Moneyball was a decent movie, but I couldn't bring myself to ignore two of the film's major shortcomings while I was watching it.
First, the movie took way too many liberties with the true story that was outlined in Michael Lewis' book. It was a little too obvious that the story had been Hollywood-ified.
Second, I couldn't help but wonder if the filmmakers ever stopped to look at what's been going on in Oakland in recent seasons. Moneyball was all the rage in 2002 and in a few of the subsequent years that followed. But by the time the film was released last September, Moneyball was a thing of the past—a relic.
The A's had become a desolate franchise, and Billy Beane had gone from working magic to working...well, something other than magic.
Oakland has been showing signs of life recently, though, and that has a lot to do with the signing of third baseman Brandon Inge off the scrapheap.
It's entirely thanks to Inge that we know Moneyball still has a pulse.
I don't blame you if you haven't been paying attention, but Inge has proven to be a huge acquisition for the A's. In his last four games, he's hit three home runs and driven in 12. Two of those homers were grand slams, and one of them was a walk-off against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Inge has played nine games in an A's uniform, and he already ranks third on the team in RBI with 13. Not bad for a guy who was batting an even .100 with one homer and two RBI for the Detroit Tigers before they cut him loose.
The notion that a "change of scenery" can help a ballplayer recapture his form is a tired old baseball cliche, but Inge is proving there's a good reason that notion exists. He got a change of scenery, and he's making the most of it.
So why does this make him relevant to the whole Moneyball thing?
It has everything to do with that key line uttered by Jonah Hill about the A's being an "island of misfit toys." The trick was to find undervalued players, being them aboard at bargain costs and watch them go to work.
Thanks in large part to that book and that movie, we tend to think of players like Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford when we think of the various "misfit toys" acquired by Beane in the early 2000s. But let's not forget the magic he worked by bringing in other misfits when the regular season was in full swing, a la John Mabry in 2002 and Jack Cust in 2007.
Midseason acquisitions like Mabry and Cust proved to be big steals, and they helped the A's stay relevant in the AL West.
That's what Inge is doing. He joined the A's on April 30 and he's helped them win five of eight games in the month of May.
The A's are a modest 16-16 on the season, but they're only five games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West and a couple games off the pace in the Wild Card race. Very quietly, they are lurking in the AL postseason chase.
Okay, maybe I'm overestimating the A's a little bit. I am not, however, overestimating Inge's impact on the team, and goodness knows he's given suffering A's fans a much-needed hero to cheer for. Flashes of excitement have been hard to come by in Oakland in recent years, so A's fans are eating him up.
Enjoy Inge while you can, A's fans. He's a sign that Moneyball is alive and well, but that doesn't mean the A's have a 20-game win streak and another Brad Pitt movie in their future.
Until further notice, the A's have put Moneyball mode on the back burner in favor of new ballpark mode.
Billy Beane hasn't worked a miracle in a while, and my best guess is that it's because he's been ordered not to. He can, however, look at Inge and smile.
Inge is living proof that Beane's still got it.