Moneyball started out in chaos. Brad Pitt was producing and starring and Steve Soderbergh was directing the project, imagining it as a sort of hybrid docu-drama, with a script by Oscar-winner Steve Zailian (Schindler's List). It wasn't coming together (it's tough to get smart, non-mainstream movies made—Spielberg's Lincoln barely found a distributor and very nearly went straight to television), and the combination of a box-office unfriendly subject—baseball—and the unusual approach, led Sony to bench the film less than a week before production was set to start. The frustration for all involved must have been huge. Soderbergh chose free-agency and pursued other interests; Pitt stayed, Bennett Miller brought in as director, and a new script by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) was commissioned and delivered, making it a straight dramatic film with no interview segments.
In Moneyball, Oakland A's Manager Billy Beane (Pitt) learns a valuable lesson about responsibility creep, and his own job. Responsibility creep is when folks take on more than their own responsibility and start giving "flat tires" to other members on the team by running over them. Coaches coach, scouts scout. And managers manage. And they manage not just the players who are going on the field to be handled by the coach, but they also handle the backroom dealings...including the dealings with their own people. Here, the A's have to regroup after losing their star players to other teams, but with no money to attract star players to sign with them. While other teams (like the New York Yankees) have deep pockets in which to attract players, teams like the A's, with no such assets, are left to scramble for what's left, which does not lend itself to winning ball-games and making money, which might make acquiring players easier.
That's the concept behind Moneyball—how to build a winning team with a limited budget—and this scene between Beane and his talent scouts (all played by real scouts, by the way, led by former player Ken Medlock as Grady Fuson) spells out the basic problem, and the resistance by "The Old Boys' Network" to do anything beyond Standard Operating Procedure. It is technical, but rather brilliantly dramatized, as the entire film is, to keep audiences on top of the problems and interested in their outcomes. Our presentation may be a tough slog, as what's in the film follows the structure of Zailian and Sorkin's script, but with its edges sanded down to what's in the finished film. Deletions are
I highly recommend this movie. The biggest resistance to it is "I don't like Brad Pitt." No excuse. He's terrific in this, playing a flawed character, with a combination of haggard determination lit up by scenes of desperate brio. And he's aided by a fine cast that includes Jonah Hill (first time I was impressed with his work), Philip Seymour Hoffman (in a performance of brilliant passive-agressiveness), and Robin Wright. There's even a funny cameo by director Spike Jonze. Watch it. It's a smart movie about adults playing kids' games. On and off the field.
The Set-Up: Damon's out. Giambi's out. Isringhausen's out. The Oakland A's have no chance of repeating their playing in the post-season for 2002 unless they can replace their star players with new blood—new blood that can deliver. The A's owner has told General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) there will be no more money for players, and he has to "make do" with what he has. For Beane, that's like telling him he won't win any games this year, which is unthinkable. There has to be a solution to building a winning team for the least amount of money. He gets no help from his veteran team of scouts for ideas.
15 INT. OAKLAND COLISEUM - SCOUTING ROOM - PRESENT DAY 15
MATTY I like that they got a little hair on their ass....
Billy and his scouting department - ten men older than him - all former players and tobacco chewers still, each with his own can of Copenhagen and wastebasket - sitting around a large underground cinder block "war room" whose most extravagant appointment is a Mr. Coffee. Two large white-boards dominate a wall, covered with magnetic strips with players' names on them.
On the left board - every player in the A's organization. On the other, even larger board - every player that may be of interest to them from the other organizations. It's the most complex chess board you will ever see. But what can be easily discerned are the obvious holes in the A's team - the star players they are about to lose - their names set apart from the positions they're vacating: Jason Giambi (1B), Johnny Damon (CF), Jason Isringhausen (RP).
He looks like Mantle or Mays, quite frankly, he's got a baseball body...
KEOUGH Guy's an athlete. This guy is big...
PITTARO Top of my list.
POTE Clean cut, good face.
KEOUGH He's got a
POTE He throws the club-head at...
POTE ...the ball and when it connects, it—he drives it, it pops off the bat, you can hear it all over the...
BARRY A lot of pop comin' off the bat.
ARTIE a lot of effort.
KEOUGH Minor leaguer.
...up against big-league arms.
BARRY Could be a great hitter.
BILLY I don't think so.
He's gotta play.
GRADY This kid needs some at bats. You give him 400 at-bats, he's gonna get better.
BARRY He can play.
GRADY He's hit everywhere along the line.
He's one of our guys.
Billy puts his coffee cup down on the table with a loud snap. There's an uncomfortable silence.
Billy backs off, incredulous as the scouts prattle on --
ARTIE I like Perez. He swings like a man. He's got a classic swing. It's a real clean stroke.
BARRY I dunno. He can't hit the curve-ball.
ARTIE Well, there's some work needs to be done. I admit it.
BARRY Yeah, there is.
But he's noticeable.
KEOGH He's got an ugly girlfriend.
BARRY What's that mean?
KEOGH Ugly girlfriend means no confidence.
