“Moneyball” is a baseball movie that isn’t about baseball. It is a movie about the passionate pursuit of values. And more fundamentally, it is a movie about the source of value creation—the rational, independent judgment of innovators.
Starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, “Moneyball” tells the story of a team that loses three star players in one off-season. Forced to rebuild his team with of the lowest payrolls in major league baseball, Beane chooses an innovative strategy that puts him into conflict with his scouts, his coaches, and the team’s fans. When the team begins the season poorly, fans call for Beane to be fired and his staff questions his sanity. But Beane refuses to relent. He refuses to sacrifice his own judgment, even when his decisions are unpopular.
Throughout history, innovators have suffered derision and scorn from those who do not see their vision. Christopher Columbus, Robert Fulton, Henry Ford, and countless others have been mocked for daring to challenge the status quo. But these men and women did not succumb to popular opinion. Truth is not determined by a democratic process. If it were, the earth would still be flat and we would still travel in a horse and buggy.
Because Columbus, Fulton, and Ford were free to act on their own judgment, they could demonstrate the truth that they saw. They did not need permission from bureaucrats (Columbus did need to seek funding from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella). They did not need to conduct an environmental impact study, or institute an affirmative action program, or succumb to a surprise inspection from OSHA.
While building a better baseball team is not a value on the scale of discovering the New World or building an affordable automobile, the passionate pursuit of values is admirable on any scale and in any field. “Moneyball” provides us a chance to witness that pursuit, and it reminds us that the creation of values can only occur when men are free, independent, and rational.