On a broadcast earlier this year, Ron Darling described the ideal baseball television broadcast as a casual conversation between friends. The SNY crew has a camaraderie and comfort level that exists on few other broadcasts. It’s been built over time — Cohen, Darling, and Hernandez have been broadcasting Mets games together since 2006. Darling and Hernandez, of course, were teammates for seven seasons with the Mets, and Cohen is a lifelong Mets fan who has been calling Mets games in some capacity since 1989.
Cohen, in particular, is the glue the holds the Met television broadcast together. Look no further than the contrast between negative reviews of Darling’s work on TBS with less familiar and less talented broadcasters against the positive reviews of Darling’s color work with the Mets. Cohen sets Darling and Hernandez up like a Molina brother framing pitches, but also knows when to take charge. More than that, he has the intuition to know what moments will emotionally resonate with Mets fans, and to give appropriate and memorable calls at the right moment. Think of Gary calling Bartolo Colon’s home run, the last out of Johan Santana’s no-hitter, or Wilmer Flores’ July 2015 walkoff. Darling adds a professional player color commentary experience. Hernandez mixes in some incredible insights with a mixture of groans, sighs, gallows humor, and discussions of life in Sag Harbor.
On the radio side, the Mets run what very well might be the most traditional broadcast in baseball outside of Vin Scully. Howie Rose, a longtime veteran of the New York sports scene, is a master storyteller and fountain of knowledge about the Mets and sports in general. I will admit to occasionally turning on an Islanders game over the years mostly for Howie, an option that will no longer be available going forward. After a series of lesser second announcers, the Mets were fortunate to hire popular former Rangers announcer Josh Lewin in 2012. Lewin, who acts much younger than 47, brings an air of freshness and statistical acumen to the Mets broadcast team. Just like an old school team, Rose and Lewin trade off play-by-play and color duties during the game, each adding their own flair. As with the television broadcast, the radio broadcasters come across as legitimate friends. When you’re listening to two or three people talk with each other for a dozen or more hours a week, chemistry and congeniality is important. There are certainly announce crews in sports and entertainment, and even in baseball, who come across as hostile to each other and even the viewer.
I suspect that I’m not exactly breaking new ground here for a Mets fan. The home announcers are generally considered some of the best in baseball, a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the franchise with Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson, and Ralph Kiner. Fangraphs recently ranked every announce team in baseball using fan surveys, and the Mets ranked third best in baseball for both TV and radio. But I think we might take it for granted how good the Met broadcast teams are, and how these people become part of our extended baseball family.
I probably watch about half the Mets regular season schedule live on television, and often go back and watch the condensed versions of the games I missed. Often, when I can’t watch the game live, I’m listening to it on the radio, or over the MLB At Bat app. I think it’s safe to say that during the season, Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Howie Rose, and Josh Lewin “talk to me” as much as anyone short of a few coworkers, my closest friends and family, and given the length of some of our podcasts, my For All You Kids Out There co-host Jeffrey Paternostro. Given the relative stability of the Met announce teams, these people become very familiar figures. When one of the good ones gets away, it sucks to see them go.
A few years ago, my friend Jen Mac Ramos wrote an article titled “Baseball Helps…Sometimes” for the Hardball Times. It resonates with me to this day. In part, it described the regularity of baseball and the baseball season as a regulating tool for dealing with anxiety, and I realized after reading Jen’s article that baseball absolutely is something that I use to regulate and schedule my life. From February until November, baseball is almost always there. It’s a comfort in times of trouble, a distraction in times when the real world gets too serious, a calm port in the storm. It’s the background noise to our lives. And I really appreciate that the voices are as good as Gary, Keith, Ron, Howie, and Josh.