PITTARO Aw, you guys are full of it.
GEORGE Passes the eye candy test.
He's got the looks, he's ready to play the part. He just needs some playing time.
KEOUGH I'm just saying...
...his girlfriend's a 6 at best.
BARRY ...if we're tryin' to replace Giambi, this guy could be it.
I agree with you.
GRADY We're trying to solve the problem, here, Billy.
BILLY Not like...
...this, you're not. You're not even looking at the problem.
BILLY Okay. Good. What's the problem?
GRADY We all understand what the problem is...
BILLY Okay. Good. What's the problem?
GRADY The problem is that we've lost 3 key players that we now have to replace.
BILLY Nope. What's the problem, Barry?
BARRY We've got 38 home runs to replace, 120 rbi's, 47 doubles...
Then there's 50 feet of crap and then there's us.
It's an unfair game.
And now we've been gutted. We're organ donors to the rich. The Red Sox took our kidneys and the Yankees...
took our heart. And now I'm listening to the same old
BILLY We've got to think differently.We're the last dog
BILLY He dies.GRADY Billy, that's a very touching story and everything, but I think we're all very much aware of what we're facing here.
GRADY You have a lot of experience and...
GRADY ...wisdom in this room. Now......you need to have a little bit of faith and let us do the job of replacing Giambi.
BILLY Is there another first baseman like Giambi? (BEAT) Is there?
Everyone mumbles "no."
BILLY And if there was, could we afford him?
Everyone mumbles "no."
BILLY Then what the fuck are we talking about, then?
GRADY Look, we're gonna find 25 guys, put `em through player development, teach `em how to play Oakland A baseball. This is no time to push the panic button. This is the way we've been doing it for 150 years. Let us do our job.
BILLY If we try to...
...play like the Yankees in here,
POTE Who's Fabio?
ARTIE He's a shortstop-
a shortstop from Seattle.
GRADY Look, this is no time to push...
...the panic button.
Billy, our scouts are going to find players, our player development is going to develop 'em, we're gonna teach 'em how to play Oakland A baseball.
BILLY Guys, we...
With all due respect, we've been doing this for a long time.
Why don't you just let us be responsible for replacing Giambi with who we know who can play.
GRADY Okay, Billy. Clearly you have something on your mind.
BILLY Bill James.
ARTIE You're not serious?
PITTARO We're not playing fantasy baseball, Billy.
BARRY Those aren't new ideas, they disproved that years ago.
GRADY Bill James was a night security guard at the Stokely Van Camp Pork and Beans Factory.
BILLY He thinks differently than anyone in baseball.
GRADY He's not in baseball. He's in pork and beans.
BILLY Don't attack the man, attack the argument.
PITTARO (to the room) I think he just won the argument. Chuckles.
BILLY What if we've been wrong this whole time about what ingredients manufacture a win? What if this whole time we thought it was the chicken that made the chicken soup taste good when really it was the onions that made the chicken soup taste good? Onions are a lot cheaper than chicken, you see what I'm saying? POTE I don't have the first idea what you're saying.
BILLY We gotta start over. We gotta rethink this thing. We gotta look where others aren't looking.
GRADY With all due respect, we've been doing this for a long time.
BILLY That doesn't mean you're doing it right. Do you watch nature docs? You know what happens to the runt of the litter? He dies. I'm open to any solution, as long as it's not what the other guys are doing. (THEN) Now, I'm going to Cleveland to poach an outfielder named Brandon Garcia --
TBD SCOUT Hold on -- You're going to Cleveland for a double-A guy?
GRADY Billy, I've seen Garcia. He's got a bad body. It's not a pretty sight.
PITTARO Kid wears a large pair of underwear.
KEOGH That is a big boy.
GRADY He's not just big, but kind of doughy. A fleshy kind of body.
BILLY Oh, you mean like Babe Ruth.
SCOUTS (UNISON) He's no Babe Ruth.
PITTARO When he walks, Billy, his thighs stick together. There's enough friction there to start a bonfire.
KEOGH If you saw him, I'm telling you, you wouldn't want to go to Cleveland.
BARRY Billy, can I make a suggestion? If you could get Ricardo Rincon... he'd be worth the trip to Cleveland.
GEORGE That would solve our left handed reliever problem. Unanimous approval from the scouts --
SCOUTS (UNISON) Yeah.
BILLY I should get Rincon?
SCOUTS (UNISON) Definitely.
BILLY Okay. I'll also come back with Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb. And who would like a Fabergé egg? Guys, you aren't hearing me -- in what universe can we afford Rincon?
I'm asking you guys to look at this game differently than you've ever looked at it before. I'm going to Cleveland. (MORE)
BILLY (CONT'D) And when I come back, I want you to tell me something I don't already know. I want to question everything. We've got to rethink this game.
As he exits --
BILLY And Grady? Nobody cares about a 102 win season.
Billy storms out.
KEOUGH What's a Fabergé egg?
Words by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Pictures by Wally Pfister and Bennett Miller
Moneyball is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.