The first trailer for one of my most anticipated films of the year, Moneyball, has been released thanks to Yahoo. This is Bennett Miller’s long awaited follow-up to his Oscar winning 2005 film Capote and it is based on Michael Lewis’ controversial bestseller of the same name. As many of you already know, I am a huge a baseball fan so this is obviously right up my ally. The book, which is terrific, follows unorthodox Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, played in the film by Brad Pitt, as he attempts to build a winning baseball team for under $50 million. Beane built his team around players who got on base a lot and went after players who had high On Base Percentage’s, also known as OBP, who cost little to have. These players, like Scott Hatteberg, featured in the trailer via Chris Pratt, were middle of the road players who happened to have high OBP’s. It worked as the A’s won four Division titles and one Wild Card in the last decade. They actually made four straight playoff appearances between 2000-and 2003 and won over 100 games twice, all of this for a payroll that fluctuated between $24 and $37 million. The reason why this was so controversial was because Beane credited his philosophy moneyball approach with being the reason why they won when in reality the A’s, with the exception of 2000, never had a team OBP above .350. In fact they finished in the bottom five of the 2003 American League in that category. Many people have suggested, some more subtly than others, that it was in fact “the Big 3” that carried the A’s to the playoffs. “The Big 3” were Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Tim Hudson, three of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball in the early 2000’s. I don’t mean to get too inside baseball (no pun intended)but ever since Mulder and Hudson’s departure in 2004, they have only won one division championship.
To get back to the trailer at hand, I think it looks great. With every movie he makes, Pitt is becoming a chameleon and he perfectly embodies Beane’s charismatic charm. The baseball action looks very good and I think the film will turn out to be quite a bit less sappy than the trailer makes it out to be. My guess is it it will concentrate more on the behind the scenes drama in the front office of the A’s rather than the off the field drama at home. If the dialogue sounds a touch like Aaron Sorkin, that is because Sorkin did a re-write of Steve Zaillian’s script. If you will remember, Steven Soderbergh was days away from directing the film when Sony pulled the plug on it.
Along with Pitt, the film re-unites Miller with his Capote star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman plays A’s manager Art Howe and you should look up a side by side comparison because Hoffman looks almost nothing like him. Joining those two actors are Pratt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, and Kathryn Morris. Interestingly enough Hill portrays the real-life assistant GM Paul DePodesta, renamed to Peter Brand in the film because DePodesta is actually a skinny guy. My guess is he didn’t want to be portrayed as a fat Jewish kid. One interesting note about the cast is that, unlike Soderbergh’s original vision, the players are being portrayed by real actors and not playing themselves. Originally, Hatteberg was supposed to play himself but that was nixed. However former All-Star Royce Clayton will be playing ex A’s superstar Miguel Tejada. That is a bizarre choice because, once again, they look nothing like each other. Clayton did appear as himself in the 2002 film The Rookie.