Affordable Baseball

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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After a fantastic season general manager of the Oakland Athletics Billy Beane didn’t expect to lose his best two players. In 2002 the Oakland Athletics in fact did lose their two best players who were first baseman Jason Giambi and outfielder Johnny Damon. Manager Billy Beane needed to find new players to replace the two stars. Billy brought in Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, and Ray Durham to replace the once had roles of Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon. The first 25 games of the season went pretty well for the Athletics posting a record of 15-10. It was when the season hit May 23 when things started to look bad, the team went from 15-10 to 20-26. Instead of continuing the bad the Athletics decided to turn it into a team that seemed like it couldn’t be beat. The Athletics went 16-1 from June 6 to June 24 which put them within two games of first place in the division. After that the Athletics played average baseball going 24-20 from June 25th to August 12th posting a 68-51 record on the whole season. August 13th was the start of something fantastic, the Athletics had won twenty games straight joining the Yankees as the only team to ever have a winning streak of twenty or more.

After the 20 game winning streak the Athletics were looking at first place posting a record of 88-51. The Athletics continued to thrive the rest of the season putting them at 103-59 on the season four games ahead of the angles in first. The Athletics hoped that their outstanding season would carry into the postseason against the Minnesota Twins. Oakland ended up coming short of a championship losing to the Minnesota Twins in the Divisional round in five games. The 2011 film Moneyball directed by Bennet Miller is an adaptation of the book written by Michael Lewis on the Oakland Athletics 2002 season. The movie was distributed by Colombia Pictures and was looking to make over 50,000,000 in the box office. The film included actors like Brad Pitt who played Billy Beane the general manager of the Oakland Athletics and Jonah Hill who plays Peter Brand, a key person to help replace the Athletics two big players. (

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On the opening weekend of the moving being out it produced $19,501,302 and the film was made with $50,000,000.( In the United States the film made roughly $75,605,492 putting it well over the amount of money put into the making of the movie. Because of the success of the movie the film was nominated for many awards. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year on Oscar night. Despite the slight criticism of Moneyball being a bit too Hollywood about the story. Moneyball in reality actually showed a great representation of the real life situation the Oakland Athletics were in before the start of the 2002 season. The movie showed how they were a struggling team with a strict budget reinventing their organization into a very successful team through the tactic of signing cheap players who proved to have good successful numbers. Those watching the movie will comprehend the reality of a struggling baseball team. They will be inspired by the turn around the team creates. The viewers will quickly realize how hard it is for a team with a strict budget to land players in their organization that are stars.

The film Moneyball begins in 2002 when the Oakland Athletics are in need of two players to replace their stars Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon. The Athletics realized one problem, and that problem was that the organization was on a strict budget and couldn’t go out and get big name free agents. The General manager of the Athletics was Billy Beane and in the film he goes to the Cleveland Indians organization to make a trade when he discovers an Ivy League graduate Peter Brand. Peter told the General Manager of the Indians not to trade a player that Billy wanted, Billy went to find Peter after the meeting to ask him what he told the Indian manager. That’s when Billy told Peter that he bought him from the Cleveland Indians and that he was now going to be a huge part in the search to find good affordable players for the Athletics. Billy and Peter then did some calculations on players in the league and wanted to focus on those with very good on base percentage to replace the great Jason Giambi. That’s when they signed Scott Hatteberg a struggling free agent catcher who they wanted to convert into a first baseman. They also brought in Giambi’s brother, Jeremy, who still had some maturing to do. This risky but wise decision did not work out for the Athletics at first as they started off well below .500. But as the season progressed the Athletics went from below .500 to an astonishing first place, having a twenty game win streak on the road to turn their season around.

