So it turns out that Billy Beane isnt past his sell-by date at all. He just peaked too early, cinematically speaking.
You see, this is the As movie that should have been made, not the one that was released last year. This is the team made of the sparest parts, with the least reason to think grand thoughts, yet thinking them all the time anyway because . . . well, because why the hell not?.
Take Saturday. The As let down a crowd of 28,142 by not beating the New York Yankees with a walk-off hit, as they had the night before. Instead, they got a homer in the eighth inning from Brandon Inge, the greatest .200 hitter who ever .200-ed his way through a season.
Then, because that was insufficiently dramatic, they trotted out Sean Doolittle to save the game in the ninth because closer Ryan Cook was on E after three consecutive appearances. And all Doolittle and his raggedy used-to-be-an-infielder-before-his-shoulder-turned-into-an-ankle-ish had to do was face and vanquish Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, with a side of Andruw Jones.
67.5 million and 1,574 home runs. And Doolittle went single, strikeout, strikeout and steal, strikeout.
RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- A's 2, Yankees 1
You think thats not a movie. You think that doesnt beat the hell out of Jonah Hills slack-jawed face for two hours?
Well, maybe it doesnt. Movies are a personal thing.
But this is a hell of a movie, and for Beane, who has watched those halcyon days of yore fade into questions of whether the finances have passed him by, this may turn out to be the wackiest revenge.
True, Orson Welles may not be the best comparison point here, but he did open his career with Citizen Kane and then never came close to matching it. Beane was the hottest thing in businessmen-watching-baseball for a long time, then the ground dried under his feet.
And now? Sean Doolittle strikes out 135 percent of the Oakland payroll to give the Yankees one more finger in the eye. After Inge, the new and improved Scott Hatteberg, homers to put the As ahead. After Jarrod Parker, a Diamondback a year ago with 73 pitches of major league experience, snuffed the Yankees on five hits.
Yes, this is the movie that should have been made, and would have been if Michael Lewis had only had the wit to foretell the future and wait a decade. And if Brad Pitt could have been convinced that Inge wouldnt be a better role. And if Jon Hamm could have signed on to be a slightly grayer Beane.
Now this isnt your boilerplate Beanes-a-genius column, because this transcends master plans and outthinking the planet in search of value for dollars spent. This is hitting-on-17 stuff, and even if it doesnt last . . . well, the other movie didnt end with the last game, either. And everyone gets credit because, well, to do otherwise would ruin the story.
This is otherworldly, and maybe it wont last because of the cruel gravity of the 162-game season. But this game alone should act as a hell of an example of what kind of film could be made if you just suspend belief and play it over the top.
Way over the top.
Yoenis Cespedes (the player the As would never have been in on in the old days) hit a zillion-foot homer to tie the game. Inge was all but chased out of Detroit (and isnt that a feat in and of itself). Parker. Doolittle. And Cook, and Josh Reddick the manic pastry chef and right fielder, and Brandon McCarthy and his tweeting spouse, and miscellaneous other Brandons, and Tommy Milone, and Chris Carter, and Bartolo Colon, and the stray Australians, and best of all, the hologram of Marlon Brando as Manny Ramirez, the ghost of Flag Day Past.
Of course, it wouldnt work with big stars stealing the screen, because thats not what this team is. It might have to be sold as an ensemble piece, a sort of Animal House casting process where the most famous actor has the fewest lines. Why, theres a place for Peter Dinklage here, I know it.
So yes, this is a movie. A hell of a movie, in fact. Way more cavalier than the first Major League, may more realistic than Eight Men Out, way more fun than Bang The Drum Slowly, and way more of a statement about the capriciousness of life than Bull Durham.
Indeed, this is the logical inheritor of the Moneyball title, except that this isnt Moneyball. Were not quite sure what it is yet, because this team isnt quite sure what it is yet, either. They may not know how theyre doing it, to be honest, but they know it is getting done.
And however it gets pitched to the studio, it works as entertainment. It seriously does.