Fred Wilpon talks to reporters at Digital Domain Park in...

Fred Wilpon talks to reporters at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie. (Feb. 17, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

SNY has earned its reputation for objectivity during the past five years - certainly by the modest standards of team-owned regional sports networks. And it is facing what president Steve Raab called "the ultimate test'' without altering its approach.

"These guys have not wavered from Day One about being objective and fair, including these issues that have come up recently,'' Raab said, referring to Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, who own more than two-thirds of SNY and are facing a lawsuit filed by the trustee for Bernard Madoff's victims that seeks up to $1 billion.

"Let's face it, when this objective positioning was set up at the beginning, I don't think anyone thought there would be as many tests as there have been . . . This is the ultimate test, probably, and they have not changed their tune.''

When the Wilpons spoke last month about shopping a piece of the Mets, SNY carried the conference call live. When Jeff and Fred spoke on consecutive days in Florida this week, the network showed the video shortly after it was recorded.

Raab said objective coverage at times might rub people who work for the team the wrong way, but it has been a priority of ownership. "It's not something you can sell to them,'' he said. "It's something, I think, that has to come from top down.''

But midday bulletins and evening news shows are one thing. One week from Saturday, the big guns - and bigger spotlight - return when Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling call the first exhibition game (on Channel 11).

How will they handle what Raab called "the elephant in the room''?

"If there is something that is relevant or that needs to be acknowledged or is part of a discussion going on in-game, they're not going to shy away from it,'' he said.

On the other hand, he added, "People aren't tuning in to Mets games to hear more about ongoing litigation . . . It's not going to be shied away from or ignored, but it's not the place to rehash what has been discussed in lots of other places, including on other SNY shows.''

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