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Friday, September 23, 2011

Boudway: Watching ‘Moneyball’ With Bill James

Personally, I’d rather watch The Town That Dreaded Sundown with Bill…but there is some choice biz here.

Bill James stands in the atrium at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland, surveying the crush of people who have arrived for the world premiere of Moneyball. He looks pleased and a little overwhelmed. His wife, Susan, is on his arm. A Hollywood movie premiere is a first for both. “We usually get our movies from Redbox,” he says as he maneuvers his broad, 6-foot-4-inch frame by the bar to snag an apple-vodka martini. “Getting through crowds like this,” he jokes, “I always want to say, ‘Excuse me, I’m a minor celebrity.’”

...An audience member updates James on that day’s Boston Red Sox game. James has been a senior adviser to the Red Sox since 2002. The Sox, stumbling badly in September, lead the Baltimore Orioles 11-5 in the third inning. “That’s 92 percent of the runs [John] Lackey needs to win,” he says of Boston’s starting pitcher.

...James, for his part, gets four mentions on screen. At each, his wife clutches his hand or pats him on the knee. In the first, the camera pans over a page from an early Abstract as a voiceover tells the audience that “Bill James and math cut straight through” misperceptions about baseball. “Seeing those pages was the strangest part,” says James. In the second, an Oakland scout incredulously asks Beane whether he’s “buying into this Bill James bullshit.” (James: “That was my favorite.”)

...James watches the revelers stream into the after-party and says that the thing people need to understand is that he’s not as big a deal as Moneyball makes him out to be. “It’s somewhat exaggerated, but my contributions to the game have been a bit exaggerated for quite a while now.”

Not that he’s complaining. “I thought it was a terrific movie. Among all the baseball movies of the last generation, this was the baseballest.”

Repoz Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:35 PM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, books, media, red sox, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:01 PM (#3934315)
But would it be as much fun as watching Velvet Goldmine with Repoz?
   2. gef the talking mongoose, peppery hostile Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:22 PM (#3934326)
The Texarkana Moonlight Murderer is totally underrated.
   3. The District Attorney Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:53 PM (#3934355)
The Sox, stumbling badly in September, lead the Baltimore Orioles 11-5 in the third inning. “That’s 92 percent of the runs [John] Lackey needs to win,” he says of Boston’s starting pitcher.
Heh, nice.
   4. True Blue Posted: September 23, 2011 at 10:41 PM (#3934416)
Like being with Goebbels the first time he watched "Triumph of the Will".
   5. bobm Posted: September 23, 2011 at 10:59 PM (#3934424)
[4] or the premiere of "Nation's Pride"
   6. Swedish Chef Posted: September 23, 2011 at 11:18 PM (#3934437)
This would have been much more fun if the animated James hadn't been cut from the movie.
   7. AndrewJ Posted: September 24, 2011 at 02:05 AM (#3934508)
Just got back from a screening. I give it *** 1/2 out of four -- the plot's laid out straightforwardly, Brad Pitt's charming as all getout, Jonah Hill's funny. Only drawback is its length. Even so I highly recommend it.
   8. Bob Tufts Posted: September 24, 2011 at 02:14 AM (#3934512)
I was hoping James would channel J. Alfred Prufrock and leave the movie saying “that is not it at all, that is not what I meant, at all.”
   9. AndrewJ Posted: September 24, 2011 at 02:18 AM (#3934514)
What I thought was a glaring anachronism: We see photos of Beane as a Little Leaguer, wearing pullover color T-shirts as uniform tops. Given that Beane was born in 1962, he would've been a Little Leaguer c. 1972-73, when button-down jerseys (probably even still flannel) were the norm.
   10. The District Attorney Posted: September 24, 2011 at 02:27 AM (#3934521)
Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.
   11. AndrewJ Posted: September 24, 2011 at 02:41 AM (#3934525)
The audience I saw it with tonight applauded at the end. A very good sign for its box office prospects.
   12. Tricky Dick Posted: September 24, 2011 at 02:50 AM (#3934529)
I liked the movie. At the Texas theatre I was at, there was scattered applause at the end. As the crowd filed out at the end, my sense was that most were saying positive things about the movie.

The apparent inaccuracy that bothered me are the scenes where Brand is watching pitch f/x type graphics on video. I don't think any ballparks were equipped for pitch f/x at that point in time.
   13. Good cripple hitter Posted: September 24, 2011 at 03:06 AM (#3934533)
The audience I saw it with tonight applauded at the end. A very good sign for its box office prospects.

Hardly. That's exactly the kind of small sample size piece of data that causes critics to overrate movies. You have to analyze its AORF (applause over replacement film), compare it to similar movies by using the KNIGHT projector, and then adjust for era and theatre size. We're not selling popcorn here.
   14. Greg Pope Posted: September 24, 2011 at 03:18 AM (#3934536)
The apparent inaccuracy that bothered me are the scenes where Brand is watching pitch f/x type graphics on video. I don't think any ballparks were equipped for pitch f/x at that point in time.

I thought that he was actually tracking the pitches himself. The scene shows him watching the game, then rewinding and pausing, then clicking on the chart to show where the pitch was.
   15. Downtown Bookie Posted: September 24, 2011 at 03:49 AM (#3934556)
What I thought was a glaring anachronism: We see photos of Beane as a Little Leaguer, wearing pullover color T-shirts as uniform tops. Given that Beane was born in 1962, he would've been a Little Leaguer c. 1972-73, when button-down jerseys (probably even still flannel) were the norm.


Speaking as someone who was born the same year as Beane, I can speak to my personal experience with Little League. My first Little League "uniform" was just a tee-shirt you wore with your jeans or corduroys (the youngest level); then flannel for a season; then pullover jersey (with double-knit pants); and then back to flannel.

So while button-down jerseys were still common, pullover jerseys were also in use at that time.

DB
   16. Howie Menckel Posted: September 24, 2011 at 03:59 AM (#3934562)
A year older, and yes, flannel Little League and Senior League uniforms (hot as hell late spring, but cool to have the "real" stitching of the number, and the bakery sponsor on the back). High-stirrup two-color socks, too - yes, they rocked. The summer league unis were just t-shirts, though, iirc.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: September 25, 2011 at 05:34 AM (#3935500)
Is there a Moneyball reactions thread? Can this be it? I liked it a lot.
   18. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: September 25, 2011 at 05:41 AM (#3935502)
I'm 12 years younger than Beane and, after wearing a generic brown uniform saying the name of the league my first year, I spent the next three years wearing the mid-1980's Padres cheeseburger uniforms. We were kind of jealous of the Astros though.
   19. SSHOCK Posted: September 25, 2011 at 06:00 AM (#3935504)
The movie was long but not drawn out to me at all. I've seen many movies recently that were shorter and felt longer.

I thought it was great. They decided what story to tell and used the parts of the book that amplified that story. It was somewhat quiet, and under-stated, which I thought was a nice refresher from all the movies lately that want to fill every ####### event with a blaring sound track. Pitt was Pitt, Jonah was Jonah, and it worked. I had a smile on my face through most of the movie. I saw it with two friends who don't know the first thing about baseball and they laughed at many parts and enjoyed it.

Also: Loved Pratt as Hatteburg. His role was a nice touch.

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