Apple Podcasts need to be decoupled from iTunes
iTunes in its current form can be a mess as a music player, but at least that tries to be its primary function; being a good podcast player is hardly the focus of iTunes. Aside from removing part of the bloat from iTunes, promoting podcast playback on the Mac to its own app would solve several existing problems.
It’s pretty clear at this point that podcast playback within iTunes is an afterthought. We’ve gotten by with shared controls and interfaces with iTunes music for a long time but it’s time to break podcasts out in the same way Apple did with iBooks years ago.