Is Moneyball a major reason for the delay?

As of this writing, the film adaptation of Moneyball has accrued $72.6 million in domestic box office revenues through nine weeks (plus $7+ million internationally). Though its run is winding down, Moneyball is still playing on over 400 screens in the United States and is on a highly staggered release schedule. Even now there are articles about Moneyball, Billy Beane and Michael Lewis, especially because the UK release is this week. The DVD release date is January 10.

The Steven Soderbergh-helmed Moneyball project was set to start filming in 2009, so if you tack on the normal one year of production and post-production work, the movie would’ve come out in Fall 2010. By now you probably know that the film’s studio, Sony Pictures, disliked Soderbergh’s documentary take on the story and shelved it just before principal photography was to begin. Fortunately, Brad Pitt pushed the project through and out of development hell. The film resurfaced with Bennett Miller at the helm, Pitt has a shot at an Oscar, and the rest is enjoyably revisionist history.

Prior to the film’s premiere, when Billy Beane was interviewed everywhere about the film adaptation of Moneyball, I noticed something different about the way he was answering questions. There was a palpable sense of relief in his tone. He most assuredly enjoyed being feted once again for being the great iconoclastic general manager, and it seemed he bristled less at the notion. It’s that sense of relief that got my attention, and now we may be starting to see why.

The A’s and Rays weren’t on the recent owners meetings agenda, as attention was focused on the CBA, the sale of the Astros to Jim Crane, and the plight of the Dodgers. Before the meetings started, word spread that the A’s situation wouldn’t be addressed until January, when the next owners meetings are scheduled. By mid-December, Moneyball should be off the domestic screens completely as moviegoers will be looking at blockbusters, Christmas movies, and the rush of Oscar nominees. Moneyball will be – for the public at least – out of sight, out of mind. Like the film’s stablemate, The Social Network, there could be a short Oscar-related re-release early in 2012, but there’s no guarantee of that.

That makes mid-January a pretty good time for an announcement to be made regarding a move to San Jose. It’s a brief respite after the hectic holidays and the big news of the hot stove period, and before spring training and the Oscars at the end of February. I’ve thought for some time that it was very important from a public relations standpoint not to time such a decision too early, as it could pull the rug out from Oakland and the movie. Even at this fairly late stage, the A’s plight is mostly ignored by mainstream press and most of America. The premiere and the initial run were the best exposure the City of Oakland has gotten in a long time, so an epilogue of the team shuttling off to San Jose would seem rather incongruous. Now the movie has made its money, so that cow has been sufficiently milked by the studio and MLB. The international markets who haven’t gotten the release yet are so far removed from the situation that they probably care little for the film’s environs.

Moreover, there’s a parallel story to this situation, and it relates to Billy Beane, the man. I’ve thought for some time now that even though Lew and Keith Wolff are working the ballpark deal, it’s Beane who is the linchpin to franchise being in San Jose, or rather, the Valley. The Wolffs and John Fisher are from old school, old money backgrounds, whereas Beane is the hip, now-legendary iconoclast. As we who live and work here know, the Valley loves its iconoclasts. For the A’s to attract and retain a lot of fast-moving tech companies as customers, it’s important for the A’s to maintain an image. For all intents and purposes, that image right now is Beane. Beane’s image has an intangibility that, unlike any currently playing ballplayers, is not terribly dependent on pure performance. It could even be argued that Beane is somewhat immune to appraisals of performance, as long as the ownership group is in lockstep with him.

If Cisco Field doesn’t come to fruition, what incentive is there for Beane to stay? Peter Gammons put it out there. The team would be put up for sale and would seem to be on its way out of the Bay Area. For Beane, the challenge isn’t just getting an extra $20-50 million to put into payroll. The A’s are simply incapable of being run as most other teams are, with full control over their revenues and environments. You have to think Beane wants that opportunity every bit as much as the extra payroll. Then he can shuttle back-and-forth along Coleman Avenue between Cisco Field and the Earthquakes Stadium, indulging both of his sporting passions.

