Follow TV Tropes


Film / Moneyball

Go To

"People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn't be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins."
Peter Brand

Moneyball is a 2011 American film based on the best-selling book of the same name, following the Real Life story of how Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane built a winning team on a shoestring budget despite baseball's the-rich-get-richer environment, using overlooked advanced statistics and players to make up the competitive advantage.

Billy goes through a bit of a depression after a post season loss to the New York Yankees as he realizes that with his ballclub's meager salary, they just can't compete with the likes of teams that spend three times the amount of money they can. Destiny along with the Cleveland Indians put Billy together with Peter Brand as they start using Bill James-style statistics (aka: Sabermetrics) to rebuild the Oakland Athletics into a League powerhouse once again.

The film stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Aaron Sorkin co-wrote the screenplay. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Sound Mixing.


Tropes in Moneyball:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Wash makes his remark about teaching a fan to play first base (see Deadpan Snarker below), Billy starts tell him he's missing the point, then stops himself and concedes, "Good one."
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The real Billy Beane is not an unattractive man, but he's no Brad Pitt.
  • Affectionate Parody: A fake trailer was posted for "Too Much Moneyball" featuring the 2009 Yankees and their buying a World Series.
  • Amicably Divorced: Billy and Sharon don't bicker or argue as much as one might expect given the situation.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Billy's daughter sings him Lenka's "The Show" in a scene set six years before it was recorded.
    • When Beane visits Fenway Park at the end of the movie, the pennants for the 2004 and 2007 World Series Championships are clearly visible on the facade despite the scene being set in 2002.
  • Artistic License: A couple of main points of drama deviate from real-life:
    • Carlos Peña is portrayed as a roadblock for Scott Hatteberg in the film, but had already been demoted to the minors by the time he was traded in real life with Hatteberg firmly entrenched as the starter (and also sporting an above-average fielding percentage). Hatteberg has also said Howe was actually his biggest supporter (while confirming that Howe and Beane did not get along).
    • Beane "shakes things up" by trading Jeremy Giambi and Carlos Peña on the same day; they were traded a month apart in reality.
    • Chad Bradford and Jeremy Giambi are depicted as risky newcomers to plug the holes on the roster; in reality, they were already on the team the previous season leading into the 2002 season depicted in the film.
    • The film makes no mention of the A's biggest strength that allowed them to compete with the slugging American League teams: their tremendous starting pitching, featuring three young frontline starters drafted by Beane, with the film focusing instead on the patchwork offense. They also had both the 2002 AL Cy Young award winner (Barry Zito) and AL MVP (Miguel Tejada). See Demoted to Extra below.
    • It's nighttime when the final out of the Division Series is made. The real game was played in the afternoon and ended well before dark.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The whole point of "moneyball" is to calculate the best possible line-up for a team by factoring their averages in each individual field (pitching, catching, etc.). It works pretty well for the A's for a while, until it doesn't — because now the other teams, the ones the A's were struggling against because they had all of the money and could afford all of the best players? They still have all of the money and they start to use moneyball.
  • Based on a True Story: One could argue Very Loosely. While the on-field results and details of player transactions are mostly accurate, there is a fair bit of rearranging of characters and lines, including the complete omission of Michael Lewis (the author of the original book), and a number of people who claim they were portrayed unfairly, particularly Art Howe.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Peter Brand gets colored this way, but it's mainly just him learning the ropes.
  • Big Eater: Downplayed, but Billy is regularly seen eating. Especially noticeable when he's trading for Ricardo Rincon and stuffs his mouth full of popcorn only to spit it all out when a call comes in before he can finish chewing.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The A's go on an unprecedented 20-game win streak (setting an American League record) but lose in the playoffs. Billy is offered a 12.5-million dollar contract — the highest offered for a baseball GM at that time — to GM for the Red Sox and seriously considers it but ultimately decides to stay with the A's, content to know that he's changed the game for the better. Years down the road, other teams realize the value of these metrics and actively recruit players based on them, meaning that Billy's advantage disappears and he is left back where he started: trying to do the same things as the wealthier teams to keep up with them, but with nowhere near as much money.
  • Boring, but Practical: The various players that Beane wants on the team, in spite of their various faults, simply because they can get on base reliably.
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: Averted. The A's go up 11–0 on the Royals and look like they'll cruise to their record 20th straight victory. The Royals gradually chip away at the lead and manage to tie the game 11–11... and then the A's Scott Hatteberg hits a walk-off home run in the 9th inning. (This scene is historically accurate.)
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The players chosen have flaws but are still good enough at what they do to be good.
  • The Cameo: Bobby Kotick of Activision/Blizzard as team owner Stephen Schott.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Inverted. Scott Hatteberg has irreparable nerve damage in his elbow, which renders him unable to throw the ball with any kind of velocity, a necessary skill for a catcher. Beane converts him to a first baseman precisely to ignore his handicap and to make use of his other skills.
