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29 Sep 2011

War of Words: Howe vs. Beane

Author: AnnKillion | Filed under: Bay Area Sports

Billy Beane’s mean-spirited belittling of Art Howe’s fully understandable reaction to “Moneyball” accomplished two things this week.

When Beane told the Contra Costa Times “I was wondering who was going to be the first guy to think I produced, wrote or directed this movie. Now I have my answer. (Howe’s) comments are completely misguided,” he:

a) sounded suspiciously like a guy who didn’t mind in the least that Howe was portrayed as such a jack-wagon.

And he b) missed the point.  When you’ve been played by Brad Pitt – when most of the American public is going to believe that dazzling cinematic version of both you and of 2002 green-and-gold events – then you’ve won.  You can afford to be gracious.

Howe has talked to several Bay Area media outlets and is understandably troubled by how Moneyball’s script and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance portray him.

In the movie, he’s a churlish, oafish villain.  In real life, Howe was amiable and gracious, well-liked by most of his players and others in and out of baseball.

We all understand that the movie is pretend, that it’s a Hollywood version of a pseudo-baseball story and an entertaining one at that. The movie needed a villain and created one out of Howe.

But understanding that logic as an onlooker and seeing oneself portrayed as the anti-Christ on the screen are two different things and Howe’s horrified reaction – he’s called it “character assassination” – is probably how any sane person would react.

Howe allowed his name to be used, so he probably doesn’t have much for a complaint, legal or otherwise. Paul DePodesta is the only real-life person who opted out of letting his name be used, saying, “once I read the script and realized it was a piece of fiction, I saw no reason for my name to be attached to it.”

See, that Jonah Hill character was pretty darn smart.

There are plenty of factual errors throughout the movie and Howe’s character is not exempted. Howe was not angling for a contract extension that season. He – not Beane- was the one who had to release Mike Magnante. But the biggest problem with the Howe portrayal is not in the factual minutiae but with the general portrayal of Howe.

The audience walks away thinking, “what a jerk.” That’s exactly the one word that those of us who know Howe and worked with him would never, ever use to describe him.

In the “Moneyball” book, Howe is mostly portrayed as a boob, a clueless old-school baseball guy who didn’t have any understanding of Beane’s brilliance and whose authority was completely overshadowed by Beane. And there’s some truth to the details.

But the bigger reality was that Howe had been around for years – Beane inherited him from Sandy Alderson – and had helped the A’s grow from irrelevance to importance. Yes, he had Beane’s players – but all field managers have their general manager’s players. Howe’s job was to get those players to perform and – for several years – he did just that.

One plot line surrounding Howe did seem to be accurate. As the A’s put together their 20-game winning streak and turned their season around, the national media lauded Howe for his calm demeanor and his competence in getting his team to jell.  As the Beane character heard those comments, he seethed.  It is true that Howe received credit for his ability with that team – as he should have. It’s true, also and always, that Beane received much more of the credit.

Nine years later, Beane is getting virtually 100 percent of the credit. Howe is a footnote to the A’s success and now a deranged, angry one at that.

Beane has both the credit and Pitt – who will possibly win awards for his portrayal of Beane.  It doesn’t get much better for a guy whose team hasn’t made the playoffs in five seasons.

So graciousness – perhaps even a disingenuous overture and apology – would have been the kinder response.  That’s probably what Pitt’s character would have done. But that’s Hollywood.

22 Responses to “War of Words: Howe vs. Beane”

  1. Howe’s first mistake in this turn of event was after reading how he was portrayed in the book, NOT TAKING the same course of action DePodesta did !!

    He had that as an option, and didn’t exercise it… I think after reading the book YEARS ago and noting this same thing if I were in his shoes, I could only see it being spun up worse in a movie. Like you said, there’s always a Darth Vader in every Star Wars, in this one, it was Art. (BTW didya notice that ‘art’ are the middle letters in DartH?)

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  7. I think Howe’s record speaks for itself and the fact that he’s been let go from the last two teams to be a bench coach without a renewing contract says it all. There’s always two sides to every story-I don’t think you represented that very well here.

