Who were the Real “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics?
Today is September 4th 2018, 16 years since Scott Hatterberg hit a walk off home run off Jason Grimsley with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, propelling the “Underdog” Oakland A’s to their 20th straight victory. After that win in 2002, the A’s sat at 88-51, a .633 win percentage, and tied for the most wins in the majors with the Atlanta Braves.
As most of us know, this 20 game win streak inspired the book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis which later become a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt, Chris Pratt, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
As a 21 year old male who loves baseball, I remember seeing Moneyball in theaters and currently have the blu ray version sitting on a shelf at home. I loved the movie, but at the same time the way the movie portraits the 2002 A’s is not completely true. The rag tag Athletics is how me and most people my age remember them because at a fresh five years old, many don’t remember these fine details, and if someone tells you they do, they are liars. So I decided to do a quick dive into who actually the real 2002 Athletics were.
The A’s would end up winning 103 games that year and won the AL West by 4 games over the future World Series Champions in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But behind those 103 wins was a lot more than just David Justice, Scott Hatterberg, and Chad Bradford like the movie leads its viewers to believe.
First let’s start off with the starting staff that the movie barley talks about if not doesn’t mention them at all. The Starting five of the 02 A’s had a combined ERA of 3.58, which is pretty good. The rotation was topped by Barry Zito who started 35 games, went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA. Those numbers were all good enough to win him the American League Cy Young. The A’s “number two” that year was Tim Hudson, who pitched 238.1 innings, had a record of 15-9 and a 2.98 ERA. That’s two starters who had a sub three ERA on one staff that in a 2 hour and 12 minute film were talked about for less than 15 seconds if not had any air time.
The next person on the list to be left out of the film is Miguel Tejada. It just happens that Bennett Miller left out the 2002 American League MVP. Leaving the MVP out of the movie is like leaving the nougat out of a snickers bar. Not only was he the MVP but the guy started 161 games and made an appearance in all 162 games. Real nightmare scenario for Alex Cora but to be basically the backbone for the team and get pretty close to zero attention is baffling. The guy batted .308 with 34 home runs and 131 RBIs and he was an after thought.
With that being said, I still love Moneyball , I always will especially since Theo Epstein used the "moneyball" approach to build the 04 Red Sox, my favorite team of all time. I just wished the movie would have mentioned the fact that the Oakland A's had both the MVP and Cy Young in their clubhouse. I feel those little nuggets would have been nice to give to the viewers instead of completely pulling the curtains over our heads.