Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This low-key, somewhat downbeat film, based on Michael Lewis’ book about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s pioneering effort to build a winning team using statistical analysis, or sabermetrics, was fraught with directorial, casting, script and studio changes.

But, like the A’s, it emerges unexpectedly competitive, an engrossing view of the deals and clashing ideals of America’s pastime. Frustrated by losing to the deep-pocket Yankees, Beane (Brad Pitt) steals Yale-bred economics whiz Peter Brand (based on Paul DePodesta and superbly played by Jonah Hill) from the Cleveland Indians to help him draft a bargain-basement championship team.

The ragtag team’s initial losses baffle fans and alienate Oakland personnel, but eventually the A’s pull off a record-breaking 20-game winning streak. The emphasis is less on exciting on-field action than on the tensions and triumphs of back-office dealing. Flashbacks to Beane’s early career, when he passed up a Stanford scholarship to play for the Mets, suggest that his interest in statistical prediction is based on his own failure to live up to his early promise. The movie addresses an ongoing debate about this most stat-obsessed of games: is baseball about numbers, or about people? The answer seems to be that it is both. – Pamela Zoslov

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