We’re at the end of what’s been an unusual baseball season for me. I’ve watched approximately three games in their entirety, only attended one game in person, and basically ignored what ended up being a disastrous Red Sox season. Despite my general apathy towards actually watching and enjoying games, I feel more knowledgable than ever about the game, due in large part to the unmissable Effectively Wild Podcast. Hosted by Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus and Ben Lindbergh of Grantland/ESPN, EW is a daily podcast that breaks down the daily zeitgeist of the game.
So what makes this podcast great, and one that I’ve listened to over 700 episodes of? It’s the hosts. Sam and Ben are two of the most intelligent, rational and humble voices about baseball I’ve encountered. Listening to the EW breakdown of any topic makes me think that I’m listening to two people who are generally too smart to be analyzing baseball, spending their time analyzing baseball. In addition to having a fantastic perspective regarding game strategy, team building approaches, and the psychology of the athletes, EW is one of a very select few productions that can make me laugh out loud with their candor and somewhat neurotic (and in my opinion, genius) recall for previously discussed topics. A small sampling from last Friday’s episode:
“The end is here for the Market Diner…I accept generally that the city constantly remakes itself and that old buildings go and new buildings come, just as we all come and go after distracting ourselves from the knowledge of our mortality by watching baseball”
In some ways what makes the podcast so enjoyable is the continuity. The reference to “distracting ourselves from the knowledge of our own mortality,” is one of my favorites, a callback that Sam originated hundreds of episodes ago when reminding the audience that, in the big picture, the events happening on a field with a few dozen men dressed in pajamas surrounded by drunk masses are completely inconsequential to the world and serve only to distract us from our impending deaths.
In addition to offering a unique perspective on the game, the EW podcast has also become known for transferring their deep analysis of serious baseball topics to answering oftentimes absurd listener emails such as the following (click here to listen to their answer):
How good a player would have to go missing before game 7 of the World Series for the game to be postponed? I’d imagine that if Clayton Kershaw was slated to pitch and just never showed up that they’d have to postpone the game just in case he was kidnapped or something Dan Marino in Ace Ventura style. What would happen?
The two have a great rapport that makes for always interesting “banter,” and occasionally leads to a truly memorable result. If you’re new to the show, and don’t have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to start at the beginning and listen through some 750 episodes, I’d recommend starting with Episode 722. It’s an email show and you really get a sense for the level of analysis, the humor and some of the truly magical performances that the show organically stumbles upon. I almost crashed my car listening to this one, and I’ll offer a full money back guarantee and a slap in the face if you don’t like it.