The Oakland Athletics were an outstanding team that made the playoffs the year before the 2002 season making them look like an organization with a bright future. But after Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon the two players making the Athletics organization successful left, the team was looking at a drastic downfall. Going into the 2002 season the Athletics ranked twenty-eighth in salary cap with a tight budget of $41,000,000. The Athletics organization can criticize themselves for being in the hole because of their past owner Walter Haas Jr. who would constantly spend a ridiculous amount of money on top players. With their two best players elsewhere they needed to find affordable players with eye popping numbers. Billy Beane who was the new General Manager of the Athletics accompanied by his top assistant Paul DePodesta replaced their old players with Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, and Ray Durham. These affordable players that fitted the Athletics necessities made the team look like the same Athletics team from previous years starting off at an astonishing 15-10 record. But when the Athletics posted a 20-26 record on May 23, Billy and Paul didn’t seem too wise anymore.

In the film Moneyball based on the event of the Athletics 2002 season, the Athletics did in fact have a fairly strict budget. In the film the Athletics has a $47,000,000 budget which was one of the lowest in the league in the film which is similar to the real life event. In the film Billy acknowledges where the team is at in terms of money by saying, “”The problem we’re trying to solve is that there are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us. It’s an unfair game.””(Billy Beane) In the film Billy Beane and his assistant Peter Brand who Billy bought from the Cleveland Indians set out to find affordable players who had impressive statistics. In the real story of this event Peter Brand is actually Paul DePodesta but it was because of legal reasons that forced the film to change the name, but it is exactly the real life event just portrayed with a different name. In real life Billy actually did get Paul who is portrayed as Peter in the film from the Cleveland Indians, but in real life he took over as assistant general manager in 1999 but in the film he gets the job in 2002. Moneyball never shows the 2002 Athletics having a fairly good start like they did in the actual 2002 season. Instead Moneyball only shows the team having a poor start which is partially correct in the sense that in 2002 the Athletics were a losing baseball club for part of the season posting a 20-26 record in May.

Billy Beane was a young kid who was seen by baseball scouts everywhere as the future of their organization. In Billy’s life he grew up in San Diego, California where he attended high school and excelled in baseball starting every game on the varsity team since the last game of his freshman campaign. Once Billy graduated high school the big decision for him was if he wanted to go to college, or accept his professional contract in the MLB. Scouts saw Billy leaning towards college so he fell down in the draft stock getting drafted by the New York Mets who had two first round picks in the 1980 draft, taking Billy Beane the promising outfielder from Florida with the 28th pick in the draft. Billy decided to accept the contract with the Mets giving him a $125,000 signing bonus. “”It was the only time he’d done something just for the money, and that he’d never do something just for the money ever again.””(Lewis) During Billy’s first season he played for the Mets single A team posting an unpromising batting average of .219. Billy continued to struggle, but in 1984 he played five games on the big stage with the Mets. After Billy’s 1985 campaign he was traded to the Minnesota Twins where he saw his career go down hill, being traded several more times Billy decided to step away from his playing career. During Billy’s career he attended the University of California in the off-season. While Billy was playing for the Athletics organization he saw no future for himself playing baseball so he decided to ask the Athletics general manager if he could become a scout. After being scout for a couple of years Billy got promoted to assistant general manager and after Walter Haas Jr. died Billy took over the tough job of head general manager. Meanwhile, the film shows a vast majority of the same information but leaves out small details. The film gives an outstanding representation of what scouts saw out of Billy Beane as he looked to extend his baseball career. Moneyball acknowledges Billy’s struggles as a player and how he was traded by several teams. The film also shows Billy’s journey to becoming the Athletics general manager. One thing the film doesn’t do is show that Billy went to the University of California during his playing days.