    I agree with the first post-the book came out YEARS before the movie. This shouldn’t have come as a shock to him. He could’ve opted out with the use of his name…

  8. Chris Elser says:
  9. Why the hell should Billy Beane be gracious to Art Howe?This piece sounds like you have a problem with Billy Beane,even though he had absolutely nothing to do with making the movie.I don’t get your point.Was Beane supposed to say,no,no, everything was because of Art Howe,because Brad Pitt portrayed him in the movie and made him look good,while Hoffman made Howe look like he was against all, of Beanes’s moves.If you know anything about baseball,or any sport,when a new G.M comes in and inherits a manager or coach,there is almost always some friction,because the new G.M.,RIGHTFULLY wants a man who will work with him,OF HIS CHOOSING,and who is on the same page.Beane doesn’t owe Howe anything,and if Howe is angry,he should take it up with the people who wrote the movie.This article is garbage,and sounds like nothing more than an Art Howe sycophant,or Beane hater,venting.The proof is in their careers and Beane is a much more respected winner then.Howe,who has not been able to keep a job on the other hand.REAL GARBAGE!!!!!!!MORE FICTIONAL THAN THE MOVIE AS WELL!!!!!

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  11. Fact is, the folks commenting know not either person. So without divulging more than needed, Art has been portrayed darn near spot on. Mr. Howe, i agree, what has happened to you must be quite unnerving, so let this be a lesson to others that spend their professional carrers in public, be very careful of your actions or at some point, (wishing i’m certian that it would be past mortality), will come back to haunt your soul in front of all that might be interested.

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  15. Major Leaguer says:
  16. If you want to know the real Art Howe, look at his history – he never stays with a team at any level for more than 2-3 years. He is a walking personnel problem and IMO the movie Moneyball was far too generous towards him. In person he is much more of an aye-hole and especially to management – which is why he never sticks at any club at any job position. He’s a pain in the S and he is not good at his job because of his abrasive and annoying ego.

  17. Jeff Sansabar says:
  18. I actually Met Art Howe a couple of times. He is EXACTLY how he was portrayed in the movie. An absolute jerk. Bumbling at best. I am not, nor ever have been, a fan of hollywood garbage…but this movie hit it on the head as far as the Art Howe character is concerned. If you think otherwise…you do NOT know the real Art Howe.

  19. I’ve read a lot re Howe’s reaction to the movie. What leaps out at me is that no one seems to mention, to take the time, to look back at the starting lineups that Howe went with during the season the movie is about. Plain and simple, the truth about Howe should be found there. Did Hatteberg only begin to play when Jeremy was traded?

  20. Talking Baseball says:
  21. Boy, the reactions against this article are demented at best, and they seem like an excuse to rip on Art Howe. Art Howe is well-respected around the league and well-liked by managers and players. Even Scott Hatteberg has gone on record to say Howe was a big supporter of Hatteberg throughout the season.

    Howe is soft-spoken in real life. One of the criticisms of him during his managerial stint with the A’s was that he was stoic and didn’t show enough fire. Quite the opposite of the grating jerk portrayed in the movie.

    Also, during the 2002 year, Howe was in his first of a two-year contract, so he wasn’t fighting with Beane over his contract. As for the idiotic assessment that Howe doesn’t manage a team at any level for more than 2-3 years–uh . . . he managed the Astros for 5 years and the A’s for 7. It was only with the Mets that he stayed for only 2 years. It doesn’t take anything beyond basic math and Google to figure that out.

    And Hatteberg was an everyday player before Pena (not Giambi, as the above poster is trying to link up) was traded. Hatteberg was DH, and Pena was traded because Pena batted friggin’ .218 with 7 home runs–which, for the readers here, who don’t seem to be very knowledgeable about baseball, is very bad. Pena wasn’t the “All-Star” player that the movie tried to portray.

    Google is at your fingers, people. Do your research.

    And no, Beane didn’t have to give Howe all the credit for success. He just simply had to acknowledge that Hollywood did a crass job in portraying Howe just to simply move the plot along and to understand Howe’s reaction, particularly when half the movie was fiction. Just show some class. What Hollywood did at the expense of an actual person’s reputation is very unfair and deserves to be corrected.

    Thank you, Ann Killion, for this article for pointing out to people who might not actually follow baseball that the movie is highly fictionalized.

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  24. Jerri Cole says:
  25. This blogger misses the point of Mr Beane’s comments comments entirely. He was speaking in response to Art Howe blaming the representation of himself in the movie Moneyball on Mr Beane. Because, of course, he could think of no one else in the world who would have the motive for such a disgusting portrait than Billy Beane. Notwithstanding the Art Howe portrayal in the book Moneyball was exactly the same. Neither of which Billy Beane had anything to do with. And yes, Hatteberg said he felt Howe supported him and played him at pinch hitter, he still didn’t play him at first while Pena was there. Art Howe sounds like a bitter old man to me.

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