#5. Keith Hernandez
People are going to disagree with Keith's placement this high on the list, but hear me out. The best trio in baseball right now, and for the past several years, is what we get whenever we tune in to an SNY broadcast. We are spoiled by how good they are (and how good the quality of everything we see/hear is.) Keith is an integral part of that broadcast and not including him on this list would do a disservice to how strong they are together. There is a drop off when any one of them is missing. Keith is the least polished of the three, hence his #5 ranking. He is a "former player" who announces games and not an announcer who used to play. He is critical of mental lapses more than physical ones, demonstrating his former player bias. His lack of a filter on what he says is one of his more sympathetic qualities. He is like a crazy uncle who no one knows what expect from next. You might not always like what he says, but you wouldn't have a family gathering without him. I am almost sure I once heard him drop an F-bomb on the air. He is funny and he knows baseball. We are lucky to have him.
#4. Ron Darling
We are now getting into the pantheon of Mets' broadcasters and even though he has only been doing the games for less than a decade, Ron Darling has distinguished himself as one of the best in the business. His credibility as a pitcher who won a lot of games for the Mets in their heyday (99-70) gives him an air of authority when he speaks. Notwithstanding his obvious credentials on the field, he is always self-deprecating about his talents. He is thoughtful and considerate to the men with whom he shares the booth. He is an easy listen and you never get the sense that he is mailing it in. Darling's Yale education shows in his intelligent approach to his craft. He can be critical of Mets' players when they perform poorly or stupidly - such as when he referred to Frank Francisco as a "fool" for throwing at Jayson Werth in a meaningless situation. He correctly asserted that teams don't forget these things - even into next season. He once asked one of the '86 Mets if they made it to the parade the day after they won the World Series against the Red Sox. Then he paused and said, "that's the statement about that '86 team. You have to ask a guy if he made it to the parade." He's an ace in the booth, as he was on the mound.
#3. Gary Cohen
Simply the best there is right now. Gary Cohen is a lifelong Mets fan and he is unashamed of that history. His sentiments, however, never interfere with an unbiased recitation of what is happening in front of him. Gary was really good on the radio with Bob Murphy. When he moved over to the television broadcasts, fans were already familiar with his style. He was greeted with open arms mostly because of who he replaced (see below). His call of Ende Chavez' "greatest catch in franchise history" may have been a bit over the top (ask Tommie Agee), but his call of Santana's no-hitter ("It has happened!!!") still brings chills. "On the outside corner - strike three called!" has both melody and drama. "And it's outta here!!" is as exciting a home run call as there is in the game. No one practices his craft as well as Gary Cohen.
#1A. Bob Murphy
Younger fans are going to call me crazy for this selection. How can a guy who called games for more than 45 years who is in the Hall of Fame for broadcasting (winner of the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award) be second (*1A) all time? Trust me, this is no slight. Murph was awesome. His "Happy recaps" and his absolute class on the air were unrivaled. For many years he did both radio and television - the announcers (Kiner, Murphy and Lindsey Nelson) rotated duties. He was terrific at both, but when the situation was in flux, the franchise turned to Murphy to take on the radio duties. Although less glamorous, radio requires a more refined set of broadcasting skills because, unlike television, which has both visual and sound, radio is all about the announcer. It is a far more intimate relationship with the audience. Murphy took the challenge and ran with it. He became the stuff of legend.
I struggled with placing Murphy in the top spot based on longevity alone, but ultimately it came down to this: when they were doing the same job at the same time for 17 years, Murphy was always recognized as second best. No slight on Murphy; he was just alongside broadcasting royalty.
#1. Lindsey Nelson
Younger fans won't know what this is about, but anyone who has a memory of 1969 knows that Lindsey was the finest broadcaster in Mets history. He was the driving force behind what makes these broadcasts unique: their objectivity. Other teams fans hear "we" and "us" from their announcers. Nelson made sure that what he and his broadcast partners reported was the unvarnished truth. If the play was poor, he said so. But when it was great, he had the credibility to make it magical - and no one was better at describing that magic than Lindsey. He coined the phrase "the Ryan Express" to describe a fastball from "the man from Alvin, Texas" no one in baseball had ever seen before. He was teamed up with Curt Gowdy (recognized at the time as the best in the business) for the 1969 World Series. It wasn't even close. Lindsey was the far superior announcer, describing both the action on the field and the spectacle in the stands. Also a Hall of Famer, Nelson did the classiest thing I've ever seen in broadcasting. Long after his career was over, he called one final inning: Tom Seaver's 300th win at Yankee Stadium.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the best player to ever wear a Mets uniform was also in the broadcast booth for many years. Tom Seaver was as good a pitcher who ever climbed on top of a mound, but he was unable to translate that excellence into the booth. His greatest strength was his story-telling and his ability to describe the mechanics of pitching. He said on numerous occasions that location, movement and velocity were the most important components of good pitching - and he would always add "in that order." He was miscast as a booth guy. It was still good to hear him.
Before the days of cable or satellite television, I can remember my father saying, "someday they will figure out a way to make you pay a dollar for every game you watch on television." His prescience, which was not ordinarily one of his talents, was absolutely on the mark. When cable came to our neighborhood in the early 80's, even though it was a struggle, we knew we couldn't do without the Mets - so we got the package that included SportsChannel. In those early days, the Mets used different announcers than their usual broadcasts on WOR, which were still more common than the cable broadcasts. Later on, MSG took over and a guy who was doing Yankees games was somehow in our booth. It felt like there was an intruder in our living room. Somehow, he stopped doing any games for the Yankees and we got saddled with Fran Healy full time. The invasion lasted for what seemed like an eternity. Every time that man said, "he tattooed that ball . . ," I thought to myself, "whose son-in-law is this guy?" He never talked about Mets history, which was understandable as he was never a Met. But did he have be so tone deaf to the fans who were listening to him that he had to talk about the Yankees? His voice was flat and dull and he sounded like the lummox he was. Undoubtedly the worst broadcaster in Mets history, he was squeezed out of the booth just as a bright new age was about to begin.