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Ron Darling

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Full Name: Ronald Maurice Darling Primary Position: P
Height/Weight: 6' 3"/195 First Game: September 6, 1983
Birthdate: August 19, 1960 Final Game: August 15, 1995
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii MLB Experience: 13 years
Bat/Throw: Right/Right


Biography

Ronald Maurice Darling (born August 19, 1960) is a former right-handed starting pitcher who played for the New York Mets, Oakland Athletics and Montreal Expos. Darling is currently a sports broadcaster for SNY.

During his 13-year career, Darling amassed a 136-116 won-loss record including 1,590 strikeouts and a 3.87 ERA. He threw thirteen shutouts in his career and was selected to the 1985 All-Star team in 1985.

Darling's weak point was control as he finished in the top four in walks three times in his career. On the positive side, he was considered one of the better fielding pitchers of the time, winning a Gold Glove Award in 1989. Darling was known to have one of the best pickoff moves among right-handers. An above-average overall athlete, he was sometimes used as a pinch runner. In 1989, he hit home runs in two consecutive starts.

Darling appeared on the Hall of Fame balloting for 2001, receiving one vote.

College and early career

Darling was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a Hawaiian-Chinese mother and French-Canadian father and is a fluent speaker of both Chinese and French. Darling is often referred to as highly intelligent and was often cited for getting into trouble during games by overthinking. He attended Yale University, managing a dual major in French and Southeast Asian history. Darling compiled, by far, the most prolific major league career of any Yale alumnus since 19th century pitcher, Bill Hutchinson. Darling was also the last Yale alumnus to play in the majors until pitcher Craig Breslow debuted in 2005.

On 1981-05-21, while at Yale, Darling faced eventual All-Star Frank Viola of St. John's University and had a no-hitter through eleven innings. In the 12th inning, St. John's broke up the no-hitter and then scored on a double-steal to beat Darling 1-0. Darling's performance remains the longest no-hitter in NCAA history and the game is considered by some to be the best in college baseball history. [1]

He was selected in the 1st round (9th overall) of the 1981 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers. He put up medicore numbers with the AA Tulsa Drillers and, before the 1982 season began, he and Walt Terrell were traded to the Mets for Lee Mazzilli in an ill-advised trade. Darling and Terrell combined for seven double-digit win seasons with the Mets and Terrell was traded three seasons later for one of the Mets' all-time stars, Howard Johnson. Mazzilli, meanwhile, never regained his limited glory of the late 1970s and played less than a season with Texas before being traded for Bucky Dent. Dent then batted under .240 for less than two seasons before being released by Texas.

Darling would have compiled decent numbers with the AAA Tidewater Tides in 1982 and 1983 except for very high base on balls counts during both seasons. Despite that, Darling was called up to the majors in late 1983. The Mets had the worst record in the National League and second-worst in the majors when Darling debuted on September 6 1983. He was impressive in that start but left the game down 1-0 and the Mets lost 2-0. The Mets were also last in offense in the N.L. so Darling's 0-3 start were all in decent pitching performances that season. He finished his season with a complete game victory and was in the majors for good.

New York Mets

Building to a championship

In 1984, Darling won a spot in the starting rotation and maintained a spot there almost uninterrupted until 1990. While his early walk percentages were poor — he even led the league in walks in 1985 — he never again showed the astronomical walk percentages he had at AAA. Within a couple seasons, he improved it to decent levels and even so much as halved his Tidewater numbers in that category.

With Darling and Terrell each getting their first long-term chance in the majors coupled with the debut of young star and eventual Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, the Mets went from second-worst in the majors in 1983 to fourth-best in the majors in 1984 — but also second-best in the division thereby missing the postseason. Darling had difficulty pitching on the road in 1984 with inferior numbers in most categories compared to those in pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium including an ERA more than 50% higher. He had a fantastic tear of seven wins in seven starts in June (5-0) and July (1.88 ERA) including a pair of complete game four-hit shutouts but the other two-thirds of the season were not nearly as successful. The Mets were in first place at the end of July but Darling's 2-6 record the rest of the way was little help and the Chicago Cubs won the division by 6 ½ games. Still, Darling's 12-9 overall record with an ERA of 3.81 was considered impressive for the 24-year-old.

