Billy Beane may be a real person, but the screenwriting gods seem to have given him the perfect name for who he is, the former Major League outfielder (did he ever bean anyone trying to hit the cutoff man?) turned Oakland A’s general manager who used his bean instead of his gut to scout players who could fill his roster on a budget – players who regularly got on base but were undervalued by their own teams and by other scouts. As depicted in the Michael Lewis book Moneyball and the film adapted from it, Beane’s approach, based on the baseball statistical analysis known as sabermetrics, earned him skepticism and scorn at first. But when it yielded results, the Red Sox came calling with an offer to hire Beane away from Oakland. He declined, but he’d proved his point, and other managers started scouting via sabermetrics as well.
As portrayed on screen, Beane is a little too good to be true: he’s a loving dad, a decision-maker who’s right most of the time, and he’s Brad Pitt. He’s also a middle-aged man whose most profound regret is turning down a Stanford education to chase major-league fortune and glory during a playing career that turned out to be all too short. The 2011 movie Moneyball does a good job of making Beane’s number-crunching come alive on the diamond, but it also shows Beane himself to be a good vehicle for asking what we really value.