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Ron Darling Becomes a New York Star Post-Playing Days



By Mike Silva ~ April 10th, 2012. Filed under: New York Mets, Sports Media Commentary.

Both Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez marveled at the prescient Ron Darling last night. In the first inning, Darling had noted how it would be a good time for Mets starter Mike Pelfrey to fake a pickoff throw to third and first in order to possibly get Ryan Zimmerman starting too early on the 3-2 count. As if on cue, Pelfrey did just that. Later in the game, Darling noted how the poor command of Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez could make it difficult to complete an accurate throw when fielding a bunt. Pitches later Rodriguez threw away Ruben Tejada‘s sacrifice bunt and set the stage for Daniel Murphy‘s game-winning single. This performance capped another great night for the SNY broadcast team, specifically Darling, who won another Emmy for his work on the broadcast.

Despite the struggles for the Mets on-the-field, the broadcast booth has never been an issue even in the darkest days. The SNY trio has always made it worthwhile to tune in for even the most meaningless September game. If it’s not Darling providing top-rate analysis, you can listen to the dry sense of humor of Hernandez, or the historical perspective of Cohen. They have become a part of the modern Mets viewing family like Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson were during the inaugural seasons.

Darling, in particular, has risen to become a broadcasting star. You can hear him on TBS broadcasts throughout the year, including the postseason. I find this interesting since he was probably the least popular of the three when he came over from Washington in 2006.

I grew up watching Darling pitch for Davey Johnson‘s mid-80s Mets teams. I guess you can call him the #2 behind Doc Gooden, but consistency was always an issue. Looking back, Darling was more Dillon Gee than Al Leiter, pitching about league average most seasons. He battled himself most games (think Mike Pelfrey or John Maine), and probably wouldn’t have been as successful if not for the dynamic team around him.

There have been four Game 7′s in team history, and Darling has started two. Both were disastrous outings in which he didn’t make it past the fourth inning. His performance against the Dodgers in 1988 was particularly ugly (1 inning/6 runs), leading to questions about why Johnson didn’t bring Dwight Gooden back on short rest. Some even mocked that he was more interested in appearing on the cover of GQ, then improving his performance on the mound.

He didn’t leave on great terms. He was banished to the bullpen in 1990, and traded to Montreal for Tim Burke the next season. After two weeks up North, the Expos sent him to Oakland. There he would be rejuvenated under Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan, winning 15-games in 1992.

By the time Darling figured out how to pitch, his body was no longer up to the task. When fans would think back to those 80s glory days, Darling’s name wasn’t the first thrown out there.

That has changed, as his performance in the booth has led to a new career in New York, and with that, a completely different Q-Rating with the fan base. When I asked the readers in February who should be the next Mets player elected into the team’s Hall of Fame, Darling finished second to Mike Piazza with 71% support. That was more than Jesse Orosco, whose thrown glove will always be synonymous with ’86.

Why the success? Darling knows the game, as evidence by his analysis last night. The conversation with Hernandez and Cohen is natural. He is one of those rare announcers with a humble demeanor in the booth. He knows more than you, but doesn’t want to remind you of that, as he rather tries to engage you in understanding his point. Baseball is a nightly marathon that you need to connect with a broadcast team on a personal level. The SNY trio has accomplished this in a big way, and I think Darling’s persona provides the balance that brings them to another level.

Amazing how far Darling has come since those final Mets days in 1991. He is not only a top national broadcaster, but has put himself into the pantheon of team history for his work with SNY.

I don’t think I would have ever predicted that.

***

I had a chance to speak with Darling on my radio program back when his book “The Complete Game” was released in 2009. You can listen below.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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8 Responses to Ron Darling Becomes a New York Star Post-Playing Days

  1. Stu B

    Mike, don’t denigrate Darling as a pitcher. With 99 wins, a 3.5 ERA, a 1.288 WHIP, and 25 complete games in 9 years as a Met, he was much better than Gee, Pelfrey, or Maine could ever hope to be. He was an important factor in the team’s success from 1984-90. And he wasn’t really “banished” to the bullpen so much as he was a victim of the Mets being blessed with an incredibly deep starting staff that included Gooden, Viola, Cone, Fernandez, Darling, and Ojeda. What actually happened was that Davey Johnson was ended up rotating Darling and Ojeda between the bullpen and 5th starter role. Both would have been at least a no. 3 starter on any other team.

  2. Mike Silva

    Stu

    From 84-86 Darling pitched like a top-of-the-rotation starter. He had a decent ’88, maybe his best season, but his ERA+ was lower since that was an extreme pitchers year.

    Gee, to date, is 15-8 with a 4.04 ERA and ERA+ of 93. Darling, for his career, averaged 12-11, 3.87 and ERA+ of 95

    Not that far off to date.

    Of course, he provided consistent 200 innings, something that only Pelfrey has done, but not even at the rate of Darling.

    He was better, but not as far off as you think.

  3. DDavis

    I remember two things about Ron Darling in the 1980′s.

    One occurred when an old girlfriend of mine visited me in New York. I took her to brunch and gallery hopping down in Soho, and found myself crossing paths with Darling in the company of a genuinely beautiful woman. Passing them, I mentioned to my friend that is was Ron Darling, that he pitched for the Mets; she laughed and said that SHE recognized the woman as some well known fashion model. Isn’t it the guy who is supposed to notice the woman?

    The other memory is reading of Darling saying that after his playing career was done, he certainly would not stay in baseball. “I’m not a fan of watching games.” A bit ironic, or maybe just what happens when one looks for a job after the first wave is over.

  4. Chuck

    http://articles.courant.com/2011-05-20/sports/hc-viola-darling-anniversary-0521-20110520_1_yale-coach-yale-field-ron-darling

  5. Joseph DelGrippo

    Smoky Joe Wood, the greatest pitcher many fans have never heard of, used to be head coach at Yale. He was at that Yale -St. John’s game and called it the greatest game he ever saw.

    My opinion about greatest game I ever saw (I was almost 12 years old) was the 1976 Union County (NJ) Championship game between Scotch Plains and Cranford, won by Scotch Plains 1-0 in 11 innings.

    Each starting pitcher, Ed Reilly for Scotch Plains and Jim Carsey for Cranford went the distance.

    Scotch Plains scored a run in the top of the 11th when a two-out single up the middle scored Reilly, who barely was safe on a strong throw from the center fielder. Then Cranford had a man on second, two outs in the bottom of the 11th. A single to center tried to score the runner who was barely out at the plate, and the game was over.

    Same exact play, same exact situation, with one runner safe by a hair and one out by a hair. Both pitchers pitch into the 11th inning.

    Games like this one and like the Darling-Viola game will NEVER happen again.

    Disclaimer: I graduated from Cranford High School in 1982, and was not accepted to Yale.

  6. Stu B

    I attended Yale for my MBA, but I never knew that about Smokey Joe Wood. Thanks, Joe!

  7. Chuck Johnson

    I was also at the Yale/St. John’s game.

  8. Horace

    I don’t live in New York. I never liked Darling as a player much just because he was a Met and the look on his face . . . now later in life, I’ve learned a lesson. Ron Darling is a great announcer and a really fantastic person. You gotta love him !!!

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