The remarkable true story behind ‘Moneyball’
(Credit: Netflix)


The remarkable true story behind 'Moneyball'

Many of the greatest sports dramas have been based on true stories. After all, it’s often the case that the real drama in sports happens both on the field and in the board room, whether in football, snooker or baseball. And concerning the latter sport, there are few baseball movies quite as brilliant as 2011’s Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller, which was indeed based on a true story.

With a script from Steven Zailllian and Aaron Sorkin, and a story by Stan Chervin, based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 nonfiction book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the film tells of the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and the attempt of their general manager, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), to put together a winning team.

However, at the time, Oakland Athletics was under severe financial constraints, especially compared to its affluent rivals. In response, Beane hired an assistant general manager, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), who started using a data-centric approach to analyzing, scouting and buying undervalued players. 

The sabermetric approach is common in most team sports nowadays, but in the early 2000s, Oakland Athletics proved that it was possible for a team to compete with their bigger budget competitors with a far lower wage bill. Billy Beane had to contend with the old guard of staff members, though, who felt that the data-based system wouldn’t work compared to their shared expertise and knowledge.

Eventually, though, the Oakland A’s began to experience great success on the field as a result of Beane and Brand’s data model, and the underdogs of the league went on to record 103 wins in the 2002 season, with an impressive 20-win streak. However, they unfortunately lost the title to the Minnesota Twins.

Still, the A’s left a deep impression on the future of baseball, and Beane’s commitment to data-centric roster compilation and player development had a significant role in the state of modern baseball. A few years later, the Boston Red Sox broke a long wait for the World Series based on the foundations of Beane’s data.

It’s not all too often that a baseball movie receives as much critical acclaim as Moneyball did, but Miller’s movie went on to earned six Academy Award nominations, including ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Actor’ for Pitt and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for Hill, showing that there was a deep interest in the inner working of sport. Throw in the fact that Moneyballwas a commercial success too, and it’s easy to see why the film became so memorable.

Interestingly, though, not every real-life figure was happy with their portrayal in Moneyball. Oakland A’s manager, Art Howe (played in the film by Philip Seymour Hoffman), had later told Sirius XM (via Fox Sports), “It is very disappointing to know that you spent seven years in an organization and gave your heart and soul to it and helped them go to the postseason your last three years there and win over 100 games your last two seasons and this is the way evidently your boss [Beane] feels about you.”

Others had highlighted how certain members of the team had been excluded from the film and that there were also a number of historical inaccuracies surrounding the sale of specific players. However, overall, Moneyball arrived as a brilliant sports drama that detailed one of the most remarkable true sporting stories of all time.