1985 was an improvement for Darling despite a career-high 114 walks. His April included a one-hit seven-inning no-decision and a five-hit shutout with eleven strikeouts. On July 4, 1985, Darling pitched on one day's rest making the only relief appearance of his first seven seasons during a marathon nineteen-inning 16-13 win. Darling finished the legendary game in which thirteen runs were scored in the extra innings alone and the Mets blew four leads and nearly blew a fifth. After starting 9-2, he was selected to his only All-Star team but did not participate in the game. Overall, he posted his career-best winning percentage with a 16-6 record. His record could have been spectacular but he received seven no-decisions and lost an eighth in games where he allowed one or zero earned runs. These included a nine-inning four-hit scoreless performance on October 1, 1985 which went eleven innings before the only run was scored. The Mets narrowly missed the postseason but Darling established himself as a clear number-two starter behind Gooden's untouchable 24-4 season.

World Series

In 1986, everything came together for the Mets and Darling was no exception. He finished with a 15-6 record and posted his career-best 2.81 ERA which was third-best in the N.L. He also received the only Cy Young Award votes of his career, finishing fifth behind Mike Scott who had his best season. The Mets led the way most of the season and their top four starters all received Cy Young votes. On 1986-05-27, Darling tied his career-high with twelve strikeouts in a five-hit complete game victory which, despite a poor April, raised his record to 6-0. He was good on the road but even better at home with a 10-2 record at Shea. His worst blemish was off the field when, on 1986-07-19, he and teammates Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera and Tim Teufel were arrested outside a bar in Houston, Texas for fighting with security guards (who were also off-duty police officers). All four were released in time for the following game and the worst results were $200 fines but the incident fed into the Mets' reputation as a rowdy crew that season. Despite the run-in, Darling was featured on the cover of the 1986-08-25 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.

The 1986 National League Championship Series was tied 1-1 when Darling started Game 3 but he was hit early and left losing 4-0. The Mets recovered to win both the game and eventually the series and Darling opened the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. He pitched fantastic in Game 1 allowing only a single unearned run but lost a hard-luck 1-0 game to Bruce Hurst. In danger of falling into a three-games-to-one hole, Darling started Game 4 and extended his 0.00 ERA to fourteen innings as the Mets easily won 6-2. After the legendary Game 6, Bill Buckner and the Sox made a good run at redeeming themselves by scoring three early runs against Darling in Game 7. Shaky into the fourth inning, he was replaced but the Mets recovered to win their second World Championship.

Post-championship decline

Darling went 12-8 in 1987 but had to battle most of the way along with the rest of the team. His April ERA was over six and he didn't win a game in either May or June, going 0-4 with eight no-decisions between victories. He rebounded to win six consecutive starts after the All-Star break but a good second half only lowered his ERA to 4.29 — the worst of his first seven seasons. The Mets' overall struggles were demonstrated by Darling's 1987-06-28 start in which he had a no-hitter through seven innings but the Mets wound up losing the game. They were poised for a run at the division in mid-September when Darling went out with one of the only injuries of his career. He missed the last couple weeks of the season and the Mets missed the postseason.

In 1988, Darling bounced back with a career high seventeen wins. He started quickly with two shutouts in his first four games. A first-half 10-5 record with three shutouts and a 2.70 ERA were not enough to win an All-Star spot. On the season, he compiled a career-high four shutouts but also suffered one of his worst games, getting knocked out in the first inning of an 11-2 loss on 1988-07-19. Darling's home-versus-road discrepancy was enormous as he went 14-1 at Shea and only 3-8 on the road with an ERA more than twice as high. He finished the season strong winning his last five decisions and the Mets coasted into the playoffs but Darling was miserable in the 1988 National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the series tied 1-1, he fell into an early 3-0 hole but the Mets bounced back twice to win 8-4. In the deciding Game 7, Darling was again matched against 1988's all-everything pitcher, Orel Hershiser, and was completely overmatched. Darling gave up six runs and was knocked out in the second inning while Hershiser pitched a five-hit shutout shocking the Mets and winning the series' Most Valuable Player award. The one-sided game was the last postseason appearance for the Mets until eleven years later.

