Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Top 11 Great Baseball Podcasts – Spring 2012 Edition
About a year or so ago, I sat down to write with the good intentions of reviewing baseball podcasts, perhaps on a weekly basis, in order to share with my handful of readers what I was listening to and why…and at the same time, provide some feedback that may or may not be taken seriously by the producers of those podcasts. Other things seemed to happen, and my initial post was never published…as in my aborted attempt to write a series of baseball book reviews, I felt that literary criticism wasn’t my strong suit and that initiative fell away.
Actually, the focus of this blog was, is, and shall always be scorekeeping…starting this year, I renewed my commitment to sharply hone this focus and produce more scorekeeping-specific content. I’ve fallen short towards this end in the first quarter, but this is mostly due to other circumstances beyond my control that are improving. That being said, most of you shouldn’t mind a little extraneous content (baseball history, or some statistical discussion perhaps) from time to time. So instead of a series, I’ll just post a ‘best of’ list right now, at the time of this writing, and do my best to fulfill my promises of doing my part to bring scorekeeping to the forefront of this blog.
No true Baseball Enthusiast would be a well-rounded as such without a regular dose of baseball podcasting in their daily routine. The universe as it was has changed exponentially over just the past few years…I used to scramble and search frantically for more baseball podcast content when what I had available to listen to had run out. Today, there are so many more options, and so many excellent options, that I’m writing this today as I’ve got to make some serious cuts in my baseball podcast rotation. My once 25-man-shy roster has expanded to Spring Training-like numbers and for me, the only thing I can do is send some programs down to Minor League camp and stay current with the best players on my team.
Some cuts are easier to make than others, some cuts are painful because I’ve been with them since day one, but I have my reasons for these omissions. If you’ve read my timeline recently, you can see how outspoken I’ve been about this. My original approach was to write private emails to the producers of podcasts that weren’t going to make my 25-man roster, as most of these folks are always seemingly wanting to hear feedback from their listeners, in hopes that they would respond, if anything, in an effort to keep me as a listener. The truth of the matter is, as I’ve found out, most of these same folks make it difficult to contact them outside of public-forum social media platforms. My criticism is meant for you, just between us, and not blurted out in public…so the first lesson here is: if you produce a baseball podcast and really do welcome feedback of any kind, make it easy for listeners to provide it on a one-on-one basis. If you don’t, my assumption is that you don’t care what they have to say, and therefore don’t care if they bail on you for any reason without presenting you an opportunity to review criticism in an effort to improve your product.
My good friend and fave follow @cowsarecool220 replied to one of my rants and in doing so, seconded my next best idea: present a list of the best baseball podcasts. So then, here it is, in no particular order, 11 best-listening recommendations with brief notes for each. Following this list (plus an Honorable Mention entry) are 2 expired podcasts in my Hall of Fame.
In an effort to stay kind, I won’t list the cuts on my roster…since my perception of their willingness to not receive feedback is taken at face value, I won’t waste the time on singling any of them out…rather, at the end of my list I will present some of the criteria I used to make these cuts (how those listed made the roster will be evident by my notes). If any of those folks are bothering to read this, then they will be able to look in the mirror and ask themselves if this song is about them.
And before I go on, I want to print a disclaimer: if your baseball podcast is not listed, that may not mean it didn’t make the cut…it may mean I haven’t heard of it and/or had a chance to hear it yet…I do my best to seek these out, but I’m sure there are some good ones out there I’m missing. If your podcast isn’t on here, let’s make a deal: follow me on twitter (if you aren’t already, see my handle at the end of this post) and reach out to me with info on your podcast, as well as an RSS/XML link so that I can sync on something other than iTunes… my best tip is, always set those up because if the only way I can listen to your show is on iTunes or only on my PC, I’m not going to listen to your show.
1. Up and In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast
Needless to say (but still needs to be said), “Up and In” is the Gold standard of baseball podcasts. Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks had a concept; 2 guys sitting in a pub, drinking a little and talking about baseball (particularly scouting,player development, and Major League systems) plus the goofy stuff. They nailed this from the very first episode (the “Point Niner” of Up and In mythology knows) and have consistently produced the best and most honest yet informative baseball podcast of all known and recorded history ever since. I could write a small book on all of the different levels this production works, and on how many levels it never ever fails…but I won’t do that, since my assumption is that most of you listen, and most of the most of you who listen share my feelings for this outstanding podcast. The goofy stuff is an integral part of the holistic baseball discussion, in ways I can’t explain but can certainly profess to. After only a few episodes (even sooner), Kevin and Jason are “us,” and we feel like we are hanging out with good friends, talking about stuff we all share in common…and they really do know their stuff, and are never braggarts about it. Always timely and fascinating guests are featured, their fingers on the pulse of baseball is a valid benefit to society. The “Top 11” list is a big hat tip to “Up and In.” #want
2. The 20-80 Report
This is a new find of mine, from the guys who bring you Seedlings to Stars (particularly, Nathaniel Stoltz) the 20-80 Report is a very concise and involving prospects and Minor Leaguers for all systems, most of the kind of content you may have seen at Seedling to Stars, but now you can listen to an interactive discussion of the same. Another side of who is where, how they are doing, where they could go, and all the stuff that could happen around all of that.
