There are some notable ways in which Drew and I are different, and regular listeners of the podcast will be familiar with those. But in a lot of ways—the sorts of ways that, if we’re being honest, could potentially make podcasts boring—we’re quite similar. We’re around the same age, grew up on the same diet of garbage culture, and our respective neuroses have even drifted closer together over time, whether because of proximity or just borne along on the broader cultural tides that carry all of us in the direction of generalized anxiety disorder. He did almost die that one time, and has a capacity to start and finish writing high-quality books that I notably lack, but we’re similar dudes. That’s fine by me. He’s good company in every sense.
But when he is not around, as Drew is not around this week, I notice the differences more. There is a certain orneriness and love of structure in the man that simply are not present in me, and they are what make him an ideal podcast host; their absence makes me … a very different kind of podcast host, if you want to be nice about it. I can only be who I am, though, and knowing that meant that I knew who I wanted to have on with me while Drew was on vacation. Also I just really like talking to Ray Ratto. The choice wasn’t totally or even mostly strategic. I had him on one of the other times I flew solo and really enjoyed it, and also I just think he’s neat.
It is a different energy than the ones Drew runs, as of course it would be. But if I’m going to talk to Ray, I’m going to talk to Ray, and in that case that mostly meant asking him some general questions that I think about a lot and have never really been clear on—what makes good baseball teams good, or what does a MLB manager actually do—and let him do what he does. I wouldn’t say that we unlocked any of the essential mysteries of the sport, although there is one gem in the discussion of managers in the back third of the episode that I think explains a lot, but I am not in the essential-mystery-unlocking business. I am, at least around this time of year, in the Thinking About Baseball business, and there’s a lot to find here in that regard.
To wit: I got Ray on the record about Jeffrey Leonard, one of the defining baseball badasses of my youth, and we also talked about the Mets (just a little, I promise) and what separates the Dodgers and the Giants in both the literal and metaphysical senses. Whitey Herzog is mentioned at one point, which I didn’t expect but is one of those things that happens in conversation with Ray sometimes. And we also discussed Vin Scully’s towering talent and contribution to several generations of baseball fans, touching on points made in Ray’s own brilliant celebration of his work for us and the one written by Eric Nusbaum in Slate. Some broader things were considered about writing/talking/thinking about sports, but not so heavily that you’d notice. We dipped only briefly into the Funbag, with a discussion on best practices in the important work of trolling fancy tourists.
It helps a lot, if you are stuck hosting a podcast despite not being a podcast-hosting type, to be able to rely on someone who knows as much about as many things and talks about them as well as Ray does. But it’s especially good to know that, even if you can’t quite land everything perfectly, you’ll still get to talk to Ray for an hour or so.
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