Shapiro shares his thoughts on 'Moneyball'

Shapiro shares his thoughts on 'Moneyball'

Shapiro shares his thoughts on 'Moneyball'
CLEVELAND -- On a recent flight to Arizona, Indians team president Mark Shapiro had the pleasure of being offered an in-flight movie. Naturally, the film that began playing was "Moneyball," making him a little uncomfortable in his seat.

"I'm sitting there and the guy next to me is kind of looking at me funny," Shapiro said. "I'm trying not to pay any attention at all. It was bizarre."

The baseball movie based on the 2002 Oakland A's -- centering around general manager Billy Beane's use of advanced stats while building an unconventional roster -- hit theaters last year. It was recently released on DVD, though, causing a kind of second wave of inquiries for Shapiro and others depicted in the film.

Whether it has been from reporters, friends or family, Shapiro has been hit with a slew of phone calls and text messages seeking his thoughts on the film. During a recent chat with media at Progressive Field, Shapiro praised actor Brad Pitt's portrayal of Beane, but also spoke to some inaccuracies in the movie.

At the end of the day, Shapiro expected such historical flaws to be present.

"I thought it was a great movie," Shapiro said. "I appreciate why most people would like it. But I felt like it was an oversimplified kind of view, which is kind of what you have to do when you take a lot of history and condense it into an hour and a half."

One scene that is critical to the film involves Beane traveling to Cleveland for a face-to-face chat with Shapiro, who has a group of men present in the office during the meeting. Shapiro was portrayed by actor Reed Diamond in the movie.

While in the Indians' offices, Beane is there to discuss a possible trade for lefty reliever Ricardo Rincon. Instead, the A's GM winds up coming away impressed with one of Shapiro's assistants, Peter Brand.

Brand (played by actor Jonah Hill) is based on current Mets vice president of player development Paul DePodesta, who did not give approval to use his name in the film. In the movie, Beane wanders through the Indians' executive offices to find Brand before meeting with him for a private chat in a parking garage to pick his brain.

Brand eventually leaves Cleveland to become Beane's assistant general manager, using innovative statistical analysis to help reshape Oakland's roster.

That entire portion of the film -- based on Michael Lewis' book, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" -- is a bit humorous for Shapiro.

"It was fictional," said Shapiro, who was the Indians GM from 2002-2010. "The scenes that had to do with the Tribe never happened. I wasn't even the GM at the time. Billy's never been in my office here and I don't always have 15 guys around me."

In reality, Beane hired DePodesta as his assistant GM in 1999, when Shapiro was an assistant general manager himself, working under then-Indians GM John Hart. That said, Shapiro, who had script approval for the movie, understood why the filmmakers would tweak the historical chain of events.

"You're going to end up going, 'How do we make an interesting way for Paul DePodesta to get from Cleveland to Oakland?'" Shapiro said. "How about if [Beane] kind of trades for him and flies to Cleveland and meets him in the office, when instead it was, 'Mark, I'm thinking Paul DePodesta might be a good option for assistant GM. What do you think?'

"'Yeah, he would be. He'd be awesome.' [Beane] has never been in my office. Ever."

Another aspect of the film that involved the Indians was the July trade that did send Rincon to the A's. In the movie, Beane juggles a handful of rapid-fire phone calls with three general managers, including Shapiro. In the end, Beane comes away with Rincon after seemingly pulling a fast one on the Indians GM.

Shapiro explained that the Indians were shedding salary with multiple deals at that time.

"We don't do trades in two minutes," Shapiro said with a laugh. "And when we did Rincon, [current Indians GM] Chris Antonetti and I, we had already traded [Bartolo] Colon. We traded [Chuck] Finley for Coco Crisp. We were just like a $1.7 million situational lefty doesn't fit on a rebuilding roster.

"We knew what we were doing when we were dumping [Rincon's contract]. [It looked like we were getting played] in the book even more. It was not just me. It was the Mets and the Giants, and [Beane] rigging it. It's making the one character look more compelling."

Shapiro was quick to add, however, that Pitt's version of Beane was striking.

"I thought Brad Pitt's depiction of Billy Beane was scarily dead on," Shapiro said. "I know Billy. I've known him for 20 years. It's unbelievable -- like freaky. But, [the movie] is also an oversimplification of what my job was for 20 years. That's kind of tough.

"It's probably like a doctor watching a medical show. It's like, 'Come on.'"

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.