  • Composite Character: Peter Brand was based on a group of Beane's assistants/deputies, primarily Paul DePodesta, whose request not to have his name used in the film is what partially led to this.
  • Create Your Own Villain: In the book it's mentioned that one baseball executive who was very interested in what Billy was doing was an assistant for the Boston Red Sox named Theo Epstein, whom Beane would discuss ideas with. Epstein would be promoted to General Manager after Beane turned the job down, and proceeded to use everything he learned along with Boston's large free agency allowance to build their World-Series-winning teams before moving on to the Chicago Cubs and doing the same thing.
  • Daddy's Girl: Casey Beane and her adorable song where she repeatedly calls her father a loser.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Coach Ron Washington in the scene where Billy offers Scott Hatteberg a contract with the idea of putting him at first base, a position Hatteberg had never played:
    Beane: [First base] is not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.
    Washington: It's incredibly hard.
    Hatteberg: I'm taking Giambi's spot at first? What about the fans?
    Washington: Yeah, maybe I can teach one of them [how to play first base].
  • Demoted to Extra: The biggest strength of the winning early-2000s Oakland A's teams, including the 2002 squad depicted in the film, was the elite starting pitcher rotation headed by three young, homegrown studs: Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito (who won the 2002 Cy Young award). Only Hudson is depicted in the film, and it's when he starts letting the 11–0 game get away, although during a clubhouse scene you can see the back of an extra playing Barry Zito (recognizable due to his rare "75" uniform number). In addition, the offense sported 2002 MVP Miguel Tejada and a budding star in Eric Chavez (34 HRs each), who are shown but not really featured nor depicted as dangerous sluggers for the otherwise station-to-station offense.
  • Epic Fail: Subverted. They watch a video of a minor league game, in which an insecure player note  trips rounding first base and crawls in a panic to get his hand back on the base, only for the bemused first baseman of the other team to tell the player he smashed the ball over the fence for a home run.
    • A more traditional example is shown with David Justice. As he realises that Beane's assessment of the rest of his career is spot on (see Insult Backfire below), he goes to talk to Hatteburg in the break room to act as a mentor to him to help him out. He asks Hatteburg what his biggest fear as a player is and the exchange goes as follows:
      Hatteburg: The baseball being hit in my general direction?
      [the two share a laugh]
      Justice: That's funny. Seriously, what is it?
      Hatteburg: No, seriously. That is.
    Justice is stunned by this, and Hatteburg starts to walk off. The best Justice can manage is to shout after him "Well hey, good luck with that...", which is pretty pathetic all told.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Beane redefined the way how baseball — and by extension all team-based sports — is played, simply by spitting on everything that was done before. This includes selling his best players just to get the rest of the team room to play.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Flipping the Table: Beane flips his desk in frustration when Howe steadfastly refuses to play Hatteberg over Peña.
  • Game of Nerds: Naturally. Beane uses statistics to change the way the Oakland A's recruit players and play the game.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: This is one of the main complaints about the film's accuracy, especially given that the guys being portrayed as villains were all still alive when it came out and capable of coming to their own defense.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Inverted with Billy himself — he was convinced by scouts from the New York Mets to turn down a scholarship from Stanford to be drafted out of high school. A flame out of a short career left him embittered towards the old-school-style scouts that he butts heads with early in the movie.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The best way to describe some of the more outlandish methods that the A's management uses to evaluate potential players prior to Beane and Brand's introduction of statistics.
    Matt Keough: And an ugly girlfriend.
    Barry: What does that mean?
    [Beane hits a facepalm in the background]
    Matt Keough: Ugly girlfriend means no confidence. [...] I'm just saying his girlfriend is a 6 at best.
  • Insult Backfire: David Justice calls out Beane for his "just-for-show" antics with the team, and that with his resumé and $7 million salary, he's above Beane's style. Beane reminds him that the Yankees are paying half his salary as part of the deal with Oakland:
    Billy: That's what the New York Yankees think of you. They're paying you three and a half million dollars to play against them.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Peter Brand is frequently depicted as working in his office alone on his computer (this portrayal is apparently what led DePodesta to withdraw permission to be portrayed). Beane has to coax him to go on a road trip with the team, where he sits next to David Justice still typing away.
  • It Will Never Catch On: The concept of Sabremetrics, which drives the plot.
  • Jerkass:
    • Art Howe. In real life, Beane fired him following the loss to Minnesota. Unsurprisingly, the real Art Howe was one of the movie's most vocal critics.
    • Head scout Grady Fuson. He belittles Beane and Brand every chance he gets, refuses to even consider their new approach, accuses Beane of doing it for personal reasons, then takes to talk radio after his firing and slams Beane mercilessly.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • While all the old-school scouts are mostly playing guessing game when it comes to picking potential new players, at least part of their critique against Beane's picks are to the point. Like Hatteberg's irrepairable elbow damage (making him a disabled player by default) or Jeremy Giambi's tendency to party hard, which affects his trainings and performance during games. Giambi eventually starts to cause problems due to his excessive lifestyle, just like predicted. And not even his statistical value can counter it and Beane has to trade him away.
