Ron Darling pitched in part of 13 big league seasons, earning a World Series ring with the 1986 Mets. He's now an analyst and color commentator for a number of networks, including TBS. You'll be able to find him on the call for this Sunday's MLB on TBS telecast of the White Sox hosting the Yankees at 2 PM Eastern. Also, if you're in the New York area, you won't be blacked out of the game.
Darling retired from baseball following the 1995 season, and according to him, going from the pitcher's mound to the broadcast booth isn't a seamless process. Much like playing baseball, being good at it requires practice.
"It's really hard work," he told me. "It's all about repetitions, and even then I think the most important thing is almost out of your hands. Do the fans enjoy your voice? Do they enjoy what you have to say? If you put the work in, you'll be who you are. Until then, you're fumbling because you don't have enough reps." Of course, Darling has plenty of reps under his belt now. He's done broadcast work for the A's, Nationals and most notably the Mets, and also appears with TBS occasionally during the regular season as well as a regular member of their postseason coverage. He also picked up some secondhand technique from some of the best in the business.
"I think you get an education, whether you know it or not, as a player by being interviewed every day. You don't think of it that way, but by osmosis you learn how [journalists] do their job." Darling also said that during his time with the Mets, he would sometimes spend day games listening to the broadcasts of Ralph Kiner and Tim McCarver (whom he lauded as "the greatest color commentator of all time") through headphones in the dugout.
"You want to weave a story," Darling said of calling games. "When you do regular season games, you want to try to weave a story over the course of six months... when you're doing the postseason on TBS, though, you want to stay away from the story and put your manager's cap on. You want to stay out of the way of the Madison Bumgarner story and let him tell the story. Let the viewer experience it for themselves."
The big story of this past week, however, wasn't Bumgarner but the trade deadline. It's worth noting that Darling was traded twice in July of 1991. First, he was traded to the Expos on July 15th, then was traded by Montreal to the Athletics on the 31st. However, Darling was happy about the moves.
"I was so happy to be traded," he told me. "I should have been traded two years prior. I went from a crazy team in the Mets, to a team where I didn't really belong in the Expos, to a team where I had a real family [the A's]." I asked Ron which team he thought was the biggest story of the deadline, and it was the static Padres that caught his eye.
"I think the team that didn't do anything is the story, the Padres," he told me. "Craig Kimbrel didn't go anywhere, Joaquin Benoit didn't go anywhere... Justin Upton, who's going to be a free agent... San Diego had a lot of pieces they could have moved and they didn't when they could have really helped their ballclub, and they didn't. It doesn't make sense." Indeed, San Diego's inaction could have been part of the reason that the Yankees came away with only Dustin Ackley when the dust was settled. The Yankees supposedly offered to give up top prospect Jorge Mateo and to take on Jedd Gyorko's albatross contract so that they could acquire Kimbrel, but it was all for naught. However, Darling thinks that the Yankees can still thrive.
The Blue Jays loading up on weapons (Troy Tulowitzki, David Price), doesn't concern him. "Well [the Yankees] in first place, and they have two, maybe three key things that they need to maintain. [Mark] Teixeira and A-Rod have to keep up the kind of seasons they've been having. The other thing is [Dellin] Betances and [Andrew] Miller. They've been used almost every night. They've been used quite a lot and their health is of the utmost importance."
When pressed further about Alex Rodriguez, Darling admitted that he had his doubts entering the season. "I was in a long line of people that thought he couldn't come back at this age at this level. Not just at a high level, but he should have been an All-Star this year." Elaborating further, Darling said "His attitude with the ballclub has been infectious. Being away from the game for so long, he's come back and had a love for the game he hasn't had since he was 19 with the Mariners."
Overall, Darling believes the future is bright for the Yankees, and that the story they weave this year will in the end be a happy one. You can listen to him call Sunday's Ivan Nova/Jeff Samardzija throwdown on TBS at 2 PM.
Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.