3. Baseball History Podcast
This was one of the very first baseball podcasts I ever subscribed to, and is still mandatory listening for any type of fan of baseball history. Each episode focuses on a baseball player from the past, with a concise review of their life and career. Your Game Announcer Bob Wright is very meticulous in his format, always reviewing his content and making pertinent changes primarily based on listener feedback, and typically extracts the basis of his material from the SABR Biography Project…this podcast is 100% Baseball Enthusiast approved!!
4. The Central Message
I prayed for a fun, unassuming, light-hearted yet firm podcast that focused on the Chicago Cubs and the St Louis Cardinals…two Nicks (Devlin and Selby) answered my prayers, and the result is “The Central Message,” I am looking very much forward to the conversation once the season starts! The best baseball rivalry in history, as a podcast…what a wonderful concept!! If I had 10 thumbs, they would all be UP.
5. Ivie League Productions
The hardest working man in baseball podcasting (and blog platforms, to boot) is without a doubt, Bill Ivie. “Ivie League Productions” is a formidable suite of several somewhat integrated podcast productions (usually live podcasts) that cover a variety of content, from St Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals discussions (I-70 Baseball Radio) to Fantasy Baseball (Full Spectrum Baseball) to a Baseball Bloggers Alliance roundtable (BBA Baseball Talk) and team-specific content (UCB Radio Hour/Cardinals and Kult of Mets Personalities/Mets). There really is something for everybody, and even if you don’t have time to listen to all of these, you can usually sync several episodes of each a week for a nice mix of material.
6. Japan Baseball Weekly
From John E. Gibson at JapaneseBaseball.com and Jim Allen comes a very nice podcast about one of my favorite topics…Japanese Baseball! Need I say more? Discussions on rosters, news, and great interviews with NPB names of all kinds. Need your Pro Yakyuu podcast fix? Here’s where you can get it!
7. Conversations with C70
Daniel Shoptaw is the founding member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, of which I am a proud and enthusiastic member, and can also be heard in the Ivie League Productions podcast “UCB Radio Hour.” “Conversations with C70” is Daniel’s own podcast, focusing on interviews with other baseball bloggers…not just Cardinals bloggers, either, but of all types. The immense respect and admiration I have for what Daniel does with the BBA needs to be heralded here, this podcast is a formidable primer for how the sausage is made, from a baseball blogging point of view. One of my favorite recent episodes featured the unusual topic of “historic replay” as Jeff Polman of Mystery Ball ‘58 was interviewed regarding his unusual penchant for the 1958 season and Strat-O-Matic practices around the same. WOW.
8. Phoulballz Podcast
Another brand new addition to my lineup is the “Phoulballz” podcast (“That’s a PH at the front, with a Z at the end”) featuring Jay Floyd of Phoulballz.com along with my pal Tug Haines “The Casual Fan,” talking about the Phillies system with an emphasis on Minor League players. This one is still fresh in my queue, but if you remember Tug’s appearances on Ty Pyburn’s “Sports Buzz” last season then you will know how totally kool Tug is and how much fun he is, anytime, anywhere. Realistically, Tug Haines could be talking about RBI Baseball replays with just about anybody and it would be great to listen to, but in all fairness, the content so far has been great…and I’m not a Phillies fan, so there!!
9. Baseball Press Podcast
You need help with your Fantasy Baseball league…of course you do. BaseballPress.com is a great place to go for concise information, their podcast in return is great listening. Nate, Dan, and/or Reggie focus on addressing listener questions and while they don’t have the shine and swag of the elite Fantasy 411 podcast, your access is greater and therefore you are nearly assured that if you submit a question, it will be addressed.
10. Sports Poscast with Joe Posnanski
Joe Posnanski’s reputation speaks for itself, and most of us are very glad his podcast is back after his Joe Paterno book hiatus. One of the greatest moments on the Poscast was his interview with Bob Costas. I enjoy his drafts with Michael Schur, much more than I do the sometimes lethal doses of Michael Schur that occur from time to time…thankfully, that doesn’t happen often. Joe does talk too much about other sports from time to time (more on that later), but you can usually pick and choose the podcast you want to sync and avoid this. Fundamentally, most of the content is about baseball, and that’s why it’s on the list. Should Joe spend the rest of this season not talking about baseball very much, I could be inclined to change my mind…but he’s one of the best sports writers in the world, so I just have to listen.