Many have and will continue to argue that Beane’s role is overstated and his performance overrated. Regardless, he remains in high standing by the baseball literati and the business community. For now that’s what counts the most. It’ll help sell Cisco Field to everyone from SVLG’s C-levels to the average voter in San Jose who will be renting the DVD from Netflix or a Redbox next spring. Without Billy Beane, not only is there no Cisco Field, there probably is no Athletics franchise in the long run. At least not anywhere around here.

20 thoughts on “Is Moneyball a major reason for the delay?

  1. ML–Interesting take on this. Just remember that if the A’s didn’t play all those years in Oakland under the tight-fisted Schott ownership, Moneyball wouldn’t even exist. The book, and now especially the movie, was an ego booster for BB for sure. To have the team wind up in SJ is kind of a sad epilogue to the whole thing. Getting a new park in the O would of been the Hollywood happy ending I’d like to see. BB is a decent GM, if not a bit overrated–he’s won nothing and his numbers are getting worse every year. I’m surprised he’s stayed this long with the club, but part ownership was that incentive for him to stick around. There will be no excuses for him now if SJ’s a go and he gets that higher payroll he supposably is about to get. I bet though his heart will always be in Oakland. It made him the GM he is.
    BTW, Bud Selig was invited to the Moneyball premiere in Oakland but was too busy to attend. Figures.

  2. – My hope is for new ownership. The A’s, A’s fans and the games were such an awesome experience. It’s not the same anymore. History, never to be repeated. A’s fans didn’t argue with with each other like this. It was all for one and fun for all and Boston sucks. I can’t even bring myself to watch the movie.
    – Beane had a great run, but in the last few years, the team just seem like a bunch of interchangeable parts. He tinkers with the roster seemingly for the sake of it, flipping his cards without producing any results. I root for a team and I also root for its players. It’s hard to get behind a player since tomorrow he might be wearing pinstripes. And I don’t buy the dream that a new stadium will instantly change this.
    – It never seemed as if Wolfe & Co. bought the team because they loved the Oakland Athletics. Rather, as an opportunity for property development. They planned new stadiums throughout the housing bubble. I didn’t think it was the right time to build a stadium then; even more so, now. I’ve seen their management style up close. It has brought no smiles to my face.
    – Furthermore, they don’t really know our market. Build-it-they-will-come has been an failed economic and urban planning strategy over the last decade – except for builders , who deposit their checks first. If San Jose wants to take that gamble, their choice. I’d vote no with my wallet.
    – It’s ironic that the issue of compensation only relates to the city across the bay. If the A’s are to leave Oakland, it would be really nice gesture if the MLB could relocate an AA team here. Okay, San Jose, we’ll give you the big show – but “Let’s go Oakland!” – we will hate you if you kill that. Unacceptable collateral damage, in our book.
    – Got that San Jose boosters? Get the bosses to promise to move a AA team to the O.co. In writing, make it good. And I betcha most of us Go-Oaklanders (or what ever you call us) will shut up. We don’t need no sushi, we just wanna watch baseball, dudes. Like in the old days up on the third deck, we could have boobie prize nights!
    – And an AA won’t bug us too much, we’re used to that.

  3. It does seem that if San Jose is no go, then the A’s would be put up for sale and leave the Bay Area. That’s been the logical conclusion we could make for some time now. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

  4. Too bad you can’t correct your posts here. A couple typos, you look like a schmuck. I’d stil give up a couple of bad pitches for 27 outs.

  5. There’s no AA league anywhere near California, so that idea is impossible. The Giants San Jose single-A team would be the logical candidate for relocation to Oakland a la the Mets’ single-A team in Brooklyn, but there’s no appropriate stadium for them to play.