    • Beane admits to Howe later on in the film that it was wrong of him to completely overhaul the team's personnel and playing strategy without even letting Howe in on the process so he could understand it better and just expect Howe to follow Beane's orders without question.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One of the frequent anti-Beane callers during the sports radio montages vocally resembles Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Joe Morgan, who in real life is a notoriously vocal opponent to the sabermetric movement in baseball.
  • Occam's Razor: Brand and Beane's revolutionary idea of assembling a team boils down to statistics — everything that can't be turned into numbers is simply ignored, and everything that can be turned into numbers is counted, compared and sorted. This allows them to look through things that traditional scouts would consider as a liability or a flaw, while simultaneously exploiting the fact all those "flawed" players are undervalued and thus cheap.
  • One Steve Limit: Directly averted with "Steve" itself.
    Billy: Get Steve on the phone.
    Peter: Schottnote  or Phillipsnote ?
  • Opposing Sports Team: Highlighted with the Yankees, as per their contractual arrangement to be the villain in any baseball movie not starring them. They don't appear as villains on the field (the team's final defeat comes at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, as it did in real life), but they are held up throughout the movie as the shining example of the big-market team against whom the small-market Athletics are trying to compete financially.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: Manager Art Howe refuses to play Scott Hatteberg at first base because of Hatteberg's lack of experience at the position (in real life, Carlos Peña was also a more dangerous power threat). Beane trades Carlos Peña to clear a path for Hatteberg on the depth chart, forcing Howe to finally play him. The A's become very good very fast.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Justified. They deliberately choose players who are undervalued due to perceived flaws. In real life the 2002 A's were anything but, though. As mentioned they had the best starting pitching staff in baseball and potential superstars Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez. They were picked by many to win the division and possibly the World Series. The film glosses over all of that and focuses on secondary players. Every top team is structured the same way: a few stars, and lots of good supporting players.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Billy gives this to head scout Grady after Grady chews him out for tossing out his eye-test expertise for a sabremetric approach.
    Billy: You don't have a crystal ball. You can't look at a kid and predict his future, any more than I can. I've sat at those kitchen tables with you, and listened to you tell those parents 'When I know, I know, and when it comes to your son, I know'. And you don't. You don't.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Billy Beane and Peter Brand.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Inverted. A more appropriate name would be, "Screw The Rules, I Don't Have Money."
  • Shout-Out: Peter Brand is watching film on minor leaguer Kevin Youkilis, dubbing him the "Greek God of Walks" note  and talking about how scouts dismiss him due to his unnatural batting stance. Youkilis would go on to play on two World Series-winning Red Sox squads and become one of the best hitters in the game in the late 2000s.
  • Shown Their Work: With a few liberties taken with the A's roster for dramatic purposes, everything else, from the rosters and front office personnel of other teams to the correct 2002 signage on the outfield wall, is accurate, right down to referring to Eric Byrnes as "Byrnesy" as he was known around the league.
  • Speak Truth To Power: Brand telling right to Beane that he (Brand) would have drafted Beane in the 9th round with no signing bonus if he were the Mets GM in 1984, rather than the first round with a big bonus, is what seals Beane's decision to hire him away from the Indians.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Social Network, another Aaron Sorkin scripted film Based on a True Story about a subject that at first glance would not seem to be an interesting one to make a movie about.
  • Tantrum Throwing: The fiercely competitive Beane likes to hurl and hit things when the frustration level is high.
  • Tempting Fate: With the A's gunning for their record 20th consecutive win, Billy's daughter implores him to break his routine and watch the game for once to enjoy his accomplishment; with the A's up 11, she insists, "You won't jinx it!" The Royals make up the 11-run difference once Billy arrives at the Coliseum.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Actor Reed Thompson playing Billy Beane in his playing days, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young Brad Pitt.
  • Unlikely Hero: Light-hitting Scott Hatteberg hits a walkoff homer (although he did have a respectable 15 during the actual 2002 season).
  • Work Hard, Play Hard: Jeremy Giambi's philosophy as a ballplayer; he was noted for his frequent partying.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Beane engages in this with Art Howe. He and Brand carefully devise a batting order that will exploit the particular talents of their players, specifically one that involves putting Hatteberg on before Peña, but Howe stubbornly refuses to follow it, because he thinks Hatteberg is a useless player and it won't work. Beane tries to urge Howe to do what he wants, but Howe simply tells him that he's not going to make an idiot of himself at job interviews in six months' time. How does Beane get Howe to not put Peña on first? He trades Peña.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: