Commentary

"Moneyball" needs luck on its side

Originally Published: January 25, 2012
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

With this week's Oscar nominations, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and "Moneyball'' now have a chance to win the first major Academy Awards for a baseball movie. (Or did Freddie Prinze Jr. win for "Summer Catch," and I just forgot?)

Off Base

Can "Moneyball'' finally end baseball's "Curse of William Bendix'' jinx? Based on the game's sub-Mendoza Line average in Hollywood, it's doubtful. Baseball movies rarely are nominated for an Oscar and have never brought home a Best Picture, acting or directing award. That's not due to poor movies. "Field of Dreams,'' the last previous baseball movie to get a Best Picture nomination, somehow lost out to "Driving Miss Daisy.''

Nor has it been due to a lack of talent -- more than two dozen Oscar-winning or Oscar-nominated performers have acted in a baseball movie. Check out this partial list:

Bendix, Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Jimmy Stewart, Susan Sarandon, Walter Matthau, Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner, Walter Brennan, John C. Reilly, Geena Davis, Gary Cooper, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Tim Robbins, Tommy Lee Jones, Glenn Close, Roy Scheider, David Strathairn, Richard Farnsworth, Vincent Gardenia, Jason Robards, Jackie Earle Haley, Tatum O'Neal, Michael O'Keefe, Ray Milland and Randy Quaid.

If "Moneyball'' doesn't win, you can add Pitt, Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman to the list. That's the most talented, expensive roster that hasn't won anything apart from the 2011 Red Sox.

Based on the movie genres the Academy typically rewards, if "Moneyball'" doesn't bring home the hardware, baseball will just have to come up with a movie devoid of all humor about a team going from last place to the World Series thanks to a general manager who is homeless, an alcoholic, drug-addicted, mentally challenged and preferably portrayed by Meryl Streep.

Until then, baseball will have to cross its fingers for "Moneyball'' next month or hope the following sequels eventually bring home an Oscar.

"Moneyball 2: Grumpy Old Executives'' Ten years after the 2002 season depicted in the original, we find an increasingly frustrated, worn-down Billy Beane trying to win with a payroll that is now far below even that of the Twins and Marlins. Competing in a division that just added Albert Pujols for $254 million and Yu Darvish for $110 million, Beane starts charging his players for towels in addition to soda pop in the clubhouse. Reflecting the toll the difficult years have taken, Beane is now portrayed by 80-year-old Robert Duvall while weary, young assistant Peter Brand is played by Tommy Lee Jones.

"Moneyball 3: The Bride of the Yankees'' Supermodels and top Hollywood actresses battle to become the first Mrs. Derek Jeter -- without a pre-nup! -- in this rom-com starring Helen Mirren and Judi Dench as the only A-list celebs the shortstop hasn't sent home with a gift basket of autographed memorabilia (at least not yet).

"Moneyball 4: The Bad News Bearers Go to WAR'' David Fincher directs Jesse Eisenberg and Jonah Hill as brilliant, young and arrogant killjoys using Facebook and other social network sites to repeatedly throw cold water on fans by telling them the Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, Pujols and Darvish contracts are unjustified in terms of WAR and will eventually bankrupt all the teams involved.

"Moneyball 5: Saving Terry Ryan'' Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg delivers the powerful story of the Twins general manager who braves the bloody battlefields of the American League in search of injured Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, whom Minnesota still owes $180 million. Warning: The opening scene in which Ryan learns the Tigers have signed Fielder for $214 million may be unsuitable for viewers under 17.

"Moneyball 6: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Annoying'' Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max Von Sydow star in a long, tedious tale about Boston fans whining and suffering from the most devastating event in their lives -- the Red Sox's 2011 collapse. (This movie may be released under the alternate title "The Neverending Story.'')

CSI: Box Score

You know the drill. Each week, I provide a fragment from an old box score and challenge you to determine what game it is from and why it's significant. I give this one a difficulty rating of 5.0. Answer below.

CSIKurt Snibbe/ESPN.com

[+] EnlargeSparky Signs card
Courtesy of Fleer

Baseball Card of the Week

This card of Sparky Anderson (1985 Fleer, No. 628) just might feature the dullest action shots in the history of sports photography.

Answer -- CSI: Box Score

The biggest clue was the name Hatteberg listed as the pinch-hitter followed by the 1 1 1 1 that is the tell-tale sign of a home run. Yes, this is the boxscore from Oakland's 12-11 victory over Kansas City that completed the Athletics' AL-record 20-game winning streak in 2002, a streak that was prominently featured in "Moneyball.'' If "Moneyball'' is to be believed, Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford (along with the trading away of that season-killing Carlos Pena) had far more to do with Oakland's success than MVP Miguel Tejada, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger third baseman Eric Chavez (34 home runs), Cy Young winner Barry Zito, 19-game winner Mark Mulder and 15-game winner Tim Hudson.

Oh, well. I'm not sure "Midnight in Paris'' was completely accurate, either. Or that you can still find Ernest Hemingway, Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald in Paris bars.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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