Michael Lewis’ Review Of “The Keith Law Story” : Two Thumbs Down

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Cinema at 9:15 pm by

Whether it serves as a chronicle of seismic shifts in the baseball business or pure entertainment, Keith Law considers the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” to be “an absolute mess of a film, the type of muddled end product you’d expect from a project that took several years and went through multiple writers and directors.” The former Blue Jays adviser / current ESPN columnist waxes negative for some 1407 words, taking issue with flaws including but not limited to factual inaccuracies, realism, generic plot devices and stereotyping of minorities.  But Law’s biggest issue with “Moneyball” would seem to be ” the lampooning of scouts, which draws from the book, isn’t any more welcome on screen (where some of the scouts are played by actual scouts) than it was on the page; they are set up as dim-witted bowling pins for Beane and (character Peter) Brand to knock down with their spreadsheets.”

It’s cheap writing, and unfair to the real people being depicted. Current Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota also gets murdered in a drive-by line that depicts him as a clueless intern given the head scouting role after Beane fires Grady Fuson in April after a clubhouse argument (that never really happened). I’ll confess to laughing at the scout referring to “this Bill James bullshit,” although the A’s bought into that bullshit years before the film claims they did – and, in fact, hired Paul Depodesta three years before the movie-A’s hired Brand. (In the film, Fuson refers to Brand as “Google boy,” a term applied to Depodesta by Luddite beat writers in LA three years later.)

Reached for comment by Moviefone.com’s Christopher Rosen, Michael Lewis chose to murder the messenger rather than defend the film.  Perhaps after hearing Joe Morgan attribute the authorship of “Moneyball” to Billy Beane on multiple occasions, Lewis feels a responsibility to act as though he directed the movie?

“I don’t understand why he goes from being — when I interviewed Keith Law, and I did, at length — he was so nasty about scouts and scouting culture and the stupidity of baseball insiders. He was the reductio ad absurdum of the person who was the smarty pants who had been brought into the game and was smarter than everybody else. He alienated people. And now he’s casting himself as someone who sees the value of the old school. I can’t see where this is all heading and why. But I learned from experience that the best thing to do is ignore it, because it goes away.”

The thing is, if you actually read Law’s review, there’s no way you’d come away believing he’d sworn off statistical analysis or had suddenly embraced “the old school”.  He reviewed a movie, not the legitimacy of Beane’s real-life approach (or even Lewis’ book).

8 responses to “Michael Lewis’ Review Of “The Keith Law Story” : Two Thumbs Down”

  1. Mario says:

    Lewis never accuses Law of swearing off statistical analysis does he?

  2. Ryan Topp says:

    Couple of things:

    1) Law has been generally very positive about Lewis work in his various public discussions on the subject. He’s been mildly critical about some details of Moneyball itself, but clearly holds the book in high regard. He recommended readers of the review read it before seeing the movie.

    2) Does Lewis expect that Law shouldn’t change his stance on something over time, as he learns more? Assume Law WAS very anti-scout at the time because of his personal experiences, is that something he has to maintain the rest of his life no matter what? Isn’t it better that someone grow over time than hold stubbornly to previously held opinions?

    3) The review did seem to be a little over the top.

  3. Irving says:

    “the lampooning of scouts, which draws from the book…”

    Seems like Law is taking a shot at that aspect of the book, no? So say you’re Lewis and that part of the book was informed by interviews with people like Law, might it not be confusing to you that Law is seeming to backtrack or say the exact opposite of what he previously thought?

  4. Chris says:

    I would love to hear FireJoeMorgan’s take on the movie, reactions, et al., but alas it is not to be. Steve Phillips comes off in the movie as a stooge? Sounds fairly realistic to me.

  5. GC says:

    Law’s stance on scouts isn’t really the point. He’s reviewing the movie. Not “Moneyball” the book, not “Moneyball” the philosophy (or at least the version of it popularly attributed to Billy Beane). That he may or may not be an advocate for statistical analyst as opposed to looking-into-a-player’s-eyes (all the better to gauge his clutchiness) doesn’t mean he can’t pick apart the film. Law alleges the movie’s depiction of scouts is inaccurate and one-dimensional — that’s a critique of the way Lewis’ book was adapated and directed, not a diss on Lewis (unless he secretly directed the film). It’s hardly a repudiation of Law’s published opinions about baseball.

    Until we’ve seen the film, I don’t think we can say the review was over the top.

  6. Irving says:

    “It is as unwelcome on the screen as it was on the page.”

    In his review of the movie, Law ends up taking a swipe at the book. This is what Lewis is likely responding too. Or more specifically, he’s responding to the way in which Law is casting himself as someone who always found the book’s representation of scouts as a caricature. This wouldn’t be an issue if Law, according to Lewis, wasn’t one of the biggest proponents of this view of scouts at the time. Sure, Law’s view might have changed over time. I don’t think Lewis is necessarily dismissing that possibility, but then why isn’t Law acknowledging that he shared this earlier view?

  7. GC says:

    I think Law’s pretty forthcoming here ; http://www.drunkjaysfans.com/2011/09/layin-down-law-keith-law-on-scouts.html

    Either way, there’s a world of difference between one interview with Lewis and a career-long perspective on scouting. And it wasn’t as though Law thoroughly trashed “Moneyball” the book.

  8. CMG says:

    I have been avoiding this movie based on knowing way too much about the people involved. I only saw The Blind Side because I worked in a movie theater at the time. Bennett Miller (who managed to make Truman Capote and In Cold Blood boring) being the director was enough for me to say no but I actually found Law’s description of the portrayal of Carlos Pena as really the most eye-opening and distasteful portrayal mentioned.

    As for Lewis, I always found his whole PR for the book being very pro-Beane to blinding degrees. I remember him getting into it publicly with old school baseball people so I find him calling Keith Law an anti-scout, n00b to be a bit hypocritical.

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