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Brian Erni

Throughout the season Islanders Point Blank will speak with fans, players and media about their favorite memories at Nassau Coliseum?

We continue our Coliseum memories series with a friend of the site. Brian Erni is the lead writer over at SNYNets.com (how ironic, right?) and he is also a diehard Islanders fan. In the spirit of friendship (and cross promotion) we spoke with him about his memories about the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike.

Tags: Brian Erni, Interviews, Islanders, nassau coliseum, new york islanders, SNY Nets
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The Nets have won four of their last six, so have they turned it around for good? Brian Erni joined the guys on the Orlando in the Morning show to discuss what's ahead for Brooklyn:

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Tags: Brian Erni, Brooklyn Nets, listen, Nets, nets, radio, Brian Erni
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Chad in New York: Do you know how the team plans to use Mike Baxter next season? ?It is a shame he went down with the injury because he probably would have had plenty of time to showcase whether or not he is more than a fourth outfielder. ?At this point, I think it is clear to everyone that he is, at the very least a great bench player, but is there any talk that he could be a legitimate starting outfielder?

I do think the organization will have a discussion this offseason about how high Baxter's ceiling is. But I think Sandy Alderson and company see value in keeping him in a fourth outfielder's role. ?It's unfortunate that Baxter's season was cut short. Over the course of his red-hot start, Baxter hit .323, including .500 (10-for-20) as a pinch hitter. Since, he's batting just .242, however he's still getting on base at a .385 clip, and has hit his first two home runs of the year (both during their most recent series in Philadelphia). When you take into account his strong defense, I think you can definitely make a case for giving him a look as one of the team's starting three outfielders.

But that's not to say that he should be given a job. ?If Baxter is penciled into the every day line up in 2013, the other two outfielders would have be very strong. Stronger than anything they have right now. There's no denying Baxter has done a nice job, but this team is in desperate need of power. With so many questions around Lucas Duda, the ineffectiveness of Jason Bay, and the second half slide of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the Mets need to do a lot of work in the outfield. If they were to acquire a power bat (preferably a right handed one) through either free agency or a trade, I think Baxter's case gets a little stronger. But right now, you do run the risk of overexposing a player who is a real asset to your bench. ?I think Baxter will get a fair shot to establish himself as a contender for an outfield spot in the next few weeks, but I feel like he may be more useful in his current role.

Tags: Brian Erni, Q&A, Brian Erni
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Bryan in Mineola: The Mets' most glaring hole is an offensively unproductive outfield. With Sandy Alderson's statements about being active in the trade market, who do you see the Mets going after in the offseason? And what will it take?

While I think the Mets will entertain trade talks, I still believe they're better positioned to go after some of those B-level (read: not Josh Hamilton) free agents. I say that for two reasons: 1) The system isn't ready to fetch a big return. They're in the process of building a feeder system, and they haven't stockpiled enough talent in the organization yet to make big trades. Therefore, the prospect pool is a little too top heavy (meaning there are players the Mets hope will contribute soon like Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia) and the players who are further away in their development (Wilmer Flores and their recent draft picks of Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini). There aren't enough expendable parts. That means any trade would take away from, what they hope would be, their future core, and I don't know how much of a return one of their mid-echelon prospects (someone like Matt den Dekker) would fetch. Probably not anything significant enough to make an impact on Major League lineup.

2) The team really isn't ready yet. Until they get David Wright and R.A. Dickey locked up to contract extensions, the timeline for contention is very much in flux. If two veterans like Wright and Dickey are on board long-term, the Mets know that the urgency to win is a bit more immediate than should one or both of those players leave. If they can lock them in, and Wheeler and Matt Harvey continue to develop at their current pace, I think the Mets could end up being more aggressive in the trade market at the 2013 deadline.

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William R:?Do you really think it's right that Jason Bay and Andres Torres get to stay on the big league team while Kirk and Duda get sent to the minors? Kirk and Duda are both better players right now than Torres and Bay, as well as being much, much more important to the team's future. These moves make absolutely no sense to me, just because Torres and Bay had good seasons in the Majors TWO YEARS ago doesn't mean they deserve to stay in the majors now.

