An Assortment Of Thoughts On Bennett Miller’s Moneyball

Brad Pitt in Bennet Miller's Moneyball

via infamouskidd.com

There are an innumerable amount of things that are exchanged throughout our daily lives.  These exchanges can both positively and negatively affect our state of being.  A conversation with a loved one can influence your attitude for the rest of the day.  That exchange may bring you to utter dissatisfaction or complete elation.  A break up.  A marriage proposal.  A simple conversation exchanged on any given day could change someone’s life, or it could be business as usual.

The United States Dollar is the currency of America.  The dollar is legal tender: upon the exchange of the dollar, one can receive a plethora of things.  Most commonly, the dollar can be exchanged for three things: a service, a consumable possession or a material possession.  Paying for an education at a university is an exchange of service – the USD for knowledge.  Presumably, this knowledge helps equip scholars to attain a higher understanding of their surroundings, but most importantly it helps them achieve a higher pay grade.  This pay grade greatly influences what sort of possessions one may own.

Food is an essential commodity that is consumed on a daily basis.  It is an afterthought – sometimes we don’t even realize we are eating something!  It comes and goes.  It passes through our lives, affecting our energy level and our health.  Another consumable possession is a ticket to an event.  A sporting event, a concert, a convention.  We consume the entertainment but we cannot take it with us.  It becomes intangible.  It becomes a memory.  It’s something that you can’t physically touch, but it affects you in some way.

The last thing we can exchange for is a material possession.  This is something we can take with us.  Something that ages with time.  Something that becomes obsolete.  Something that provides constant entertainment.  Something that reminds us of better times.  An wedding band is just that: something that was exchanged for the USD that represents something.  Love, passion, commitment.  It could be with you when you die.  It could be buried with you.  A fifty-year old wedding band could spend an eternity underground.  Or it can be sold off after a handful of years of marriage.

Money, the material object, influences the way we live, the way we think, and the way we see the world.  Money, the immaterial object, creates a segregation within society that is unstoppable.  There is no doubt of the power of influence the dollar has in American society.  Lives are built because of it.  Love can be broken in lieu of it’s absence.  Money is a powerful commodity.

Baseball is an American sport.  Moneyball attempts to couple the two in a seamless marriage.

I’m glad I’m a baseball fan, because if I weren’t, I don’t think I could’ve enjoyed Moneyball.  There were vat-fulls of jargon, inside vernacular and characters that carry more of an emotional weight if you are familiar with their story.  The movie’s premise revolves around the idea of OBP.  Anyone who reads this blog is familiar with this statistic.  It’s common knowledge.  Anyone who watches the movie and is not a baseball fan should come away with a basic understanding of why OBP is a such a powerful barometer for gauging future success, both in terms of a ballclub and an individual player.  Get on base, score runs.  Score runs, win games.  Win games, freak out!  It’s a pretty easy success formula to understand, and the movie does a great job explaining how and why it works.

What doesn’t work is the omission of certain players.  I understand that movies are story driven, and to drive stories you need strong, relatable characters.  I get it – but Barry Zito is nowhere to be found.  Tim Hudson is nowhere to be found.  Mark Mulder is nowhere to be found.  The thing the Athletics leaned on the most during their successful run was pitching, and outside of Chad Bradford, there isn’t really a compelling story involved with the movie in regards to pitching.  Sure, Bradford is featured in the novel, he was considered a risk by ballclubs, but outside of his extreme submariner delivery, he isn’t really a compelling character.  He’s portrayed as more of a compelling commodity.  An investment that may yield positive results, with an emphasis on may. 

What worked in favor of the movie are the relationships the characters built through the progression of the story, specifically, the characters Bennett Miller showcases.  There is a foundation set for the success and failure of the season portrayed.  The characters are believable in their antics, and the sense that the Athletics are destined to succeed comes across very well.

The first thing I want to focus on is the service exchange that the movie offers us, and then relate it to our current plight of Seattle Mariners fandom.  The future success of this Mariners ballclub is not directly correlated to the success of past Mariners ballclubs.  The Moneyball methodology supposes that it’s possible to build a playoff contending team without spending like big market teams, a la New York and Boston.  The biggest strength in building through the draft is service time.  Prince Fielder was drafted in 2002.  He helped lead a 2008 Brewers to a playoff berth.  After he signed a two-year extension, the Brewers are in the playoffs again.  Elvis Andrus was signed in 2005.  Two of the three years during his service time in the bigs he helped the Rangers reach the playoffs.  He’s arbitration eligible after this season, and becomes a free agent in 2015.  If you can strike gold in the amateur draft, it is possible it pays off dividends for years to come.

The 2002 amateur draft picks made by Oakland yield interesting results.  None of the players drafted by Billy Beane that year are with Oakland now, however – many of those picks have gone on to have successful careers.  That’s sort of an understatement, because there is one draft pick that stands out above the rest.  Their lips purse beyond the rest.  Jonathan Papelbon.  The MLB draft is a crap-shoot.  There’s absolutely no guarantee a pick will succeed at any level.  There may be a correlation, but there is no causation.  A first-round pick doesn’t guarantee production of a superstar.

Impact and productivity are two things that any GM can hope to achieve from the draft.  Papelbon didn’t sign with Oakland that year.  He wanted to pitch another year in college so he could win a championship with them.  Oakland drafted him in the 40th round.  Boston drafted him in the 3rd round in 2003.  When Beane was picking that low in the draft, who knows what he was looking for.  The odds for hitting gold increase exponentially as you progress further down the draft.  It’s a crap-shoot.  Who knows what influence Beane’s pick had on Boston’s decision, if at all.  What we know now is that Papelbon is a bonafide franchise closer, and he is a household name to the baseball fan.  Dumb face and all.

The biggest name to come out of the Mariner’s 2002 draft is Travis Buck.  The Rangers, Kameron Loe.  The Indians, Jeremy Guthrie.  The Angels, Howie Kendrick.  The biggest name to come out of the Yankee’s 2002 draft is Phil Coke.  Out of thousands of players drafted, only a handful of players stand out.  This is why every draft pick is important.

Dustin Ackley was the second pick of the 2009 draft.  Sean Nolin was the 1433rd player drafted.  An impact bat can be found anywhere – Albert Pujols was the 402nd player picked in the 1999 draft.  Likewise, a productive pitcher can be found late in the draft – Mark Buehrle was the 139th player drafted in the 1998 draft.

We give so much credence to the potential success of high draft picks, but we have to remember that the landscape of baseball is fickle.  It truly doesn’t matter when in the draft a player is picked.  The only thing that matters is the quality of the talent that is evaluated.  The best possible situation is the Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun situation in Milwaukee.  They both got a taste of the playoffs in 2008.  Soon after, Fielder signed a short extension, while Braun signed a massive extensionFelix Hernandez is signed through 2014.

The Mariners have three seasons left before he becomes a free agent.

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Topics: Athletics, Barry Zito, Brad Pitt, Chad Bradford, Dustin Ackley, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, Moneyball, Scott Hatteberg

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  • maqman

    So we should trade Felix for Jonathon Papelbon? I was hoping the part of the book that told of Geoff Baker writing an article accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of being racists would make it into the film version. Too bad it didn’t.

  • maqman

    So we should trade Felix for Jonathon Papelbon? I was hoping the part of the book that told of Geoff Baker writing an article accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of being racists would make it into the film version. Too bad it didn’t.

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