04 February 2012

Moneyball, by Michael Lewis

I really liked The Blind Side, so when I watched Moneyball awhile back, I immediately found myself wanting to read the book, hoping it would be as good - that it would have all the best parts of the movie and more. This did not turn out to be the case, oddly enough. The book didn't have any of the cheesy family stuff that to my mind basically spoiled the movie - no wife, no daughter, no sappy singing - so that was a plus. It also didn't really have any characters at all. I mean, there was some Billy Beane, but he didn't come to life on the page at all. Kind of makes you wonder how the filmmakers made all the characters as compelling as they did, honestly. Also, to my great surprise, all that fantastic dialogue in the movie is hardly to be found in the book. There are a few moments of the scouts talking, but they fall totally flat as compared to the sparkling hilarity of those scenes in the movie.

Even more surprising is the fact that the book doesn't have much to say about the "system" that you didn't know from the movie! I thought there would be extended reflections on it, how it changes the game, what it means - but no! There was a lot more ire about the "establishment," and the money angle, but that was pretty much it. You learn more about Bill James and how everyone ignored him for a long time, but Lewis seems to expect that this fill you with righteous indignation and basically carry the emotional weight of the book - and it just didn't. At least for me. In general, I was surprised by just how terrible the writing was. I mean, Lewis is no Proust, but this time I found myself getting really annoyed by the trite, formulaic writing.

 The movie does take some insane liberties as far as truth goes, at least, if the book is taken as the true story. The biggest injustice, I think, is the portrayal of the A's manager, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In the movie, he's the last hold-out, the guy who refuses to play Billy's way. In the book, he's basically hired to do what Billy says. I wonder how Art Howe felt about the movie. Apparently Paul Podesta refused to be part of the movie, but the character that replaces him doesn't seem that different, functionally speaking.

Overall, the book was annoyingly repetitive and not especially informative. It's not something I say often but - the movie is actually better. Despite the family sap and the constant punching things. Give the book a miss and watch it on video.


Chris Love said...

It sounds like Lewis needed Sorkin's dialogue and a mathematician. I've very glad you saved me from this read.

TB said...

After reading this I do not know if I should see the movie or read the book.