Billy Beane Vice President Oakland AthleticsImagine: a feature-length movie that illustrates your team’s revolutionary new business model that produces successful results on the baseball field.
Sounds more like a finance documentary for an Econ 101 class.
Instead, Moneyball has been turned into a made-for-big-screen story, Hollywoodized with the glamorous background and glitzy megastars in Brad Pitt as Beane and Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. Who would’ve thunk that such an achievement would occur for a baseball general manager?One would think that being depicted by Brad Pitt in a theatrical film would be a sign that you’ve made it big. Or maybe that you’ve done something worth talking about. In the very least, you’d feel honored and maybe even a tad bit cool.
But for Beane, alas, none of the above should be the case.
In actuality, the film could not come out at a worse time for him and the franchise. And it is the untimely release that has generated an opposite reaction.
On many levels, the movie elicits a more negative acknowledgement. Rather than tout the radical and dynamic formula that was to turn the Athletics into a winning team, Moneyball seemingly showcases an outdated theory that makes the organization look like a bunch of has-Beanes.
Moreover, with a fifth consecutive non-winning season presently in the works, Oakland is proving that this whole Moneyball idea is a destitute one indeed.
This is unfortunate because there was a time when the Moneyball theory was something nearly everybody in baseball was talking about. The concept of applying sabermetrics and other financial analyses to determine a baseball team’s roster was revolutionary. More, it was unheard of.
But with Oakland’s mathematicians—Beane counters, if you will—targeting slow-footed, power-hitting on-base machines was like investing in the low-budget stock of a start-up company. By turning them into the Oakland un-Athletics, the low risk-high reward actuarial approach was too good to pass up.
However, evidently the end results showed that these theorems were also too good to be true. Though the small market A’s were able reach the playoffs in four consecutive years on shoestring budgets, nary one of those squads advanced beyond the first round.
So while the Moneyball-ism economic system did wonders during the regular season, there was still a component missing in the blueprint that would equate to the most important team achievement in baseball—a World Series title. Thus, the regular season success was seen more as temporary formulaic genius.