After their 100-win 1988 season ended so disappointingly, the Mets started a decline that lasted well into the 1990s. Darling's 1989 started as poorly as 1988 had ended when he lost his first three starts with an ERA of 11.57. He recovered with a good May but was inconsistent for the entire season, finishing 14-14 with a 3.52 ERA. A few bad games down the stretch resulted in him losing five of his last seven starts and contributed to the Mets' missing the postseason. On a positive note, Darling became the first Mets pitcher to win the Gold Glove Award. He was also the last N.L. pitcher to win the award before Greg Maddux's remarkable streak of thirteen consecutive Gold Gloves. For another spot in Mets' history, on 1989-08-10, Darling won his 83rd game with the Mets to move him past Jon Matlack into fourth on the Mets' all-time wins list. He has maintained that spot ever since behind Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Jerry Koosman.

While 1989 was inconsistent for Darling, he would never again match the ERA from the spotty season. In 1990, the team was clearly in transition and manager Davey Johnson's job was in jeopardy. Seemingly caught in the whirlwind, Darling was sent to the bullpen part-time for the first time in his career. His first relief performance in late April went well but was followed by three terrible starts so the rest of his season was a mix of starting and relief. With an ERA of 4.60 in late August, Darling was in the bullpen for the next month. He made two starts to close out his season and won them both but the Mets could not catch the Pittsburgh Pirates, again missing the postseason. In total, 1990 was Darling's first losing season (7-9) since his 35-inning opening season and was his worst ERA to-date. At only thirty years old, his time with the Mets was apparently coming to a close.

Trade and American League

In 1991, Darling's long-time teammate (and fellow Hawaiian), Sid Fernandez started suffering chronic injuries, including one to start the season. As a result, Darling was back in the starting rotation but it was clear that he was on the market to be traded when Fernandez was ready to return. Although his pitching was improved over 1990, he was still inconsistent, winning three games with scoreless pitching but getting hit hard in many other games. Perhaps sensing hostility in New York, Darling reversed his previous trend by posting horrible numbers at usually-friendly Shea Stadium while pitching quite well on the road. He pitched scoreless two-hit ball over eight innings in Montreal in his last pre-All-Star break game but pitched only once more before finally being traded.

Darling's Mets career came to an end on 1991-07-15 when he was traded with a minor leaguer to the Montreal Expos — whom he had two-hit less than two weeks earlier — for their similarly declining former closer, Tim Burke. Burke pitched well for the Mets but they sank like a stone after the trade going 28-48 — worst in the majors. Burke was out of the majors after 1992 and the Mets were terrible for the next several years (though more due to ill-advised expensive acquisitions than the Darling trade). The Expos, meanwhile, re-traded Darling to the Oakland Athletics on 1991-07-31 for two minor leaguers. None of the three minor leaguers the Expos were left with played more than two games in the majors and they fell from second-to-last to last in 1991 before bouncing back in 1992. Darling's three starts for Montreal were poor with an ERA of 7.41.

After the trade to Oakland, Darling immediately logged two seven-inning scoreless starts and won his first three decisions. Then, his poor control and bad luck returned and Darling lost seven straight decisions including his last six starts. In three of those losses, he allowed two or fewer runs. Oakland, coming off its third consecutive league pennant followed by a shocking World Series sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, was barely above .500 before acquiring Darling. His acquisition did little to affect that.

After the 1991 season, Darling became a free agent but re-signed with Oakland. In 1992, he had his last quality year, finishing with over 200 innings pitched, a 3.66 ERA and 15 wins. Inconsistent for most of the season, he also showed flashes of brilliance that he rarely showed in New York, including three complete game two-hit shutouts — the only two-hitters of his career. He also had more bad luck including a no-decision seven-inning one-hitter that was nearly a loss, an eight-inning two-hitter that turned into a no-decision after an unearned run, and two other games where he allowed one earned run and took the loss. Regardless, Darling started the season as the fourth starter and finished it as arguably the number one starter with the top record percentage-wise on the team. Oakland coasted into the postseason with little trouble and Darling was called to start Game 3 with the series tied. He pitched well but gave up two costly home runs and took the loss. The A's went on to lose Games 4 and 6 as well and Darling never again pitched in the postseason. Similar to the Mets, the A's descended into a postseason drought that lasted seven seasons.

Darling re-signed with Oakland again after 1992, this time a multi-year deal for over $2 million per season, but he never again showed the resurgence of 1992. 1993, instead, was downright terrible for Darling. Through July, his ERA hovered around six and he was relegated to long relief for over a week but his record was a decent 4-4 due to numerous games where he was fortunate to receive a no-decision. In three games, he surrendered five runs but didn't lose and, in another game, he gave up seven runs but the A's came back to win 12-11. Oddly, he pitched better after July lowering his ERA to 5.16 but lost five of his last six decisions.

