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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Mets announcers psyched for home opener

File photo of SNY analyst Ron Darling.

File photo of SNY analyst Ron Darling. Credit: SNY

Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are entering their sixth seasons at SNY, and a fellow 1986 Met, Bob Ojeda, is in his second as the network's studio analyst. In advance of today's home opener, they gathered via phone to discuss assorted Mets-centric topics. Here are condensed highlights:

Q: All three of you have been more optimistic than most about the 2011 Mets. Why?

Ojeda: I think what all of us saw in spring training was a sense of non-entitlement, is the best way I can describe it. It was a sense of, we have work to do.

Terry Collins turned out to be an excellent choice. Here is a guy who is very thankful to be back in the game. He set a tone that everybody is important to this ballclub . . . They've bought it and believe it.

Hernandez: If everybody performs up to their potential in that lineup, this team is going to score runs, and it's a good defensive team. It's about the pitching. That's where the question marks lie.

I said all spring David Wright had completely gotten back to his old self with the bat. He's gotten rid of that uppercut and he's swinging level . . . I think they're going to surprise a lot of people.

Q: What was your reaction to Fox analyst Tim McCarver saying it will be difficult for you to deal with the Mets' financial problems as announcers on a team-owned network?

Hernandez: I just feel our job is to do the game, and we're fortunate to have Gary [Cohen] doing play-by-play and to moderate. If situations come up that we have to address, Gary is spot on.

Ojeda: We're baseball analysts. That's what we do. I don't know financial litigation. I'm not going to speculate on it.

Darling: Is it a horrible situation? Of course, but I'm not going someplace where I have no expertise. I am not an accountant or financial person. I have a hard enough time taking care of my own finances.

Q: After five years of mostly positive reviews and good chemistry, how will you keep the game booth fresh?

Darling: Every first game, all three of us have jitters right before the open. Gary looks like he's 8 years old going to Opening Day. Keith and I would love to be on the field, but we lack the talent. We still have the goose bumps.

Before we went on six years ago, there was talk of three-man booths. About two minutes before we went on, Keith put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Remember, I've got the hitting, you've got the pitching.' In that simple sentence, he cured any problems a three-man booth would have had.

Hernandez: Obviously, the guys in the truck are top-notch. Gregg Picker is a very innovative producer. He always is prodding us to come up with new ideas to keep the broadcast fresh.

I've always thought Gary was the backbone of our broadcast. He makes Ronnie and me look good.

Q: Now that Citi Field is in its third season, have players and fans gotten used to it, pro and con?

Hernandez: I don't mind the high fences, but I do think they should bring the fence across in a straight line [in rightfield] or maybe bring it in 10 feet. I think it's a little unfair, to say the least. Once you go back there, that's 400 feet. That's a poke.

Darling: For a guy who gave up around 250 home runs, I think Citi Field is perfect.

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