Bennett Miller, 2011
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) do the math.
The Oakland Aces are being robbed every season. Their GM Billy Beane is tired of it. He has no other choice but to think differently in order to break this cycle. No one seems to understand, except for Peter Brand.
There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening.
The two make friends with statistics. They are going to battle against the world that includes an army of scouts and the head coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour-Hoffman). Billy’s ex-wife (Robin Wright) and daughter (Kerris Dorsey) are both worried. The chairman is skeptical. The players are unsure. The journalists are amused.
The team of weirdos that Billy assembles is struggling at first and then starts winning. The Oakland Aces won’t make it to the World Series but they will eventually break a record of straight wins. This performance is noticeable. The Red Socks chairman is interested in Billy and makes him a substantial offer.
Billy stays in the Bay because he believes his decisions only bring him troubles when they are based on money.
The Red Socks will win the World Series a couple of seasons later, embracing his method.
Moneyball is about trying to make a change.
When his three best players leave the boat, Billy Beane realizes there is nothing he can do to stop the hemorrhage. The same story will happen again and again. Rather than playing victim, he remembers Heraclitus (the only constant is change). He listens to Michael 9:25. And he’s taking action.
Adapt or die!
Billy tries to change a system. That is complex. It takes time, energy and confidence. Billy is about to take a different path. Everyone will make fun of him. He accepts the consequences. He is fed up of this unfair game that forces him to give away his precious organs to the big teams every year. Billy has higher ambitions.
If we win, on our budget with this team, we’ll change the game. And that’s what I want, I want it to mean something.
How does he proceed?
First, he identifies the problem. Then Peter articulates the solution.
Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.
Billy hires Peter because of his brain but also because he needs company. Those two are strong since they share the same radical vision: it’s statistically possible to win the World Series on a budget.
Billy decides to chose intelligence instead of intuition. He’s like marketers who see data changing their industry and decide to go with the flow instead of fighting the wave.
Billy and Peter have to sell the chairman on that vision (winning without spending) and stick to their roadmap when losses start to rock the boat.
The complexity in changing a system often comes from your own people. Anyone who feels at risk tend to stick to the routine and resist. A lot of people will give Billy a hard time. When someone makes a revolution, heads fall down. Billy is comfortable with this idea, more than Peter. Those two are not here to make people happy. They are here to make a change. Billy will have to force his head coach to run the team the way he wants. He will have to terminate the reign of the scouts.
Each time Billy doubts, he looks at Peter who is here as a reminder: there’s no turning back. Peter is a promise Billy made to himself.
Dealing with such an intense pressure, Billy tries to keep it light. He jokes about his own potential death. That’s his way to be brave.
This better works!
To change things, Bill also has to change his own methods. He didn’t want to mingle with the players. From now on, he will be more visible. He goes to the locker room to show his anger or give a motivational speech. He talks to the players to get them to embrace his project. He becomes a true leader by showing his dedication. He cares.
Billy learns flexibility. Things never go as planned. Billy made a series of bold moves: recruiting David Justice (Stephen Bishop), Chad Bradford (Casey Bond), Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), Jeremy Giambi (Nick Porrazzo). Some of those moves didn’t pay off. Jeremy has to go. Everything seems okay as long as Billy gives the impression to knows what he does, even though he may not sometimes. People need to think he’s got the situation under control.
Billy knows the value of symbols.
If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a shit.
That’s why he thinks he failed. He actually was just the first guy to hit the wall. It always gets bloody. Yet, he broke through and even made his way to Fenway where Boston’s chairman would help him achieve his ultimate goal. Beane is going to refuse because he doesn’t want to make decisions based on money anymore. He’s a romantic. Thus he stops one step away from his dream – despite Peter’s encouragements.
Can the game be changed? Can it be changed by romantics? Should the game be changed or should the show just be enjoyed?
This publication reflects the views only of the author.