11. Productive Outs PRODcast
Last but not least, here’s another new program hosted by the inimitable Ian Miller and Riley Breck of Productive Outs fame…if you don’t know of this blog/site/spam/whatever platform, then you should probably scope it out. If not, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, and report immediately to the Hall of Jeffs. Ian and Riley are, respectively, Giants and Angels fans…they are also musicians, and exhibit a refreshing and delicately controlled substance of latent whackiness tempered with the resolve of a titanium firetruck driven by Vegans and AcidHeads on parade. Their baseball talk is pertinent and fan-oriented, with a dominant respect for statistical analysis and prospect miasma, and their talk about music is downright humble and amazing. I had to pull my car over once while listening to Ian’s Brian Baker tattoo story because I was (a) laughing so hard, and (b) had to tweet him my thoughts on this with my own Nils Ackermann story. These guys have hearts and their eyes on what fans like me are watching all the time. Go there. Subscribe. Grab it. Sync. Live your life to its fullest!!
Fantasy 411 - Audio
Fantasy 411 - Video
I can’t break away from a lineup like this without mentioning Fantasy 411. If you are a Fantasy Baseball person, how can you not be aware of this? Well, I don’t know. I’ll miss the show on MLB Network’s lineup, but I usually watched and/or listened on my Zune anyhow, so no worries. Those of us who have been regular subscribers of this program can attest to the difference of our League performance before and after its incept.
The Baseball Podcast Hall of Fame: Two memorable podcasts that are no longer with us, but will always hold a special place in my heart…for obvious reasons.
They were the best of the best, and were around for 6-plus seasons when they were unceremoniously shut down by MLBAM through no fault of their own, but as part of a burn on a Twins podcast that went out of bounds and attracted the wrong kind of attention. It’s hard to believe this happened over a year ago, it seems like it was longer. If you missed it, or if you still miss it, the old Cubscast episodes are still on feedburner. I miss Lou and Sheps tremendously, and still have a tendency to end conversations with “what is the question?”
Broken Bat Single
“Broken Bat Single” was my first Royals podcast, and the best that ever was. The end of “BBS” was not the same as “CubsCast,” rather host Nick Scott just seems to have gotten too busy with other stuff (writing for the excellent Royals Authority, also writing for the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World, and also raising a family, and I’m sure work fit in there somewhere) and this excellent, star-quality podcast with frank discussion and blunt (yet objective) opinion was first and foremost among just about any other sports media you could find for free on the internets. I pester Nick (@brokenbatsingle) from time to time about resurrecting the podcast…perhaps someday he will…but I understand his reasons for the hiatus, and hope that someday he will reverse the course of his decision.
Baseball Podcasts: the DON’Ts
Now that you’ve read the Top 11 plus, you can see what I think is “right” about the podcasts that made the list. Here are some things that typically are contributing factors to my either not listening to a podcast, or not listening to it as much. These points reflect personal taste, the only measurement I can stack up the time I have to listen to baseball podcasts.
If you podcast live and feature call-in guests, keep them on for only as long as you need to and don’t let them lead you away from your main topic.
If you podcast live, don’t do so from a bar…it’s hard to laugh at a drunk when you aren’t drunk, I do most of my listening while driving, so I’m prone to get annoyed when there are many people at a bar on a podcast yocking it up and snorting to their own jokes…we are NOT there, we do NOT get it.
Baseball Podcast Rule of Baseball – it’s OK to stray away from Baseball to other content, particularly other sports, in a limited manner and when congruent to your established format. It’s not OK to spend 10% of your podcast talking about Cricket or Football or (God forbid) NCAA Basketball, particularly if you publish and advertise your product as a “baseball” podcast. There are other podcasts for that, I’m listening to your podcast because of baseball. Goofy stuff is OK, once again, as long as it’s congruent to your format and limited by design.
If you have guests on the show, keep yourself grounded and don’t spend a great deal of your allotted time with your guest on the show slobbering all over them or their qualifications. Get on with the interview, we only want to hear what your guest has to say about what you are asking them!
Audio quality is a PLUS. I hope that someday everyone will start to explore embracing Skype-like technology and get away from the telephone audio…I understand this is FREE STUFF but even the best podcasts can stand to improve my working towards improved audio quality. On a similar note, if you are using Skype-like technology, be sure your uploads are of a quality bit-rate. I can’t bear to listen to a very famous podcast with decent content because the 32 bitrate quality sounds like poop on bread to me.
Podcasting is (and should be) understood as amateur hour, otherwise you’d be a paid broadcaster. We all understand this, so don’t spend a great deal of time and bandwidth apologizing for your mistakes. Nobody likes to hear this. First rule of conversation is not to apologize for anything you say, the same is true when you are podcasting.
Don’t be so LOUD. I can’t stand another high-profile general baseball podcast because the hosts talk REAL LOUD ALL THE TIME LIKE THEY ARE IN NEW YORK CITY…it’s grating and annoying to say the least. Talk, don’t scream.
Don’t over-promote. We are listening to your podcast, we know where we got it and we know who you are. It’s fine to introduce yourselves at the beginning of the show, but to identify yourself as well as the show as well as the website as well as how to get your show as well as ad nauseum every 10-15 minutes is bizarre. Your program didn’t magically appear on my playlist, I know who you are, I can stand to not be reminded so much. Take it easy!
Don’t be so SERIOUS, please. Have some fun. Fun is good. Without fun, we all fall asleep. I’m driving, I don’t need to sleep.
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