To replace two stars on a baseball team organizations need to have the right staff with a fairly decent education. That’s exactly what Billy Beane sought to do when he hired Paul DePodesta in 1999. “”He had graduated from college with distinction in economics, but his interests, discouraged by the Harvard economics department.”” (Lewis 18) After Paul graduated from Harvard he wasn’t interested in the things Wall Street had to offer and instead he was interested in baseball players. When Billy hired the Harvard graduate he was sure that he would be the man that helped the organization rebuild. DePodesta would often be found looking at his computer looking at players stats because he believed it would give him a better way at understanding young players. Hiring a dedicated man with a fantastic education was a step in the right direction for Billy Beane and the entire Oakland Athletics organization. “”Paul looked and sounded more like a Harvard graduate than a baseball man. Maybe more to the point, Paul shouldn’t have even been in the draft room.”” (Lewis 17) Scouts did not think Paul had a belonging in baseball and the scouts often heckled Paul because they believed that his baseball knowledge was nonexistent. In Moneyball the character Peter Brand shows similar characteristics to Paul DePodesta. The film has a great representation of who Peter was. The film stated Peter graduated from Yale with an economics degree and that he had great interests in statistics of baseball players. A few things of information that are different from the film is that Peter who is Paul in real times actually got the job in 1999, but in the film he gets the job in 2002. Also Paul graduated from Harvard but in the film they state that he graduated from Yale.

Along with a great education Paul was good at analyzing statistics on players that were affordable for the Athletics. The 2002 Athletics were in desperate need to find affordable players that could replace their two stars that left. With Paul DePodesta out to prove those who thought he didn’t belong in baseball he starting studying players that had an eye popping on base percentage. Him and Billy Beane were the dynamic duo in the front office that helped the organization turn itself around. Paul would sit on his computer and study nobodies that he believed had good enough stats to help the organization of the Athletics. Even Billy believed in what Paul was assembling saying “”assembling nobodies into ruthlessly efficient machine for winning baseball games.”” (Lewis 124) Billy believed in Paul to get the organization on a winning page through assembling statistics and organizing a team that could be affordable.Paul and Billy would look at players in the minor leagues and in college. The players that interested them the most were the undervalued players. There are many similarities between the film and real life situations. A significant similarity is that Billy and Peter did use statistics to rebuild the Athletics organization. The film also shares a similarity with the real life story because in real life Paul looked at cost effective players that had good on base percentage and Peter did the same thing in the film Moneyball. One difference between the two is that in the film Peter is only researching the players in the minor leagues.

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The next step after finding players to replace the great Giambi and Damon is applying the players to the organization and having those players produce. The Oakland Athletics added new talent to their team and they were looking for those nobodies to become stars. Adding players like Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, and Ray Durham at the beginning of the season to replace the lost stars. Starting of to an astonishing 15-10 the Athletics saw no doubt in the team they had built. But once May came around the Athletics didn’t look outstanding anymore. The team posted a disappointing 20-26 record at the end of May. It was clear there was some holes in the roster. When the middle of the season came around Oakland was 46-36 and they were surprisingly in the race for first place. With poor teams struggling the Athletics looked to pick up players cut by the poor teams. “”Billy Beane was able to acquire players he could never afford at the beginning of the season.”” (Lewis 193). Billy was able to acquire an undervalued pitcher by the name of Ricardo Rinc??n. These undervalued players played a major factor in the Athletics turn around. At the end of the season the Athletics had a 103-59 record and took over first in their division. Moneyball shares many similarities about the Athletics but it also has many differences. The film is similar in the sense that in the film the team was in the same situation and got the same players. The thing that stand out in the film is that in the film the organization starts off terrible then turns things around after some trades and changes. In the real life events the Athletics started off fairly well then they became the team they were anticipated to be, but after the struggles they then turned things around.

Oakland baseball was looking to struggle after they lost Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, the future of their team. But when the general manager Billy Beane and his Harvard graduating assistant Paul DePodesta started researching players they hoped to find players to help their team. After finding affordable players with great on base percentage Billy and Paul were not too worried about next season. When the team started off good Billy looked like a genius, but when they started to struggle he received a lot of criticism. After Billy found a couple more players he believed would help the organization the Athletics started to excel and ended up in first place. The film Moneyball is a great representation on the situation the Athletics were in before the 2002 season. The film has a great representation on the strict budget the organization had and how they used statistics to bring in affordable players. The film also shows the great turn around of a struggling team. Making others inspired by the turn around of an underdog team. Moneyball has a big impact on the real life story of this. The film made more people hear the story of the great turn around the organization had.

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Affordable Baseball. (2019, Jan 13). Retrieved from