The Mets have jettisoned some of their stars, but three of the biggest remain on the job — and undeterred.
No matter what, SNY announcers Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez keep showing up for work and doing what they can to keep things interesting.
“These kinds of seasons can be a grind before and after the game,” Darling said, “but when the anthem is sung and the first pitch is thrown, I feel exactly the same as I did 18 years ago: excited, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
This was before Tuesday night’s game against the Cubs at Citi Field, in a Q&A that followed a screening of a one-hour SNY special, “Gary Keith & Ron 18,” that will premiere after Friday night’s game against Atlanta.
It documents and reinforces the fact that no matter the Mets' ups and downs on the field, their lead television booth has remained popular with fans.
And the trio has been at it for 18 seasons, surpassing the 17 years for the original Mets announcing team of Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy.
That was the impetus for the documentary, which when it was scheduled looked to follow what would be a key division game.
Not so much now. When Wednesday dawned, the Mets were 21 games behind Atlanta in the National League East.
How do the announcers remain engaged?
“There’s always hope in every nine-inning match,” Cohen said. “It’s our job to present an upbeat broadcast of a baseball game every day.
“I think that that in itself is a blessing for us. We get to watch baseball games and they pay us for it. It’s pretty extraordinary. I never forget just how important that is.
“And when the season gets to a place like this, as is the case when games get out of hand, we sometimes have even more fun.”
That was a reference to the off-script kibitzing that has been a part of SNY’s Mets coverage since Day One in 2006 and has highlighted the distinct personalities of the three men.
All three announcers are in their 60s now, and Darling and Hernandez are long past their playing days, but somehow it all works.
“We thought that Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy were doing it forever,” SNY president Steve Raab said. “We’re now one year past forever with Gary, Keith and Ron.
“The word that comes for me is ‘pride.’ Pride and appreciation for what they are and that we’re fortunate enough for Gary, Keith and Ron to have spent what is now their 18th season with SNY.”
The show itself features clips through the years as well as interviews with SNY personnel and appreciative fans.
The three announcers paid tribute during and after the show to colleagues such as producer Gregg Picker, the rest of the production team, past and present, to sideline reporters Kevin Burkhardt and Steve Gelbs and to their predecessors in the booth.
“I have people in their 20s and 30s come up to me and say, ‘I grew up watching you guys,’ ” Cohen said. “That’s an extraordinary thing to me. I can’t imagine having that kind of impact the way those [original] guys had an impact on me.”
Said Hernandez: “The last couple of years, I’ve had more Mets fans come up to me thanking me for not only playing and being a part of the Mets organization but staying with the organization in the booth . . . I’d never thought of it that way, and it just makes me feel really good.”
Hernandez, who turns 70 in October, is the oldest of the three. He recently signed a three-year contract that will take him through 2025, and Cohen and Darling also are signed beyond this season.
How much longer do they plan to do this?
“Maybe in two years they’ll try to have a youth movement like we’re doing right now with the team,” Hernandez said. “I’m going to take it each year as it comes. I don’t know how I’m going to feel next year. I don’t know how I’m going to feel the year after. I do know that I enjoy what I do.
“Even right now with such a disappointing season and all the turmoil with the trading deadline and everything that went on, it’s still a great ballgame out there.”
Hernandez said the shorter games in the pitch clock era help, as does the fact the Long Island Expressway roadwork that used to complicate his commute to Sag Harbor is complete.
“I’ve got an 86-mile drive, an hour-and-a-half, and they paved the LIE, finally, so it’s a much smoother ride in,” he said. “I enjoy coming to work and preparing for a game and watching a baseball game. I still enjoy it.”