Hollywood, Publishing, Baseball

Hot Stove

How long will it take?

Out of convenience and profound lack of innate knowledge, how many people will conflate into one the 2011 Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane being a “genius”, and Moneyball the book and movie?

I say not long.

Not long at all.

Of course anyone who follows baseball, doesn’t take an agenda-driven tale literally and isn’t invested in the book somehow being proven as accurate will know that there’s no connection whatsoever between any of the entities. In fact, all the Athletics have done in recent years is deliver evidence that Michael Lewis’s tale was just that—a tale.

A tale he intended to tell and was going to tell one way or the other regardless of reality; a bit of creative non-fiction—skillfully twisted; masterfully marketed; promoted endlessly; and crafted into a screenplay that, in and of itself, has nothing to do with the book!

The current construction of the A’s is nowhere near the premise of the book; a premise built on Beane’s Midas touch and being somewhere between one and five steps ahead of everyone else as he wheeled-and-dealed and made fools out of anyone and everyone who didn’t do things the way he did. And if you disagreed with him? You were mocked, humiliated and outright bullied.

Is that the business model in Michael Lewis’s world?

Undervalued talent was the theme and Beane was the conduit to getting that concept into the public consciousness.

Oh, it’s not real?

So what?

Never mind that Moneyball, when taken to its logical conclusion, was an ghastly failure; forget that those who were major characters in the book either saw their reputations eviscerated or were forced to try and live up to the narrative therein; that trying to live up to the story sabotaged and destroyed any competence they might have had as a direct result of the attention derived from the book itself.

The expectations of stat-derived “genius” caused this and now, as quickly as those who were propped up by the book—Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi, Theo Epstein, Bill James, Beane himself—they’ve either subtly backed away from their infomercial-style perceptions to suit themselves or run from it entirely. Having to explain the story and their role in it over and over again must be exhausting, but they took part and took advantage when it was helping them; now they have to face the consequences.

Oh, the irony.

Now the movie has been “adjusted” from the original Steven Soderbergh concept of a pseudo-documentary/biopic of Beane, Bill James and how the statistical method came to be; its long-awaited fruition is being twisted into a more fan-friendly epic that will bear little resemblance to the book.

The waitress-romancing, handsome and gifted “Billy Beane” played by Brad Pitt, will oversee a group of castoffs melded into a unit that succeeds despite obstacles like being fat (Jeremy Brown); having a clubfoot (Jim Mecir); or cast off (Scott Hatteberg).

It’ll be a Bad News Bears for the 21st Century.

One problem.

It’s not real!!!!

It’s a book; it’s a movie; and the Athletics of 2011—contenders though they may be—are not comparable to the made for public consumption farce.

The 2011 Athletics have spent money on relief pitchers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentesbig money for relievers.

Balfour will receive $8.1 million over 2-years. Is he an “undervalued” talent? Or did the Athletics pay him more than would normally be feasible to make sure they got him? Considering Balfour’s history, under no circumstances is he a guarantee to pitch as well as he did in 2008 and 2010 with plenty of strikeouts and a low ERA; he was a journeyman before he got to the Rays and he couldn’t throw strikes. Will he pitch well for the Athletics? I think he will, but that’s a lot of money for a maybe and has no relationship whatsoever with what Beane supposedly espoused in the book.

Brian Fuentes has also reportedly agreed to terms. While unofficial, it’s said to be for 2-years at around $10.5 million. Fuentes has been a closer and is a two-time All Star; he strikes out around a better per inning and gets by with mediocre stuff and a funky, sneaky delivery. If you examine his numbers without any backstory, he’s a solid pickup; if you examine how he walks people, that his stuff is mediocre and that he allows a lot of home runs, he too is a risk—albeit the veteran, “I can pretty much know what I’m getting” type of risk.

Is overpaying for relief pitchers part of the Moneyball concept? Are they undervalued? Or was there an tweaking of the rules under which Beane lived by (according to the story) to, y’know, win?

The other Athletics acquisitions bolster a dreadful offense that was the cause of their woes in 2010. Josh Willingham can really hit and will garner more appreciation with the A’s and attached to the “genius” than he’s gotten in his prior stops, the Marlins and Nationals.

David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui were added as well. The A’s will score more runs to help along a very young and talented starting rotation; they have a deep and diverse bullpen.

This is a contending team and a good bet to win the AL West in 2011.

But does it all combine to validate Michael Lewis, Aaron Sorkin, the book and movie?

No.

But you won’t know that by the way it’s presented as one whole entity to be taken as a grand scheme by the diabolical “genius” Billy Beane.

In fact, it’s going to be fascinating to watch. You’ll have a movie based on a book, yet altered significantly to make it more palatable to the masses; you have a book, that will undoubtedly again climb the best-seller lists as an attachment to the movie, but the book won’t be similar to the movie and the book itself is a joke; and you have a team that will be battling for a playoff spot around the time the movie comes out, but the team doesn’t come close to mimicking either the book or the movie.

I’ll be paying close attention and have every intention of pointing out these inconsistencies. Naturally, those invested in the entirety of the nonsense will carefully try to gloss over said inconsistencies to foster belief in their non-existent “revolution”.

Salesmanship is one thing; success in practice is quite another.

Context?

Reality?

Truth?

What are they?

This is publishing.

This is Hollywood.

This is baseball.

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4 thoughts on “Hollywood, Publishing, Baseball

  1. I can’t figure out why you’re so fixated on this movie! It’s rare when Hollywood stays faithful to a book when shooting an adaptation. “Reimagining” happens all the time – and with good reason a lot of the time. Moneyball won’t be a documentary; it’s a fictional tale loosely based on the book. I’m looking forward to it, mostly because it’s about baseball.

  2. Will the movie address the steroid usage? The fact that the A’s success was predicated on PEDs?
    Nah, the movie will just try for a subtle rehash of The Blind Side, facts be damned. And without the Black Man as Jesus character, I can’t foresee boffo box office.

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