Opening Day of the baseball season is almost here, so it's a good time to consider two recent -- and first-rate -- movies about America's national pastime. "Trouble With The Curve," starring Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams, is the more conventional of the two. It's the story of an old man saving himself from being pushed into involuntary retirement; it's a surprising love story; and it's a story of how, in a very old game, some things never change. While young sports executives try to replace experience and judgment with computers and data analysis, Clint Eastwood's character, an aging baseball scout, is convinced he can still see and hear a player's strengths and weaknesses, even as he realizes he is losing his eyesight. While he nearly fails in this endeavor, he is rescued by his daughter, a hard-charging lawyer played by Amy Adams. The troubled relationship between father and daughter provides the dramatic tension that drives this highly entertaining film.
By way of contrast, "Moneyball," based on the best-selling book of the same name by Michael Lewis, makes the point that baseball has actually changed, so that only with computers and data analysis can the general manager of a small-market team (most of baseball) compete against big-money teams like the New York Yankees. Red Sox fans will enjoy one of the climactic scenes that takes place in Fenway Park.
Brad Pitt plays the general manager of the Oakland A's, a struggling small-market team. Many years before, Billy was a promising high-school player who gave up a scholarship to Stanford University to turn pro, only to discover that the men who scouted him were wrong and that he lacked the tools and temperament to succeed in professional baseball. For Billy, this painful insight drives his search for a new way to compete. Early in the movie, he meets a young man, played by Jonah Hill, who has just graduated from Yale University with a degree in economics and skills in computer programming and statistical analysis. It is the unlikely relationship between these two characters that allows the movie to peel back the many layers of human and analytical complexity with the sport of baseball.
Taken together, "Trouble With The Curve" and "Moneyball" furnish enjoyable back stories that will resonate throughout the upcoming season. Both are available on one or more of the streaming services.