Baseball films come along so infrequently that when one does appear on the horizon you tend to sit up and take note.
Next year we get ’42’, charting the early career of Jackie Robinson, and last year we had Moneyball, which followed Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis (Sabermetrics) to acquire new players.
As much as I enjoyed Moneyball, particularly the scene-stealing presence of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as A’s then-manager, Art Howe, there was always something about the film that seemed really off to me. And it wasn’t really until a couple of days after watching it that I realised what it was…
Sure, much of the emphasis of the films ‘on-field’ action deals with Beane’s attempts to get Howe to play Scott Hattenberg as part of the new system that he’s trying to introduce into the team, but another of the major reasons for the A’s success in 2002 is completely missed out altogether…
And that was down to these guys…
For all it’s critical plaudits, Moneyball completely fails to even mention Oakland’s ‘Big Three’ of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson!!
Absolutely scandalous in my humble opinion as you just need to take a look at their stats for the season –
Zito – 23-5, ERA 2.75 and 182 Ks
Mulder – 19-7, ERA 3.47 and 159 Ks
Hudson – 15-9, ERA 2.98 and 152 Ks
Out of the total of 103 games won for the entire season, the ‘Big Three’ got over 55% of them between them… And not one mention in the movie?!?!
Oakland’s ‘Big Three’ has special significance for me as all three played a part in carrying my Fantasy team to victory that particular season, with Mulder and Hudson in and out of my squad at various time, but with Barry Zito there as a season-long fixture on his way to his first and only Cy Young award.
After leaving the A’s at various intervals over the following years the ‘Big Three’ never seemed to have as much success as they did together at Oakland, between the years 2000 to 2003.
Hudson was traded to the Braves in 2005 where he still pitches; Mulder was traded that same year to the Cards where he went on to spend the majority of the rest of his career on the DL before retiring in 2010; and Zito signed a bloated $126 million, seven year free agent deal with the Giants in the winter of 2006, where he went on to be dogged by injury and inconsistency before showing signs of his old self this year as he helped the Giants secure their second World Series win in three years this October.
The 2003 Donruss Signature set contains the only (as far as I’m aware) card to feature the autograph of Zito, Mulder and Hudson all on the same Baseball card. It very rarely appears on eBay (limited to only 50 copies), and when it does it tends to carry a ridiculously high price tag…
However one day I will own it… in memory of my favourite three-pitcher rotation since I began following Baseball and collecting Baseball cards!