I'm terrible when it comes to suspension of disbelief. I watched "Cheaper by the Dozen" years ago, and I fumed at my TV screen, shouting: "If Steve Martin's character is a big-time football coach, making enough money to buy a huge house for his 12 kids, then by golly, he can afford to hire three or four babysitters!"
So I anticipated that I would hate the film version of "Moneyball," given that I had a pretty good idea of what actually happened with the Oakland A's of the late '90s and early '00s and that the Michael Lewis book distorted many of the facts, so the movie figured to be even worse.
That didn't happen, though. I greatly enjoyed the film, which I missed in the cinemas but caught on two recent flights and then received the DVD, as well. I think Brad Pitt is terrific as Billy Beane. I love Jonah Hill as "Peter Brand," the Paul DePodesta character. The great Philip Seymour Hoffman makes Art Howe far more bold and thoughtful than the real person. The script by the extremely accomplished duo of Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin is awesome.
And if the movie gets many, many facts wrong, it nails the spirit of what those A's did. It's neither in the book nor in the movie, but one of the most entertaining components of those A's teams is that they served as a thorn in Bud Selig's side. The commissioner was trying to get teams to increase revenue sharing - a battle he won in the 2002 collective bargaining agreement - and a talking point was that many teams began the season with no chance. Well, the A's had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, yet they proved that it was possible to outwork and outthink opponents with far more financial artillery.
If anything, the "Moneyball" book and movie underrate what Beane, DePodesta and Beane's predecessor Sandy Alderson did. Sure, it's great that they used statistical analysis to determine that Scott Hatteberg would be a good replacment for Jason Giambi. But it's also pretty great that they drafted Eric Chavez (1996), Tim Hudson (1997), Mark Mulder (1998) and Barry Zito (1999) in consecutive years and signed international free agent Miguel Tejada.. They used every tool at their disposal.
Anyway, time to give this sucker away to the first person who e-mails me - at email@example.com - with the correct answer to this question:
Among players with at least 400 plate appearances for the 2002 A's, who had the highest on-base percentage?
Here are the contest rules.
--UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.: We have a winner! Jesse Cohen knew that David Justice, with a .376 OBP in 471 plate appearances, led the A's regulars in getting on base.