John Strubel claims to understand and respect, “Ralph Kiner’s importance in Mets history”, but that doesn’t mean he’s particularly patient when it comes to the Kiner’s very occasional visits to the SNY booth, this Sunday’s game against Arizona being a case in point (link courtesy Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)
Kiner, 89, was back in Flushing, making the annual pilgrimage to appear on SNY’s broadcast. I understand the desire to honor Mets history, but listening to Kiner was uncomfortable. His three-inning appearance was dominated by slurred, inaudible comments. While Kiner appears to still have a sharp memory of people, places and games and has been referred to by the New York Times as ”a human archive of Mets and baseball history,” sorry, he no longer adds value to the broadcast.
Call it blasphemy, I understand. Refer to me in expletives, I can take it. But when you’re done throwing darts ask yourself, is it true? Go to MLB.com and watch the replay of the game. Listen to Kiner. When you’re done listening, ask yourself, “Why was Kiner invited on the air?”
I thought of the possible reasons why the Mets (and SNY) still invite Kiner back to the broadcast booth. If it’s tradition, then please explain to me when the Mets began taking tradition into consideration (see Banner Day, Mets Hall of Fame, Old Timer’s Day, etc.)?
Pride? History? SNY can go along of directions in response. Tom Seaver. Bud Harrelson. Darryl Strawberry. In fact, don’t the Mets already have a strong contigency of team pride and history already on staff (Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda)?
Kiner’s work is no longer enjoyable. His slurred speech and inaudible mumblings are no longer desirable. Please, SNY, stop while you’re ahead. This is not how Mets fans want to remember Ralph Kiner.
OK, I’m pretty certain Strubel holds the Mets and SNY accountable here rather than blaming Kiner for having lost a step or several at nearly 90 years of age. I’d also hope that when and if Ralph’s no longer capable of adding coherent thoughts to Mets broadcast, he’d be the first person to admit as much. But to suggest Tom Seaver would be an adequate guest/replacement compared to Kiner has me wondering if Stubel’s actually heard the former’s not-so-terrific tenures as an analyst for the Mets or Yankees.
I’m not going to argue that Kiner’s best days are long behind him, but what purpose is served in pointing out the obvious? Could it be, that during an era in which Mets ownership is generally short-sighted and purely profit motivated, they continue to invite Ralph to participate because we love him so much?
My own memories of Kiner’s insights and humor are in no way threatened by episodes like Sunday. Even on his worst afternoons, he’s still making more far sense than Fran Healy ever managed. I’ll take a few of innings of Ralph Kiner at diminished capacity over Josh Lewin on the radio any day of the week.