The Biggest Lies Hollywood Told You About the Oakland A’s in ‘Moneyball’
If you’re a fan of the Oakland A’s, or just a fan of baseball in general, you’ve likely watched Moneyball, the 2011 film in which Brad Pitt portrays former A’s general manager Billy Beane, who is now the executive VP of baseball operations and the team’s minority owner.
Moneyball, which is based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 book of the same name, dives into Oakland Athletics’ 2002 season, in which they’d just lost several big-name MLB players to free agency, including Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen. Beane is tasked with rebuilding a team that had won 102 games in 2001 but had lost the ALDS (American League Division Series) to the New York Yankees in five games.
What makes things difficult is the Oakland Athletics’ small budget. However, with the help of Jonah Hill’s character, Peter Brand, and the use of sabermetrics (or SABRmetrics), Billy Beane guides the A’s to the American League West division title with 103 wins, including an AL record 20-game winning streak, despite not having the most talented players and constantly bickering with manager Art Howe.
That’s the Moneyball story that Hollywood tells you. While the film did get many things right, there were certainly some things it got wrong. Whether omitting certain information or throwing in some extra things for effect, the film didn’t exactly depict how that season played out. Here’s a look at a few of the biggest lies from Moneyball. To get one out of the way, Art Howe was not as selfish as he was made out to be, but every movie needs a bad guy, right?
Jonah Hill’s character joined the Oakland A’s in 1999, not 2002
Named Peter Brand in the movie, Jonah Hill’s character was based on Paul DePodesta. While Moneyball told you that he joined the Oakland Athletics in 2002, DePodesta actually joined the team in 1999, according to All American Speakers. DePodesta also graduated from Harvard, not Yale, and certainly wasn’t the jittery, non-athlete type. In reality, he was very self-assured and played baseball and football in college. He didn’t want his name or likeness to be used in the film but was very supportive in helping Jonah Hill, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. Paul DePodesta left the Oakland A’s in 2004 to become the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and now works as the chief strategy officer for the Cleveland Browns, having secured a five-year contract extension with the NFL team as of July 2021, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
Jeremy Giambi was already with the team when the 2002 season began
During the scene in which Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane discusses the players the Oakland A’s would be targeting, he discusses going after Jason Giambi’s brother, Jeremy, who would be much cheaper. In reality, Jeremy Giambi was already with the A’s at that point and had been for over two years. Famously, he was the victim of Derek Jeter‘s unbelievable flip in the 2001 ALDS, according to the New York Post.
Regarding the other two players mentioned in that scene, Scott Hatteberg and David Justice, here’s the Moneyball lies on them. Billy Beane and Ron Washington never went to Hatteberg’s house on Christmas Day to recruit him as everything was done over the phone. As for David Justice, that famous scene involving him paying a dollar for soda in the clubhouse never happened either, according to The Star.
Carlos Peña wasn’t traded when ‘Moneyball’ says he was
While it is true that Carlos Peña was traded to allow Scott Hatteberg to play first base, that didn’t go down when Moneyball says it did. In the film, he’s traded within a few minutes of Jeremy Giambi in late May. However, at that time, Pena was playing a stint in the minors with the Sacramento River Cats and wasn’t traded to the Detroit Tigers until July, according to Baseball-Reference and Stats Crew.
Billy Beane never fired Oakland A’s scout Grady Fuson
In a scene in Moneyball, Billy Beane fires Oakland A’s scout Grady Fuson after the two engaged in a heated argument about how Beane was running the team. It’s true that Fuson left the team in 2002. However, he left Oakland to take a better job with the Texas Rangers and later returned to the team briefly in 2010 as a special assistant to Billy Beane, according to Mercury News.
‘Moneyball’ fails to mention that the Oakland A’s had both the AL MVP and Cy Young winner in 2002
As Moneyball mainly focuses on Billy Beane and the players who weren’t expected to perform, it omits the fact that the Oakland Athletics had both the American League MVP in Miguel Tejada and the American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito in the team roster. Tejada played all 162 games for the Oakland A’s that season and hit .308 with 34 home runs and 131 runs batted in, according to Baseball-Reference. Meanwhile, in 35 starts in 2002, Zito went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA (Earned Run Average) and 182 strikeouts with just 78 walks in 229.1 innings, according to the MLB. Those two obviously played a huge role in helping the Athletics to the division title that year but aren’t really mentioned in Moneyball at all.
A few other tidbits in the film were dramatized, but the things mentioned above were easily the biggest lies Hollywood told you with Moneyball. Still, as mentioned earlier, the film got the majority of things correct, which longtime Oakland A’s clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich confirmed to The Star around the time of the film’s release in Sept. 2011.