Just when you thought deadpan comedy and the sexification of advanced baseball research would never join forces, Demetri Martin landed an acting gig playing alongside Brad Pitt in the film adaptation of Moneyball. Yes. A Moneyball movie.
Alright, background information. Over six years ago, best-selling author Michael Lewis told the tale of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane as he meticulously managed the most efficient franchise in baseball. The book was met with mixed reviews, but its effect on the baseball community was undisputed.
Over the course of the 2002 season, Lewis’ vivid account of Beane’s success and (limited) failure pulls the curtain back on modern baseball statistics and the role they play in the professional world of sport. From the writings of baseball guru Bill James to the application of sabermetrics, Lewis recaptures the statistical revolution of baseball in the late 20th century and just how Beane sought to use this to his advantage on a limited budget.
The results of Beane’s experiment, long after the book hit shelves, continued to speak for themselves. With five playoff berths in six years between 2000 and 2006, Beane’s Athletics regularly did with minimal funds what wealthier clubs failed to do with hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now, as the rest of the world starts to catch on, the gap on the field has lessened. In 2011, however, the underdog story will be recreated for a film audience with the aforementioned Pitt projected to run the show as the overstressed and then-underappreciated Beane.
Alongside Pitt will be Martin, acting as Harvard graduate and glorified stat nerd Paul DePodesta. In the 2003 memoir, DePodesta all but embodies the shift in professional baseball scouting practices from old to new. His statistical approach to a game he never competitively played is what at one point earned him an offer to oversee baseball operations with the Toronto Blue Jays (a job that later went to J.P. Ricciardi in 2001). It is with DePodesta’s computer program that Beane reinvented the Athletics’ drafting process.
Only time will tell whether the novel successfully translates to the big screen, but the prospect of having Martin tackle a serious role begs questions of its own. Awesome questions. As a stand-up comedian, regular Daily Show contributor and observational humorist, Martin made good on his decision to drop out of law school to pursue his dream of making people laugh. Now with a number of more dramatic roles lined up, including this which baseball fans are sure to intensely defend, Martin’s versatility will be put to the test.
Though the thought of putting a monetary value on one’s ability to draw walks in the batter’s box is sexy enough in its own right, director Steven Soderbergh’s decision to cast Pitt and the increasingly-popular Martin assures the cult-like Moneyball faithful that the adaptation will not pass by unnoticed.
With filming set to begin this June, the countdown can soon begin with baseball personalities like David Justice and Darryl Strawberry already set to appear in front of the camera. The least you can do is pick up a copy of the book before Columbia Pictures starts releasing previews for the movie – trust me, your friends will be impressed.