  6. I like San Jose however to far from Concord. can not see going to more than two games in san Jose.

  7. Where you stand depends on where you sit. For many north bay A’s fans, San Jose might as well be “out of the area” for the purposeus of being able to attend more than 2 or 3 games a year. I wonder if the south bay crowd would still be using the “we just want a stadium anywhere in the bay area, it doesn’t have to be San Jose” argument if the leading site were in, say, Santa Rosa. I bet Victory Court would look pretty good to them if that were the case.

  8. @baycommuter – no appropriate stadium for a Cal League team in Oakland? That hasn’t stopped the American League for hosting games there. Haha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  9. @ Mark N – I’m a north bay A’s fan. It takes me almost an hour to get to the Coliseum from Vacaville. I fully support the move to SJ (despite the extra driving time) because they’ll still be in the Bay Area. For selfish reasons, I’d love to see the team build in Oakland or even Sacramento, but I’m not selfish, nor do I believe in fairy tails. It’s San Jose or out of the area…I’ll given those two choices I’ll take SJ every time.

  10. @hecanfoos – I agree, I just think it would have significantly changed the debate on this site over the past few years. And I applaud your willingness to drive the extra distance, but maybe you should take the train, it’s better for the environment.

  11. @Freddy- “Got that San Jose boosters? Get the bosses to promise to move a AA team to the O.co. In writing, make it good. And I betcha most of us Go-Oaklanders (or what ever you call us) will shut up.”
    .
    Curious, but why can’t Oakland Boosters do this?

  12. At this point, it’s pretty much San Jose or out of the Bay Area.
    If San Jose is ruled against, MLB will probably buy the A’s from Wolff/Fischer, as they’ve repeatedly said there is no plan B, and nobody else has come up with any other viable option within Oakland or anywhere else in the Bay Area. Then, MLB will likely sell the A’s to another investor, who move the team out of state.
    So, Oakland only crowd, what do you want (besides the fairy tale of a new owner who is willing to donate a billion to the A’s charity without recoup of investment, keeping them in Oakland)?
    So do you want them to stay in the area? Or do you want them to leave if you can’t have them in Oakland?
    I think it’s plainly obvious that MLB/Selig does not want the scenario of status quo, then MLB buying them, then selling them. A’s in SJ is much more financially attractive. They have a shovel ready project that will make the A’s into a money maker and a crown jewel.

  13. @ Mark N, re: The train. Last year, my teenaged sons and I planned to drive to Concord and take BART to the game. I looked at the price of three tickets compared to the price of gas and parking and realized that it was cheaper to just drive.

  14. I’n a Sacramento-based A’s fan, and I support any realistic plan that gets the A’s a bay area ballpark, ASAP. As much as I would love a stadium in Oakland, given the current political and financial environment, I don’t see it happening. I make it to about 10 games a year in Oakland. San Jose is a little further for me, but I’d go to at least as many games in San Jose (possibly more, as I do have family in the South Bay).

  15. This has to be the most ironic thing about the Athletics plight: Most JoaKanders dismiss Beane as overrated and irrelevant, but without Beane, there wouldn’t be any national attention to the decrepit state of the franchise. So, do they continue to mock him and hope he leaves to LA taking the spotlight away from the A’s or do they endorse him thereby extension supporting, the “carpetbagger” ownership. It’s funny how in one thread they swing one way saying they’ll see the movie and then in the next hope he quickly leaves. Lol… Talk about schizo!

  16. ^^^I would probably find you more interesting had I studied psychology.^^^^

  17. ^^^ CREDIT WHEN DUE: That was funny. ^^^

  18. “^^^I would probably find you more interesting had I studied psychology.^^^^” – You would of aced it using yourself as a subject. But, from the continual tone of your “logic”, i think elementary “critical thinking” would of sufficed.

  19. gio and now bailey reported to be available according to reports/rumors this morning? if either or both gets traded before the announcement is made, you don’t think wolff/beane know sj is a green light?

    we may actually get the answer if trades are made to the a’s most valuable pieces to their current roster in the next few weeks.

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