An Inside Look at the Moneyball Movie

When Columbia Pictures announced a forthcoming film adaptation of Michael Lewis’s book “Moneyball,” doubts ran rampant. After all, this wasn’t The Blind Side, with a Hollywood-ready story and a part perfect for America’s Secondary Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock. “Moneyball” is a tale of market inefficiencies, and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane attempting to recognize and capitalize on those inefficiencies. The book features a lot of statistical wonkery and inside-baseball scenes set in draft rooms and college ballparks. It’s not a film-friendly story.

Enter Brad Pitt.

Who cares if the movie ends up being cohesive, or entertaining, or faithful to the book? Pitt’s in it! People will come, Ray — people will most definitely come.

The adaptation has gone through a variety of screenwriters and directors, with the wheel finally stopping on Aaron Sorkin and Bennett Miller, respectively. Sorkin actually seems like a smart choice to usher “Moneyball” to celluloid, as his walking-and-talking style lends itself well to Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta walking briskly through the corridors of Oakland Coliseum, with the brisk pace distracting the audience from the fact that they’re talking about VORP and Ultimate Zone Rating.

But Columbia recently unleashed the movie’s trailer, and let’s just say that it doesn’t seem like the studio allowed Sorkin or any of the other screenwriters to hew too closely to the book.

In fact, Pop Culture Has Aids got our grubby hands on the final draft of the script that was turned in, and the shooting script after studio executives added their “notes.”

There are a few differences. Has the story been modified for Hollywood? You be the judge:

Key Difference #1

Original Screenplay Version:

INT. OAKLAND A’S OFFICES – DAY

The Oakland A’s scouting department sits around a large conference table debating prospects available in the forthcoming Amateur Draft. BILLY BEANE, PAUL DEPODESTA, and a slew of old-timey baseball scouts sit among stacks of files and large display charts.

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT

I’m telling you, I just like this kid’s make-up. He just looks like a ballplayer, you know?

PAUL

We don’t care how he looks. We care how he plays.

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT

What I mean is — he’s got a ballplayer’s body. Reminds me of Dimaggio in the way he patrols the outfield. He’s got three tools, minimum, and I think the offense will come. He’s only 18, after all.

BILLY

He hit .280 with only 6 home runs in a weak high school league. I’m not taking him in the first five rounds. What about this college kid….Brown?

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT

Who??

PAUL

Jeremy Brown, catcher out of Alabama. He had a .940 OPS in the SEC, and he’s undervalued because he’s stocky.

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT

Oh that fat kid? I know who you mean now. No way. That fatty’s too fat.

BILLY

We’ve got to stop judging prospects only using traditional measures. We’ve got to look at advanced statistics, and look for players other teams might not notice. That’s how we can compete. Remember, nothing correlates more with scoring runs than on-base percentage, and this kid can take his walks with the best of them.

PAUL

56 of them in a short season last year. And we won’t have to pay him what we’d have to pay a player who’s higher on everyone’s boards.

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT

Interesting. I never thought of it that way.

END SCENE.

Revised Final Shooting Script:

INT. OAKLAND A’S OFFICES – DAY

The Oakland A’s scouting department sits around a large conference table debating prospects available in the forthcoming Amateur Draft. BILLY BEANE, PAUL DEPODESTA, and a slew of old-timey baseball scouts sit among stacks of files and large display charts.

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT
(farts)

BILLY

Come on guys, let’s get our heads of our asses. We’ve got work to do here.

The door flies open, and RHONDA WATTS storms in, played by Cameron Diaz. She sits down at the scouting table and puts her feet up on some folders.

BILLY

Who the fuck are you?

OLD-TIMEY BASEBALL SCOUT

Va-va-va-voom! Reminds me of Lana Turner!

RHONDA

I’m Rhonda Watts and the owner has hired me to run the scouting department. And to keep an eye on you, Mr. Beane!

BILLY

What??? No one told me!

RHONDA

Certain higher-ups in this organization don’t trust you, Beane. They’re scared of the changes you’re making, and they don’t like the way you go about your business. I’m here to keep you on the straight and narrow.

She lights up a cigarette.

PAUL

Well, we were just talking about Jeremy Brown’s on-base percentage…

RHONDA

On-base bologna is more like it! Am I right, boys?

The old-timey scouts snicker.

BILLY

On-base percentage is the key to scoring runs, ma’am. And we also think that even for a catcher, his defensive metrics are…

RHONDA

Listen, Beane — no one here believes in your defensive metrics, or your VORP or your WARP or your SCHMOO. Capiche? We believe in home runs and batting average and ballplayers with some muscle tone. And you’re gonna have to go through me if you want to draft any fatties!

BILLY

Well, I guess you and I are going to have a bickering, sexy, Moonlighting-type dynamic then!

RHONDA

Well I guess we just will!

END SCENE.

————————————————————————————————————————————

Key Difference #2

Original Screenplay Version:

INT. GM’S OFFICE – NIGHT

Billy sits by himself in his office, the TV on the 9th inning of Game 5 between the A’s and Yankees in the 2001 American League Divisional Series. The sound is off. Beane tries to occupy himself with other tasks — going through files, pecking away at the computer — but keeps glancing at the game. Mariano Rivera strikes out Eric Byrnes to end the game, and the series. The Yankees have prevailed again. And the A’s season ends in frustration again. Billy’s phone rings, and he answers. It’s a reporter.

BILLY
(muttering into the phone)

My shit just doesn’t work in the playoffs. The sample sizes are too small. I can get us there, but then it’s all luck.

He hangs up.

FADE OUT.

Revised Final Shooting Script:

EXT. OAKLAND COLISEUM – NIGHT

The scoreboard shows that Oakland is tied with The New York Mets 2-2 in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Oakland has the bases loaded with two outs and a full count on the hitter, Scott Hatteberg. The entire stadium is silent, and tension fills the air. Nobody moves a muscle. The Mets’ closer toes the rubber and looks in for the sign. Sitting among the people, as is his wont, Billy occupies a section behind the A’s dugout next to Rhonda.

BILLY

I can’t look, Rhonda. If we don’t win this game, I’ll have failed, and baseball won’t survive in Oakland, and my Dad won’t love me anymore, and the evil Mets will win the World Series despite all the cheating they have done, and steroids. Tell me what happens.

RHONDA

Oh Billy, if you only knew how much I loved you. You can look. Win or lose, I’ll always be proud of you and what you’ve accomplished against all odds.

Billy peers through his hand. The pitcher comes set and delivers. A fastball comes toward the plate in slow motion. We see Scott’s eyes narrow as they recognize the spin of the ball, and we see him relax his body as he chooses not to swing. The ball pops in the catcher’s mitt, and for one eternal second, no one knows if it’s a ball or a strike. Everyone holds their breath.

UMPIRE

Ball Four!

Scott drops his bat and begins jogging to first base as his teammates pour jubilantly from the dugout. The crowd goes crazy and fireworks explode from the scoreboard. We hear the television play-by-play announcer.

ANNOUNCER

He’s done it! By God, he’s done it! Against all the odds! Billy Beane has molded a champion! No one believed in him, and now Billy Beane has made the Oakland A’s a World Champion! And they did it with a walk, of all things! Oh, how apropos! No one but Billy Beane saw the value in drawing walks….until now, that is! Hallelujah! OBP! OBP!

Billy and Rhonda kiss as Natural-style fireworks light the sky above them.

FADE OUT.

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4 Comments

Filed under Film Has AIDS, The Dilemma

4 responses to “An Inside Look at the Moneyball Movie

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