the course of modern American baseball especially in the last ten to fifteen years. In telling the story of how understanding baseball minutiae in great detail and consequently making real time adaptations based on that information translates into winning baseball games, the movie is, on an instructional level, a great success. There are definitely interesting concepts to explore here about the game for the baseball aficionado. But in a “big-picture” sense we all, sports fan and non-fan alike, can take something much more significant away from this powerful piece of art, Moneyball. In a time when many feel it is crucial to cut away the fat and find new innovative ways to survive in a competitive world, Moneyball gives us a useful abstract model that has the power to aid us in becoming more distinctly aware of how we can use what we have--however limited, however unorthodox, to match up chances with our skill sets or talents, to micromanage, to stop wasteful practices and finally create better outcomes for ourselves especially in the workplace and by extension in life than the ones tradition and culture have sometimes preordained.

It’s a world in flux now more than ever. The beauty of Moneyball is that it can be seen as superimposing the structure of baseball culture and economics over the paradigm of shifting aspects of our everyday lives. Looking back, baseball culture, comparable to the American workplace in some ways, remained largely static for many years. Points of reference, determiners of baseball success and statistics about productivity were so broad that they didn’t fully flesh out information that would have changed the dynamics of how the game was played were this data looked at more closely. Along lines of history though we can often chart seminal points, hiccups or shakeups where something new was introduced that forever altered what came next. These breakthroughs highlight the reality that what experts thought they knew and valued as fact yesterday can become almost meaningless and obsolete today. In 2012 we can relate to these radical themes of change more than ever. Moneyball shows us through examples we can find common ground with that now more than ever flexibility and adaptability are traits we should develop and embrace; they may in fact be the most important qualities we can possess during these times. Ultimately, Moneyball highlights how in baseball, as in life, traditional ways change and in those changes opportunities for growth present themselves.

Let’s review. It’s 2001 and General Manager Billy Beane’s (Brad Pitt) Oakland A’s have won 102 games with an upstart band of small-market, small budget juggernauts. Beane has a knack for finding raw new talent ahead of other much more seasoned, longer tenured scouts. He has a clear vision and an innate sense of independence even going so far as to make what some might feel is an outrageous statement by saying at one point that fans don’t decide his lineups. He knows big money, big name players don’t always add up to the right kind of chemistry that wins World Series titles. He’s a keen watcher of players in their private unguarded moments. He knows winning attitudes can be contagious and other players, despite their big name recognition, have personal attributes that make them detrimental. He has an open mind and he knows a whole lot isn’t really what it seems. He understands that some teams have given up on winning and have made making as much money as possible their number one goal, a betrayal he can’t stomach. Coming into the 2001 season he has done a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff. But after his successful 2001 season the big money teams in Boston and New York buy up most of his team’s talent. Now he’s looking for a new edge to even the playing field and to get Oakland that elusive world title.

He finds that edge in the unlikely alliance he forges with Peter Brand, a former security guard at a barbecue restaurant who also happens to have graduated from Yale with a degree in Economics and is a whiz with statistics related to baseball. Brand is a character based on real life baseball guru Paul Depodesta who declined to lend his name to the movie's producers for the purposes of making Moneyball. Brand’s idea is to boil all the statistical data about a player down to one number representing their total value. It’s a novel idea especially today, getting at the essentials of worth. What quantifies anyone as productive in the work place, or in relationships in life in general, and why do we use less than really useful criteria to measure worth in any number of settings where that information might add structure and better outcomes? The movie has the effect of extending these questions set within a baseball template to real life. In sum, why do we rely on old notions of value when we have new metrics, new benchmarks for defining what is acceptable or valuable? Moneyball prompts us to ask different questions about worth to open up a whole new realm of better possibilities. In the end what makes Moneyball one of the all time great movies is that it has the capability to jolt some of those so set in their ways to better understand that sometimes we had the right answers, it was the questions we had wrong.


Robert T.

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