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Ron Darling on calling Mets playoff games: No bias, just analysis

SNY Mets broadcasters, from left, Gary Cohen, Ron

SNY Mets broadcasters, from left, Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez Photo Credit: SNY

National announcers with ties to a particular team have been accused of bias since the dawn of television. But the Mets-Dodgers playoff series will be Ron Darling's first time through that particular wringer.

His response: "I get the premeditated hatred, and bring it on."

Anyway, he said, many hard-core Dodgers fans who might perceive a pro-Mets slant to his analysis for Turner during the NLDS probably will opt to listen to Vin Scully on the radio.

Not that Darling -- who joined Turner in 2007, the year after the Mets' most recent playoff berth before 2015 -- buys into the notion that he cannot do an impartial telecast involving a team he played for and whose games he has worked for a decade.

"I think there are people at Citi Field who think I'm biased the other way," he said Thursday. "Listen, I've always been about the ball, so whoever is playing the best baseball is what resonates to me."

Darling said it is true that his knowledge of the "minutiae" of the Mets' season could add depth to his analysis, but he also has done numerous Dodgers games, including in recent postseasons.

"I get it," he said. "I always think in these broadcasts the team that wins loves its announcer and the team that loses hates me as an announcer. I'm one of the few guys who does this job that's been booed off the Shea Stadium mound by 55,000 people. I have big shoulders. I can take it."

The goal in the playoffs is not the sort of entertaining byplay usually heard among Darling, Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen. "In the playoffs, you kind of get out of the way and let the athletes do their thing," Darling said.

Speaking of Cohen and Hernandez, they, like all local announcing teams, will not get to call the games that matter most after surviving the lean years and dog days. For Darling, that is one benefit of finally landing a Mets playoff series.

(Turner has not announced its playoff assignments. Feel free to bet the college fund on it being Darling's team, though.)

"I think it's a shame that Gary and Keith can't do it," Darling said. "That's the nature of the beast. I think it's just kind of how it works. The fans fall in love with their announcers over the course of a championship season, so they miss it.

"For me personally, I'm just so excited about doing the Mets games, going in and talking to Terry Collins solo instead of in the presser, trying to get little tidbits . . . I think it's a real gift that a team that I've covered now for 10 years, and on the 10-year anniversary, I get to watch them try to make their way through."

"I had my glory a thousand years ago. I root for athletes to have their glory. I want David Wright to have that feeling. I'd love to see him after a year of not knowing if he'd ever play again have a shot to change it up."

One downside of Darling's national responsibilities is that he often misses weekend games late in the season, including the Mets' NL East clincher.

"I really do feel awful about that," he said. "I DVRed it so when I get home [Thursday night] I was going to watch it and relish the coverage and the guys talking about it.

"I'll let Terry Collins know that in the future this has to be done on a weekday."

As for the upcoming series itself, Darling is looking forward to it. "It's an interesting series either way," he said. "Yes, you want to start at home and you don't want to start in twilight. The good and bad of that is that in the twilight [in Los Angeles], they also have to hit [Noah] Syndergaard and [Jacob] deGrom. I don't think anything is lost [starting on the road], other than 45,000 screaming New Yorkers behind you, which can only help.

"[Clayton] Kershaw and [Zack] Greinke at home are almost unbeatable, so to beat them, you have to split one of those first two games any way, any how. That's tough going. If those two guys are on-on, as Kershaw was the other night against San Francisco, not a lot is going to happen.

"This is going to make the sabermetric and analytic people cuckoo, but there is going to be a lot of aggressive managing, whether it's bunting, hit-and-running, stealing. People are going to be really striving to get that first point on the board. It's going to be an unusual series."

Earlier this season, Darling filled in for Cohen on play-by-play for select games, part of an experiment that began in spring training. He was not entirely pleased with how that turned out.

"I really, really enjoyed it," he said. "I do have to say I was personally a little disappointed I didn't do a better job. It makes me really appreciate how great Gary is . . . It's a whole different experience and probably one I shouldn't repeat. I loved the opportunity, I thought it was great. I just think I was pretty bad.

"When we do our game well, it's kind of like free-form jazz. It just flows. And when it doesn't flow, it's noticeable for the participants.''

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