Perhaps this is old news to you, but perhaps it is not. Maybe, like me, you read some of the headlines about a Moneyball movie back in October, but you figured it was just some kind of joke, and a bad joke at that.
If that was the case, you and I would both be wrong.
I’m a self-described sabermetrician, so I welcomed Michael Lewis’ book, hoping that one day baseball’s anti-intellectual crowd would eventually be overcome by a desire to understand a better, more all-encompassing way to analyze the game we all love. There are a few people out there who are still vigilant in their opposition, but most baseball people understand that they need to get the very best information in order to succeed.
Lewis’ book, which chronicles the front office transformation in the Oakland A’s organization, led by GM Billy Beane, paints the picture of one group of people in baseball who “got it” and exploited MLB’s market inefficiencies to tremendous gain.
That’s great reading for you and I, assuming that if you’re reading this post, you’re probably a baseball fan of some sort, perhaps also with an interest in baseball analysis. If so, you and I also understand that we’re part of a small niche in the world. Clearly, not everyone is a baseball fan with an affinity for numbers.
So what on earth is Columbia doing making a movie out of this kind of book? When Field of Dreams was just the 19th-highest-grossing film of 1989, in a pre-1994-strike, pre-steroid-revelation world, how do they think they’re going to turn Moneyball into a movie that Joe the Plumber is going to want to take his family to see?
They’ve done their part, reportedly getting Brad Pitt and Important Things’ Demetri Martin to fill the roles of Beane and Paul DePodesta, so they’re probably going to be marketing this thing heavily. But I’ve read the book, and I just don’t see the appeal to any group other than people like me, economists, and hardcore baseball fans.
I’ve liked several of Steven Soderbergh’s movies, but mainly the one’s he’s produced (Michael Clayton, Syriana, and Pleasantville among them) rather than one’s he’s directed (which would include the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and Solaris). He’s directing this one. Hopefully he’ll do the book justice, and maybe he’ll find a way to make it appealing to more than just you and me. Hopefully he won’t turn off the rest of the old baseball guard for good.
For now, consider me a skeptic.