Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Breaking up is hard to do

They keep me company in the car. They distract me (and sometimes my coworkers) during my time in the cubicle farm. They’re with me when I’m mowing the grass or doing the dishes or just relaxing. Unfortunately, they annoy my wife, so they don’t come around often when she’s around.

We’re friends, or at least I l like to think we are. It’s kind of tough since I’ve never actually met these people. I refer, of course, to the numerous podcasts I listen to. But over the course of the past year, three of my favorites have ended their podcasting careers. Two of the by choice and one that seems to have had their corporate overlords end it prematurely.

A quick recap of the three that have gone to podcast heaven for those who aren’t privy to my iPod. Baseball Today ended first in January. Produced by ESPN, this one featured Eric Karabell as co-host with either Keith Law, who previously worked with the Toronto Blue Jays before transitioning to ESPN, or Mark Simon, a “stat nerd” in the kindest possible usage of the word. Especially the episodes with Karabell and Law, the show was a smart take on the game of baseball. Unlike most things I’ve found on ESPN, this wasn’t just filled with talking heads talking in cliché’s and restating accepted narratives. This was a critical, analytical look at the game. It was sadly replaced by a show similar to nearly every other baseball podcast available.

Law currently has a weekly podcast that takes a broader view of the game, but doesn’t provide the same kind of analysis Baseball Today did. It’s excellent, just different.

Fantasy Focus Baseball is in transition. At the end of the season, Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry announced they’d be leaving the show as the demands associated with the daily podcast became too much for the pair to do in addition to their other responsibilities at ESPN. While not quite the analysts that Law is, Ravitz and Berry provided daily baseball notes for your fantasy team as well as more than their fair share of nonsense. (My personal favorites: Rapper or World Capital -  a game in which Berry had to guess if a name was that of a rap artist or a World Capital…. I feel this would be a fun game for social studies teachers to use the first week of class -  a debate regarding the most famous city in Tennessee, and the ongoing effort (finally realized) to get Daisy Fuentes to appear on the podcast).

This show will continue, and it’s my hope that frequent guest host Eric Karabell will get the job hosting next year. I tweeted at Karabell shortly after the announcement was made that Berry and Ravitz were leaving and he told me he wasn’t sure if he would be the host. Even with Karabell, the show won’t be the same.

And finally, on a podcast released Tuesday that I wasn’t able to listen to until today, The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe announced they were retiring from the podcasting game. Hosted by Rany Jazayerli and Joe Sheehan, two of the founders of Baseball Prospectus, the pair have been friends for nearly 20 years who essentially recorded their phone calls they were having anyway and made a podcast out of it. These two were ahead of nearly everyone in pushing for the statistical revolution that has changed the game. I felt a little like I was eavesdropping on a conversation between two really intelligent people talking about something I really enjoyed. They profoundly changed the way I look at the game and made me a smarter fan.

The end of podcast comes as a shock. With all three, there was no warning that any change was coming. Just about 15 minutes at the end of each one saying how grateful they are to have had the opportunity and how much fun it’s been. And with Fantasy Focus and The Baseball Show, I understand the reasons they won’t be doing them any longer. Work responsibilities and family responsibilities are completely valid reasons to no longer do something that is essentially free.

I’m not upset they’re not doing it any more. (Ok, that’s a lie, I’m a little upset.) I’m upset because I feel like my friends are leaving me. Friends I’ve spent time with and grown to know. Friends who I laughed with, learned from and came to count on to keep me company. I’ll miss inviting them in to my car, my home. So if you’re currently hosting a podcast I listen to, please don’t quit. Or if you do, can you at least call me weekly and talk to me on my way to work?

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