In our other life away from this site, we write about sports professionally, so obviously we have been looking forward to "Moneyball," which opens a week from Friday. (Here's our review of the book, when it came out in 2003.) The book has such a complicated narrative, and is about so much more than "statistics" and "math" and even "baseball," that it seemed near impossible to turn it into a movie. (Grierson has seen it, but we won't see it until Tuesday.) Mostly: We were curious what our fellow baseball nerds would think about it. Last night, we discovered that one of our favorite ones absolutely hates it.
Keith Law, former special assistant to the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and a baseball writer/analyst for ESPN, is one of the best baseball minds in the world. He's also a discerning reader, a cultural critic and an all-around intelligent guy. And on his personal site last night, he absolutely destroyed "Moneyball." How much did he destroy it? Here's his opening line:
Moneyball, the movie, is an absolute mess of a film, the type of muddled end product you'd expect from a project that took several years and went through multiple writers and directors. Even good performances by a cast of big names and some clever makeup work couldn't save this movie, and if I hadnt been planning to review it, I would have walked out.
Law, to the eternal entertainment of his readers, is renowned for not mincing his words, and he certainly doesn't in the review, criticizing both the movie itself and its understanding of baseball itself, which he calls "pretty gross misrepresentations or oversimplifications" This means more because Law, himself, is also at the epicenter of the revolution that "Moneyball" is ostensibly about. In fact, he's even referenced in the book (PDF):
The first thing J. P. Ricciardi did after he took the job was hire Keith Law, a twenty-eight-year-old Harvard graduate who had never played baseball, but who wrote lots of interesting articles about it for baseballprospectus.com. That was partly Billy's idea. Billy had told J.P. that, in order to find the fool at the poker table, "you need your Paul."
The "Paul" in that sentence is Paul DePodesta, the assistant to Billy Beane who (in a fictionalized version, an amalgam of several people, including people like Law) is played by Jonah Hill in the movie. So: In a roundabout way, one of the people Jonah Hill's character in the movie "Moneyball" is ostensibly based on hates the movie "Moneyball." We wonder if someone will make a movie about intelligent baseball analysts who come up with a new and better way to make movies like "Moneyball."
UPDATE: Law tells us that the section of the book he is mentioned in was fabricated by author Michael Lewis. Says Law: "I am mentioned in the book's epilogue in one or two paragraphs that tell a story that never actually happened."
"Moneyball" Review [Meadowparty]