I even read it at a time when I didn’t care much for baseball, and it absolutely floored me. Now, Michael Lewis’ brilliant tale of the Oakland A’s beating baseball’s economic paradigm has hit the big screen. In an attempt to cash in, I’ve written a treatment that I’d love for anyone connected to a major studio to take a look at. This could also be a cable mini-series like 61* if anyone would like to pass this along to David Simon or Barry Levinson to look at as a pet project.
I present, for your consideration, Anti-Moneyball: The Story of the 1998 Baltimore Orioles, perhaps the most un-Moneyball team to ever take the diamond.
Tagline: “If you can’t beat them, outspend them.”
The Pitch: General Manager Pat Gillick (Tom Wilkinson), and Assistant GM Kevin Malone (Stanley Tucci) seek to overcome the budding New York Yankees dynasty after an exciting playoff season the year before. With the blessing of owner Peter Angelos (Fred Thompson), the Orioles decide to spend more than any team in baseball. In doing so, they assemble one of the least efficient baseball teams of all time and banish the Orioles to 14 years (and counting) of October-less baseball.
Ray Miller, manager – James Rebhorn
Brady Anderson, center fielder – Chris Evans
Rafael Palmeiro, first baseman – Himself (reprising his role from the 1994 classic Little Big League)
Sidney Ponson, starting pitcher – Domenick Lombardozzi
Jesse Orosco, middle reliever – Danny Trejo
Mike Mussina, starting pitcher – Adrian Grenier
Eddie Murray, hitting coach – Carl Weathers
THE 1998 ORIOLES begin spring training in Sarasota, Florida full of hope and promise. After making it to the American League Championship Series in 1997, expectations are high. Players play pranks on one another, joke around with the media, and Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken have an extended high-five/beach racing sequence like in Rocky III. New acquisitions Doug Drabek and Joe Carter are introduced to the team as part of the “final pieces of the puzzle.”
Gillick, Malone, Miller and the rest of the management team meet before the season starts to discuss expectations and strategy. Gillick glares at Miller and states plainly, “We threw money at the problem. Go win.” Malone smiles and adds in “the Yankees aren’t going to know what hit them.”
Smash cut to May 19th, where the Orioles find themselves in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and four games under .500. Armando Benitez plunks Tino Martinez and all hell breaks loose. We freeze-frame on various Orioles fighting like the Real Housewives and display their salaries onscreen. “Roberto Alomar: $6,343,771,” “Brady Anderson: $5,441,843,” and a shot of Orosco asleep in the bullpen, with the subtitle “Jesse Orosco: $1,100,000.”
The team’s struggles continue into the All-Star Break. Palmeiro, Ripken, and Alomar take a road trip out to Colorado for the game and air out their grievances along the way. Things deteriorate until they have to fight their way out of a scary biker bar in St. Louis. They arrive in Colorado with a few scrapes and bloody lips, but also with a new sense of purpose. They resolve to right the ship when they get back to Baltimore. Alomar hits a home run in the All-Star game and Ripken cheers on Palmeiro during the home run derby. Palmeiro hides his dark secret from the other two team leaders when he injects himself with “Vitamin B” in the Denver Airport men’s room.
The Orioles come out of the break and win nine games. We have a happy montage of pop-up slides, diving catches, and elaborate handshakes. Eric Davis’ hitting streak approaches 30 games.
Things turn sour on a west-coast road swing that leads to Carter declaring “I’m getting too old for this s%@#.” Carter is traded and the winning streak ends. Tempers flare as things go from bad to worse as the Orioles begin to lose at an alarming pace through August. In a memorable cameo, Wade Boggs comes to town with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the only team in the division with a poorer record than Baltimore. Boggs and Ripken exchange pleasantries before the game, with Boggs asking “what the f%$@ happened here?” Ripken can only hold back the tears from his steely blue eyes. [Writer’s note: Okay, this is taking an odd turn. Let’s wrap this up.]
It’s raining in Baltimore on the Monday after the last day of the season, September 28th. The grounds crew begins unrolling the tarp over the field. We see a shot of a stadium employee on a ladder pulling down the flags on the right field concourse that indicate division standings. Subtitled on screen we see “Baltimore Orioles, 79-83.” As the employee wraps up the orange Baltimore flag, below the text reads “35 games out of first place.”
We close on Gillick, cleaning out his office in October of 1998, intercut with a press conference announcing his resignation. He looks longingly out the window overlooking the dreary field at Camden Yards. The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” begins to play. Onscreen text reads the following:
“1998 was the last time any team in baseball had a higher payroll than the New York Yankees.”
Dave Gilmore lives in Baltimore and writes “The Win Column” for Baltimore Sports Report. He is currently working on a novel about college football. Find him on Twitter @dave_gilmore or visit his web site at davegilmorejr.com