Outside of July, Darling's 1994 would have been as bad as 1993. In July, he won five starts with one no-decision with an ERA under three. It was Darling's last hurrah. He stumbled through two starts in August before the 1994 baseball strike ended the season. With his torrid July, Darling reached double digits in wins once again but finished under .500 with a 4.50 ERA. The A's were seemingly determined to get their money's worth from Darling so he wound up leading the American League with 25 games started despite pitching that was average at best.

When the strike lasted into 1995, Darling started terribly, logging an ERA over nine in his four starts without making it through the fifth inning in any of them. Symbolic of his career, his only complete game of the season ended up being a 1-0 loss on 1995-05-30. Darling won only four games and, after a bad loss raised his ERA to 6.23, Oakland released him on 1995-08-21 bringing his playing career to an end.

Post-retirement

Since 2000, Darling has been active in television. He worked as a broadcaster for the A's, had a FOX show called Baseball Today and appeared on The Best Damn Sports Show Period [2]. He also provided baseball analysis for the YES Network, Fox Sports Net and, in 2004, College Sports TV. [3]

In 2005, Darling was involved in banking ventures in Southern California [4] when he was hired to be the television color commentator for the inaugural season of the Washington Nationals. Darling worked alongside veteran play-by-play announcer Mel Proctor on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and suffered through low viewership due to legal battles between Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Comcast cable television [5]. Darling and Proctor were not expected to be asked back by the Nationals for 2006.

In 2006, Darling was hired by SportsNet New York as a color commentator for the Mets joining veteran Gary Cohen and former Mets teammate Keith Hernandez.

Darling has also had small roles in the films Shallow Hal and The Day After Tomorrow.


Statistics

Pitching Stats

Year Team G GS W L ERA K R ER CG SHO SV IP H HR BB IB WP HBP
1983 NY N 5 5 1 3 2.80 23 11 11 1 0 0 35.1 31 0 17 1 3 3
1984 NY N 33 33 12 9 3.81 136 97 87 2 2 0 205.2 179 17 104 2 7 5
1985 NY N 36 35 16 6 2.90 167 93 80 4 2 0 248 214 21 114 1 7 3
1986 NY N 34 34 15 6 2.81 184 84 74 4 2 0 237 203 21 81 2 7 3
1987 NY N 32 32 12 8 4.29 167 111 99 2 0 0 207.2 183 24 96 3 6 3
1988 NY N 34 34 17 9 3.25 161 97 87 7 4 0 240.2 218 24 60 2 7 5
1989 NY N 33 33 14 14 3.52 153 100 85 4 0 0 217.1 214 19 70 7 12 3
1990 NY N 33 18 7 9 4.50 99 73 63 1 0 0 126 135 20 44 4 5 5
1991 OAK A 12 12 3 7 4.08 60 34 34 0 0 0 75 64 7 38 2 3 2
1991 NY N 17 17 5 6 3.87 58 50 44 0 0 0 102.1 96 9 28 1 9 6
1991 MON N 3 3 0 2 7.41 11 16 14 0 0 0 17 25 6 5 0 4 1
1991 Total 32 32 8 15 4.26 129 100 92 0 0 0 194.1 185 22 71 3 16 9
1991 TOT N 20 20 5 8 4.37 69 66 58 0 0 0 119.1 121 15 33 1 13 7
1992 OAK A 33 33 15 10 3.66 99 98 84 4 3 0 206.1 198 15 72 5 13 4
1993 OAK A 31 29 5 9 5.16 95 107 102 3 0 0 178 198 22 72 5 3 5
1994 OAK A 25 25 10 11 4.50 108 89 80 4 0 0 160 162 18 59 3 6 7
1995 OAK A 21 21 4 7 6.23 69 79 72 1 0 0 104 124 16 46 2 5 4
Total NL 260 244 99 72 3.54 1159 732 644 25 10 0 1637 1498 161 619 23 67 37
Total AL 122 120 37 44 4.63 431 407 372 12 3 0 723.1 746 78 287 17 30 22
Total 382 364 136 116 3.87 1590 1139 1016 37 13 0 2360.1 2244 239 906 40 97 59

