The 2017 season marks the 12th year of Mets baseball on SNY. It is also Ron Darling’s 12th year in the Mets’ booth, as the former pitcher has been with SNY since its launch in 2006. Between his 11 years with SNY and nine as a Mets pitcher, Darling has been a major figure in the organization—and a popular, familiar face to Mets fans—for two full decades. Given his contributions to the franchise, Darling deserves a spot in the Mets Hall of Fame.
Darling is unique for the work he’s done both on and off the field in New York. His on-field performance speaks for itself: From 1983 to 1991, Darling went 99-70 for the Mets while pitching to a 3.50 ERA (99 ERA-) and a 3.81 FIP (105 FIP-). The right-hander was a workhorse, throwing more than 200 innings six different times during that span and finishing among the top Mets pitchers of all time in most pitching categories. Darling, for example, ranks fourth in franchise history in wins (99) and innings pitched (1,620), fifth in games started (241), sixth in strikeouts (1,148), eighth in fWAR (15.7), and ninth in bWAR (16.1).
Most importantly, Darling was a key piece to the most successful run the Mets have ever had. In the seven years from 1984 to 1990, Darling served as an anchor of the Mets’ rotation as the team won at least 90 games six times, at least 100 games twice, finished over .500 all seven seasons, made the playoffs twice, and won a championship in 1986. It’s no coincidence that 1986 was Darling’s best year in the big leagues. In the Mets’ championship season, the righty went 15-6 with a 2.81 ERA (79 ERA-) and a 3.43 FIP (94 FIP-)—both career bests over full seasons—with a career-high 184 strikeouts, 3.5 fWAR, and 4.6 bWAR.
Darling made six postseason starts with the Mets: one in the 1986 NLCS, three in the 1986 World Series, and two in the 1988 NLCS. Despite his less-than-stellar performances in the two biggest games—Game 7 of both the ’86 World Series and the ’88 NLCS—he wasn’t bad overall, pitching to a 3.94 ERA in 29.2 innings. Darling’s best postseason performances came in Games 1 and 4 of the ’86 World Series, when he allowed no earned runs over seven innings of work in each game.
Fifteen years after his playing career with the Mets ended, Darling rejoined the franchise as an in-game color commentator for SNY. It’s in this role that Darling expanded and cemented his legacy in New York. Darling is a bright and articulate former player who draws upon 13 years of big league experience to provide sharp insight, especially as it relates to pitching.
Darling also contributes to the incredible chemistry that defines that Mets’ booth. For example, Darling’s cerebral and measured approach provides a nice counterbalance to Keith Hernandez’s more freewheeling and unpredictable style. And that’s not to say that Darling lacks personality. His dry, self-deprecating sense of humor—for instance, when discussing the later days of his playing career in Montreal and Oakland—adds a great deal to the broadcast.
Darling also distinguishes himself from other broadcasters in his willingness to criticize hometown players. While it’s clear that Darling wants the Mets to succeed, he is by no means a homer. When a Mets player makes a physical or mental mistake on the field, Darling offers honest criticism and explains how he might have handled the play differently when he was a player. Anyone who watches other teams’ broadcasts knows how rare that kind of objectivity is.
Darling’s work in the Mets’ booth has earned him national recognition and a lead color commentary role on TBS’s regular- and postseason broadcasts. Those accolades are well deserved. Now, the Mets should follow suit by giving Darling an official induction ceremony and a plaque in the team’s Hall of Fame.
Remember, team Halls of Fame are not reserved for players commemorated in Cooperstown. A team Hall of Fame is meant to honor players who were iconic members of a specific franchise, recognizable to and beloved by that team’s fanbase. Mets Hall of Famers Ed Kranepool, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, and Mookie Wilson are good examples of such players.
Ron Darling certainly belongs in that company. Darling has been a major part of the Mets’ franchise during important periods of team history. His near-decade as a Mets pitcher came during the team’s longest and most sustained run of success. As a broadcaster, Darling covered the 2006-2008 seasons—for all of the good and bad that that entailed—as well as the current period of winning Mets baseball.
With twenty memorable years with the Mets under his belt, Darling is an obvious candidate for the team’s Hall of Fame. It’s time for the Mets to honor him as such.