Mets Opening Day Mailbag: Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling on 2021 season

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Gary Cohen Keith Hernandez Ron Darling Headshots SNY TV Broadcast Booth
Gary Cohen Keith Hernandez Ron Darling Headshots SNY TV Broadcast Booth

The Mets open the 2021 season Monday in Philadelphia and SNY will provide fans with a special 60-minute Citi Pre-Game Live at 6:00 p.m. SNY’s coverage will continue with W.B. Mason Post-Game Live following the game.

Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are answering your Mets questions — and otherwise — for Opening Day...

Which Met do you think will have a breakout year?

Gary: This is such a hard question, because so much of the Mets’ everyday lineup has already set such a high standard. So I would look in another direction, toward the bullpen, and tab Miguel Castro as the breakout guy. He’s always had the arm, but not the control to be a highly successful reliever. This spring, he was able to consistently throw strikes.

Keith: Edwin Diaz. This is not exactly a breakout year. This would be more of a comeback year. I expect Diaz to return to 2018, elite closer form. I think he’s over the hump. No fans in the stands was very beneficial to Edwin last year.

Ron: Jeff McNeil is going to be considered one of the best, more unique players after the 2021 season.

What are you most excited to see about this new Mets team?

Gary: It starts with Francisco Lindor. I’m not sure Mets fans understand what an incredibly dynamic player Lindor is. He can literally do everything on a baseball field, and do it with flair and passion.

Keith: The line-up, which is balanced, has speed, power.

Ron: Excited to watch Luis Rojas manage. The most challenging of years for any new manager, this year we should begin to see if he is a difference maker.

If you were to play with anyone past or present, who would it be and why?

Gary: Well, I would be thrilled to play with anyone in the big leagues, having never done so. But I would have loved to have been around Satchel Paige. No player in baseball history intrigues me more.

Keith: So many, it’s hard to pick one, but Lou Gehrig, which means I’d be on the bench or in the outfield.

Ron: Tony Conigliaro, my childhood baseball hero.

What do you think is the Mets biggest obstacle coming into this season?

Gary: Without the DH, defense will again be the overriding concern. They have upgraded at catcher and shortstop, but still have everyday questions at third base, and in left and center field.

Keith: The Atlanta Braves.

Ron: Catching the ball.

With Mike Piazza's recent discussion about the Mets Hall of Fame and retiring numbers, how important do you think it is to have more retired numbers?

— Brian Lacoff, The Warm-Up newsletter subscriber

Gary: It’s not a matter of more, it’s a matter of honoring those who are deserving. The Mets have always been extremely selective in retiring numbers, but with the franchise starting its 60th season, I would expect some more announcements in the near future.

Keith: I don’t think it should be overused. It would lose its value. It must remain a high honor with extremely high standards. That being said, I find it interesting that arguably the greatest team in Mets’ history, certainly the greatest decade ever, is not represented.

Ron: Nos. 16, 17, and 18 need to be hoisted.

Do you see Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia being key players in the bullpen considering their subpar performances this spring training?

— Michael Sklar, The Warm-Up newsletter subscriber

Gary: There will certainly be a close eye on both. If Familia keeps walking a batter an inning, and Betances’ velocity doesn’t return, the leash will be short.

Keith: Familia and Betances would certainly help but they're not essential. The Mets have a very good back end of the bullpen. It’s up to the starters to get it to the seventh inning, if not more.

Ron: Betances and Familia will pitch some important innings, but the trio of Aaron Loup, Trevor May, and Edwin Diaz will play the most important roles.

How do you feel about the new rules that are being used in the minor leagues this year? I'm particularly interested in your take on the limited shift. If this rule and the universal DH rule are introduced to MLB, how much do you think a pitcher's ERA would be affected?

— Sarah McClellan, The Warm-Up newsletter subscriber

Gary: I am not in favor of the limited shift or the silly pickoff rules. I am much more intrigued by the pitch clock and the robot umpires, which could help get the game moving.

Keith: I don’t have much of an opinion on the rule experiments in the minor leagues. Obviously with a universal DH, it’s going to have a negative effect on the pitchers. Shifts hurt the left-handed hitters more than the righties. Maybe they (lefties) need to hit to the opposite field if the defense gives it the left side of the infield away. Not everybody is Ted Williams.

Ron: The addition of the DH and the shift changes will do very little until the strikeout percentage changes. Twenty-five percent of the plate appearances end in a strikeout. There are very little rallies because there are very few hits strung together in any one inning.