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Why Moneyball Got So Much Of The True Story Wrong

The sports biopic Moneyball was a solid success at the box office when it arrived late in 2011, that made an even bigger splash when it was nominated for six Oscars a few months later. Brad Pitt received a nomination for Best Actor, Jonah Hill went up for Best Supporting Actor, Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian received nods for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the whole thing competed for Best Picture. While the film ultimately walked away empty-handed that night, it was a strong show of support from the critical community for an innovative and entertaining film.

However, any film based on a true story, and especially one that revolved around a fundamental reevaluation of the American national pastime, causes viewers to wonder how much was true. Some of the discrepancies between Moneyball and reality are on the surface, such as the fictional overweight analyst Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who nervously joins Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) at the Oakland Athletics after being spotted during a meeting. In reality, according to NBC Sports, Peter Brand is a stand-in for Paul DePodesta, an athletic assistant GM who had started with the baseball club not as an analyst but as one of the scouts that Billy rejects in the film.

While most moviegoers are comfortable with the idea that details and character traits in a film get nudged one way or another, sports journalist Allen Barra contends that there were core problems with Moneyball that made the movie misleading. Here is why Moneyball got so much of the true story wrong.

Moneyball's problems start with the original Micheal Lewis book

In an article published in The Atlantic shortly after the premiere of Moneyball, writer Allen Barra takes aim at the almost mythical status of Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland Athletics portrayed by Brad Pitt. Barra argues that the film fails to accurately represent the team's success because the 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Micheal Lewis had essential flaws. As Barra says, "Throughout the book, Lewis makes it clear that he doesn't understand baseball."

While that's a pretty solid opening volley, Barra makes some compelling points. He notes that both the film and the book highlight Chad Bradford, the unconventional pitcher whose low throwing style led him to be discounted by other major league organizations, but barely mention the three starting pitchers who formed the core of the team.

Likewise, both the film and the book take time to highlight Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), the injured catcher trained as a first baseman whose solid on-base percentages earn him another chance on Billy's team. Barely mentioned is Miguel Tejada, the shortstop superstar of the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who hit 32 home runs that season. Barra says, "But Hatteberg reached base the Beane way by walking 68 times, so he gets the lion's share of the ink in Moneyball."

While the Oakland Athletics did have a tremendous year in 2002, Barra feels that "Lewis's misunderstanding of baseball has led a legion of sportswriters and fans to revere Billy Beane." That reverence, Barra explains, is not sufficiently backed up by successes like World Series titles — which is why he argues that Moneyball, the book or the film, is not a fair representation of the true story.