It’s difficult to put a positive spin on the New York Mets’ dismal, putrid, deplorable and nauseating collapse (my first draft had 10 more negative adjectives, but it felt like piling on). However, it’s worth noting that the SNY crew—Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and the inimitable Keith Hernandez–were consistently entertaining and insightful all season.
Each plays a specific role in the telecast: Cohen is the responsible bus driver, Darling and Hernandez the kids jumping on the seats at the rear of the bus. Cohen, who never played pro ball but did 17 years covering the Mets on radio, is particularly adept at deferring to the former stars in the booth for insights on inside-baseball matters like closed-door team meetings or working an umpire. With 136 major league wins in his career, Darling provides the pitching wisdom, while Hernandez, a five-time all-star at first base, adds the batting/fielding tidbits. The ex-jocks are intelligent (Darling even went to Yale!), with a sense of humor (Hernandez of course played himself on Seinfeld), while Cohen has an encyclopedia of Mets history burned into his brain.
The guys also do a commendable job of criticizing players who deserve it, even if they’ve got ‘Mets’ across the chest. That was evident recently when base running indifference befell young Mets stars, or when manager Willie Randolph failed to make a defensive upgrade in the late innings of a close contest.
My lone critique is that the old-school Hernandez is too quick to jump on facets of modern baseball culture, such as starters no longer throwing complete games, batters taking issue with inside pitches, or his well-publicized tirade about the presence of a female staffer in the Padres’ dugout last year, that fail to meet his specifications. Hearing him tell players struck moments ago by a 95 MPH fastball to rub dirt on it and take their base–like he and his mates used to do–smacks of your grandfather telling you about hiking 10 miles to school…in the snow…barefoot.
But I truly did enjoy the trio’s work this year, not to mention the fresh and funny perspectives of field/fan reporter Kevin Burkhardt.
If only the Mets’ pitchers had performed half as well.