Former Mets pitcher and current SNY and TBS baseball analyst Ron Darling didn't need a sabermetrician to teach him how to get batters out. Not when Gary Carter was behind the plate.
Darling, who won 113 games during his big league career and was part of the Mets' World Series championship rotation in 1986, simply relied on one of the most astute and complex minds in the game when he needed help on the hill.
Not a bad idea when that mind belonged to a Hall of Fame catcher that Darling believed was the "final piece" in helping the Mets win it all 26 years ago.
"In today's world of baseball you have all the sabermetrics, but Gary had that all in his head," Darling told amNewYork last week. "He had the entire National League in his head. I was seven, eight years younger and he was more mature than most of us on that team. I know in my case, he also became one of my dear friends."
Carter, who died in February after a grueling 10-month battle with an aggressive type of brain tumor, continues to inspire his former battery-mate, perhaps more today than ever.
That's why Darling has joined forces with Dr. Andrew Lassman to promote "Moments That Matter," an initiative to help remind those touched by brain tumors that they are not alone.
"When Gary got sick, my relationship with him grew to the next level," said Darling, who is preparing to call postseason games next month for TBS. "What we're trying to do is that if someone has symptoms [of a brain tumor], they can go see their physician. We'll help them build a network of people and a support group that will help them through a difficult time. Gary was lucky. He had a strong network of friends, and I was a small part of that."
As for the state of the current Mets, Darling believes there are several pieces in place that will help turn around a franchise that has not sniffed a pennant race since consecutive late-season collapses in '07 and '08.
"There's one positive and one question mark," Darling said. "The positive is that the '69 and '86 [championship] teams were built on young pitching. They have [Matt] Harvey, [Jonathan] Niese, [Dillon] Gee, [Jenrry] Mejia, [Jeurys] Familia and [Josh] Edgin. The big question mark is everyday players that round out your everyday roster."
One of those steady presences in the lineup, All-Star third baseman David Wright, may be the next player jettisoned out of Citi Field via free agency or trade. Darling thinks of Wright as a keeper.
"I think it's very hard for me to envision the New York Mets without David Wright," he said. "[The Mets have] never had that everyday player that stays with the organization the entire time.