I watched Moneyball for my annual Oscar!Watch; this year, due to reasons both within and outside of my control, I only managed to watch five of the 20 major nominees. I’m still unsure how Moneyball was one of the lucky ones I was able to get on Redbox — probably because it was available on Redbox. Anyway, I liked the movie but not enough to want to buy the movie when I can find it for five bucks or less; but I did like it enough to find a copy of the book that it was based on.
See, one of the problems I had with Moneyball the movie [and now all I want to do is call it Moneyballs: The Movie, and if you don’t understand why, then I’m sorry, the Schwartz must not be with you] — aside from the fact that I couldn’t get past Brad Pitt not really acting — was that it didn’t really deal with the science behind the idea. The movie played up the 2002 season for the Oakland Athletics as some battle between Brad Pitt’s character and the other members of the A’s management — Brad Pitt wants to go with the underdog characters, while the management team (namely, Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants to run the team the same way he always has in the past. It didn’t explain what Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were looking for on their computers with their stats; the audience only knew they were doing something different. In short, to quote the Great Moz (from White Collar): “The game has nine innings, the same number as Dante’s circles of Hell.” That was the movie: all nine circles.
So I was intrigued enough to see more of the math behind it. I picked up the book, and I was surprised when I really enjoyed it. I mean, for those of you who don’t know me in “real life,” I am the epitome of the Playoff Fan. I have some good friends who are die-hard fans of both the Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I also have a couple of friends who are die-hard fans of the Yankees. I will watch the Red Sox games when they’re on ESPN or NESN or whatever if there’s nothing else on TV, but in terms of following the entire season and keeping track of who’s been traded and the draft and all of that shit? Fuck it, I’m too busy for that. But when the Patriots or the Sox get into the playoffs, then yes, I’ll pay attention.
And I will never start paying attention to the games in the regular playing season, because I get a perverse sense of pleasure from the frustration my ignorance causes in my guy friends.
Anyway. I really liked Moneyball: The Book, because it didn’t deal completely with Billy Beane (Brad Pitt’s character in Moneyball: The Movie). There would be one chapter about Billy, but then the next chapter would go into the statistics behind sabermetrics, or, even better, an unsung ball player that I’ve never heard of. The main point behind the A’s attempt at team-making was that they went after ball players that had incredible stats in getting on base. The profiles on Scott Hatteburg and Chad Bradford were very interesting. And as someone who considers herself to have a heart of stone where reading books is concerned (unless the book is one of the last four Harry Potter novels), I will admit to getting slightly choked up at the description of Hatteburg being able to win the A’s 20th game in a row.
I’m not a sports girl by any means — I’m fairweather at best. But I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it for anyone who likes baseball.
Grade for Moneyball: The Book: 3 stars