The Wife and I watched Moneyball this past weekend in an attempt to see as many of the best picture nominees as possible before the Oscars. A fantastic movie in my opinion, but I’m not here to review it. I’m here to talk about baseball. Every time I see a great baseball movie it reminds me that, deep down, I actually like that sport. I then lament for a few days until realizing that I am a Reds fan and The Wife is a Pirates fan, so between us, our teams have one playoff appearance in the last sixteen years (2010 Reds, Swept in LDS). I then proceed to hate on the sport for a few days. I growl and complain about its over paid athletes and long season. I rip the league for allowing the rich teams to prosper and the poor teams to die. And fat pitchers, what’s up with that? Then I just forget about it; baseball. I can’t remember the last time I watched a full game. Even in 2010 when the Reds made it to the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years, I just shrugged it off. So why do I love baseball movies, but not baseball?
I grew up on baseball movies like Angels in the Outfield, Little Big League and the Sandlot. I also remember seeing Major League at a young age (probably too young). So what do these movies have in common? Underdogs. In every case they are about teams overcoming to achieve. I think this is at the very core of why I love baseball movies. The movies give hope that anything is possible. You know, angels coming down from heaven to help you win, eleven year olds going pro and Charlie Sheen wearing glasses so he can pitch without killing people; winning. Everyone loves a good underdog story and that’s what you get from baseball movies. Moneyball fits right into this mold with one notable difference; it is true. Moneyball made me love and hate baseball all over again. It reminded me just why the sport is great, underdogs and streaks and the history of them game, which is rivaled by no other sport. It also reminded me that the game is about the money. Spoilers follow. Despite the efforts of the characters in the movie, they didn’t win it all. The movie tries to be hopeful by suggesting that the Red Sox won a few years later using the Moneyball principles, but the fact remains that Boston is one of the rich teams.
Call me a fair weather fan all you want. My answer is that I am a devoted Browns fan; I think that pretty much kills the fair weather idea. Maybe I just don’t like baseball. I’ve never really played it (organized). But I think it’s my deep feeling that may team and in turn many teams have no real chance to win. The underdogs have no chance. They have been bled out. Of the past twenty World Series winners, only two have been out of the top twenty richest teams (Toronto and Florida). Half of those wins come from teams ranked in the top ten richest teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Giants and Angels). Seven of the wins come from the top two teams (Yankees and Red Sox). The teams at the bottom just cannot compete with this. Sure every now and then a middle of the road team may do well and even win it all; but those are rare and become even more so. I think Moneyball gets it right and wrong. There is no romance in baseball, until there is, but even then, it’s all about the money.