Moneyball Movie Madness: A Cincinnati/Reds angle

When Will You Come Home? It's going to be after your injured and not very good anymore isn't it?

It was touch-and-go there for a while, but the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' critically-acclaimed book, Moneyball, was green-lit, in the "can" and is now the pic is set to bow on September 23. I've been waiting a long time to pepper a post with Variety slanguage, so I'm glad they didn't ankle that boffo Pitter (I think that means Brad Pitt movie, or at least it should).

With Moneyball coming to theaters in less than two weeks and plenty of national press to go around, I thought I'd take the local spin and look at some of the characters from the original book (some of which are not in the film) with Cincinnati and Reds franchise ties.

Scott Hatteberg

Hatteberg is pounced on by the A's after he being released by the Red Sox in 2001. His conversion from catcher to 1B/DH gets a whole chapter in Lewis' book. Hatteberg was prized for his on-base skills but barely able to throw a baseball after sustaining nerve damage with Boston. He adjusts to the position with the help of current-Rangers manager, then-A's infield coach, Ron Washington.

Hatteberg was signed by the Reds in February 2006, originally as a rare NL 1B-only platoon/back-up player. But after Willy Mo was traded to Boston for Bronson Arroyo, Adam Dunn was moved back to the outfield and Hatteberg became full-time 1B. His 2006 was productive, but his 2007 may have been his best year apart from the magical 2002 year with the A's, despite playing only 116 games. The Reds were an offensive juggernaut that year, but had laughably little pitching depth in either the rotation or bullpen. Hatteberg stepped aside for Joey Votto in 2008 and was DFA'd to make room for Jay Bruce. In that way, he's kind of the prophet of the 2010 Division Champion Reds.

It's hard not to like him, which i think is how actor Chris Pratt is playing him. Hatteberg figures to be an above-the-line character in the movie, figuring prominently in one of the trailers opposite David Justice. His wife Elizabeth is also portrayed.

David Justice

Justice was born in Cincinnati and was one of those wiz-kids who skipped junior high and graduated from Covington Latin at age 16. He went on to Thomas More to study what should also be the name of his album if he has one: Criminal Justice. Justice was also a member of playoff teams in all but two seasons of his major league career, across four franchises from 1991-2002, and also married Halle Berry. My People magazines have been piling up since the mid-1990s, so I'm going to assume that all worked out and that David Justice and has led the most charmed life of anyone from Greater Cincinnati since Boss Cox. Everything's coming up Justice.

Justice is signed by the A's for 2002 for one year/$7M, as a gamble to see whether his traditionally excellent plate vision will hold up at age 36. DePodesta and Beane should have had a good idea of how OBPs age based on historical data, but $7M was a considerable risk at close to one-fifth of a total payroll of barely $40M.

Kevin Youkilis

Youk is still a prospect in the Red Sox organization when Lewis' book was being written, having put up a .504 OBP in low-A and a Vottoian .436 across three minor league levels in 2002. Famously dubbed in the book as the "Euclis, the Greek God of Walks," a nickname which itself spawned at least two quotable classics:

"It's better than being 'the Greek God of Illegitimate Children.'" - Kevin Youkilis

"I've seen Youkilis in the shower, and I wouldn't call him the Greek god of anything." - Terry Francona

Youkilis isn't Greek, but rather of Jewish ancestry. The family name was changed to avoid being the target of anti-Semitism in Romania by his great(x3)-grandfather. Youkilis was born in Cincinnati and attended Sycamore high school, then matriculating at the University of Cincinnati - also the alma mater of one of his baseball icons, Sandy Koufax. He posted a Platonically ideal .405/.549/.714 with the Bearcats his senior year, playing mostly 3B.

He was taken 243rd overall in the 2001 draft, passed over by the Reds - who took Bobby Basham (can you blame them, with that name?) in the 7th round. It was a point of resentment for Youkilis that the team he supported growing up in the town where he was a notable college standout had snubbed him. But according to Youkilis, that "bitterness is gone." As he told ESPN Boston: "If it wasn't Boston, I would want to play in Cincinnati just to say that I did it... It would be fun and it would be for my family."

Further reading: Youk's uncle, Edward, was profiled in the New Yorker a few years a go. He hosts a Cincinnati night at his restaurant in TriBeCa, featuring Skyline and Graeters. He keeps chili stored away for Kevin whenever the Sox were in town for a tilt at Yankee Stadium.

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A few other Reds-oriented players are mentioned in the book or appeared on the 2002 A's, but probably don't appear as anything more than deep background in the movie (judging by the cast list):

  • Aaron Harang: Made 15 starts for the 2002 A's, though did not pitch particularly well. He was traded to the Reds the next season for Jose Guillen.
  • Ramon Hernandez: Clutch Man Monie started 136 games for the 2002 A's, so it's reasonable to imagine that he appears milling around the locker room or in at least one "mound conference" scene with Barry Zito or someone.
  • Kirk Saarloos: Saarloos was championed as a college pitcher by Paul DePodesta, but ignored by the scouts. He eventually found his way to Oakland after being drafted by the Astros. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 for minor leaguer David Shafer. He put up a lot of 7's and 1's in his 40+ innings with the Reds in 2007, just in all the wrong places: 7.17 ERA, 1.711 WHIP.
  • Jason Isringhausen: One of the closers goosed-up with saves by Beane. He was signed twice by Walt Jocketty in St. Louis, then again by Walt Jocketty in Cincinnati in 2010, for minor league dough, though he never made an appearance with last year's squad.
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