Fielding Stats

Year Team POS G GS INN PO A ERR DP TP PB SB CS PkO AVG
1983 NY N P 5 5 35.1 2 6 0 1 0 0 5 3 3 1.000
1984 NY N P 33 33 205.2 17 38 3 3 0 3 24 13 7 .948
1985 NY N P 36 35 248 24 47 2 5 0 2 12 14 7 .973
1986 NY N P 34 34 237 24 47 7 7 0 1 24 15 3 .910
1987 NY N P 32 32 207.2 17 43 3 5 0 4 33 4 3 .952
1988 NY N P 34 34 240.2 17 35 3 4 0 0 20 6 5 .945
1989 NY N P 33 33 217.1 15 37 4 5 0 2 26 11 2 .929
1990 NY N P 33 18 126 7 22 2 0 0 2 24 4 4 .935
1991 OAK A P 12 12 75 8 9 0 1 0 0 7 1 1 1.000
1991 NY N P 17 17 102.1 7 17 5 0 0 0 12 2 3 .828
1991 MON N P 3 3 17 3 1 1 1 0 0 5 0 0 .800
1991 Total P 32 32 194.1 18 27 6 2 0 0 24 3 4 .882
1991 TOT N P 20 20 119.1 10 18 6 1 0 0 17 2 3 .824
1992 OAK A P 33 33 206.1 11 26 4 2 0 0 10 13 1 .902
1992 OAK A DH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
1993 OAK A P 31 29 178 12 17 1 0 0 3 14 11 1 .967
1994 OAK A P 25 25 160 3 26 2 1 0 0 7 6 2 .935
1995 OAK A P 21 21 104 10 20 0 2 0 0 3 4 1 1.000
Total P 382 364 2360.1 177 391 37 37 0 17 226 107 43 .939
Total DH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Batting Stats

Year Team G AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B BB SO HBP SH SB IBB GDP
1983 NY N 5 10 0 1 0 0 .100 .100 .100 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 0 0
1984 NY N 39 67 7 10 0 3 .149 .159 .164 1 0 1 19 0 6 0 0 1
1985 NY N 42 76 9 13 0 0 .171 .213 .224 4 0 4 25 0 13 1 0 0
1986 NY N 34 81 4 8 0 0 .099 .131 .123 2 0 3 29 0 10 0 0 0
1987 NY N 32 65 5 8 0 4 .123 .149 .200 5 0 2 22 0 10 0 0 0
1988 NY N 34 82 4 18 0 4 .220 .229 .317 4 2 1 21 0 9 0 0 1
1989 NY N 35 73 8 9 2 5 .123 .147 .219 1 0 1 28 1 5 0 0 0
1990 NY N 34 31 2 4 0 2 .129 .206 .129 0 0 3 12 0 5 0 0 0
1991 OAK A 12 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1991 NY N 17 34 0 4 0 1 .118 .118 .206 3 0 0 14 0 5 0 0 0
1991 MON N 3 6 0 1 0 2 .167 .167 .333 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0
1991 Total 32 40 0 5 0 3 .125 .125 .225 4 0 0 16 0 6 0 0 0
1991 TOT N 20 40 0 5 0 3 .125 .125 .225 4 0 0 16 0 6 0 0 0
1992 OAK A 34 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1993 OAK A 32 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1994 OAK A 27 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1995 OAK A 22 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total NL 275 525 39 76 2 21 .145 .170 .204 21 2 15 175 1 65 1 0 2
Total AL 127 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 402 526 39 76 2 21 .144 .169 .203 21 2 15 175 1 65 1 0 2

Transactions

  • Selected by Texas Rangers in the 1st round (9th pick overall) of the free-agent draft (June 8, 1981).
  • Traded by Texas Rangers with Walt Terrell to New York Mets in exchange for Lee Mazzilli (April 1, 1982).
  • Traded by New York Mets with Mike Thomas to Montreal Expos in exchange for Tim Burke (July 15, 1991).
  • Traded by Montreal Expos to Oakland Athletics in exchange for Matt Grott and Russell Cormier (July 31, 1991).
  • Granted free agency (October 31, 1991).
  • Signed by Oakland Athletics (January 17, 1992).
  • Granted free agency (October 28, 1992).
  • Signed by Oakland Athletics (December 17, 1992).
  • Released by Oakland Athletics (August 21, 1995).

Career Highlights

External links

Trivia

See also

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