At the heart of the issue, I agree. Since it looks like the Mets will be playing out the string for the remainder of the season, it seems like this would be the perfect time to find out what Duda and Nieuwenhuis are made of. That said, I think you hit on the bigger issue by saying they're much more important to the team's future. Within that importance lies a delicate balance of how you bring players along and develop them. For fans like us, it always seems more gratifying to just throw the young guys out there with a sink or swim mentality. But there are a number of facets that goes into developing an every day, Major League player. The organization has a responsibility to try to put players in the best chance to succeed, and every player is different. In Duda's case, instead of him continually striking out at curve balls in the dirt at the Major League level (which isn't good for anyone), a chance to tweak his mechanics and/or his approach outside of the day-in, day-out fan and media spotlight, while gaining some extra confidence, may do him a world of good in the long run.

Here's the thing: Bay and Torres are stop gaps. Torres was always designed to be, and Bay played himself into that distinction. And while it's easy to look at the situation through the lens of Bay and Torres taking away opportunities from younger players like Nieuwenhuis and Duda, I don't necessarily think that's the case. The organization knows that they need to find out if they have long-term pieces in Duda and Nieuwnehuis, or they have to look elsewhere. ?I do think once the Mets are comfortable with their progress (and Kirk needs to get healthy as well), they'll be up and getting plenty of time.

Tags: Brian Erni, MetsBlog, Matthew Cerrone
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Derek R sent in this e-mail to MetsBlog:

[jbox color="gray"]Lucas Duda had a very good stretch after the All-Star break in 2011, hitting .322 with 10 HR and a .411 OBP in 64 games and 205 at-bats. ?The rest of his career, which is 93 games and 273 at-bats, he is hitting .227 with 8 HR and a far lower OBP. So, what is Duda exactly? I?m a little more pessimistic on him than other Mets fans. How do I know that his second-half performance in 2011 wasn?t just a flash in the pan? ? I?m interested to see if he ever picks it up this year because I don?t know how long the Mets want to stick with a .220 hitter who is below average defensively. They may not have any other viable options this year, so I wouldn?t be surprised to see him start all year. But if he doesn?t turn it around before the end of the year, I have to think the Mets would look at upgraded in the off-season if not before?[/jbox]

Duda is hitting .245 with a .343 OBP 4 HR and 16 RBI in 29 games for the Mets this year.

Tags: Brian Erni, Q&A, Matthew Cerrone
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Tonight will be the 8,000th game in Mets history. Provided the Marlins get a hit, it will also be the 8,000th straight game without a no-hitter.

Whatever opinion you may have of this odd streak, every Mets fan seems to have their own close call story. That one near-miss that you most closely associate with. For my dad, like any guy who grew up calling the 1969 Mets his team, that near miss is the most famous of all: Seaver's Imperfect Game.

My father watched the majority of Tom Terrific's complete game, one hitter on July 9th, 1969 through someone else's tent. Just 11 years old, he found himself at a camp grounds with my grandparents for a mid-summer getaway, as Seaver bid for perfection against the Cubs at Shea. One of the regulars at the grounds had a small, 13 inch, black-and-white television hooked up to a generator. As a boy who idolized Seaver and those eventual-World Champion Mets, my dad took any chance he had to catch a game. As Seaver rolled along, my father inched closer and closer to the tent's outside wall, oblivious to whether or not the owners of it knew he was there. He still can't pinpoint if he heard or saw Jimmy Qualls single, but when recounting it this morning (nearly 43 years later), there was still a bit of melancholy in his voice.

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Playing a video acknowledgement for Jose Reyes is the right thing to do.

Yes, I know this breaks lock step from the other guys on the blog. It also goes against the grain with many fans. And the funny part? Once Tuesday night comes and goes, this will all be a moot point. But there's a pretty strong argument to be made here that says any response to the news other than, "Oh, that's nice" is probably an overreaction.

Let's start with where the conversation has gone a little awry. There's been talk about this being a "tribute" video. To me, that's exceedingly misleading. Tributes happen when the player retires, the club makes it Jose Reyes Day, fans are given little rally towels with number 7 on them as they come in the park, and Reyes gets a framed jersey. Maybe even a plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame. To me, a 30 second highlight package with the tag, "Thank you, Jose" is a far cry from that.

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Confession: sometimes I get really?grandiose?ideas. Those ideas lead me to take on some kind of crazy project in my house. Lately, those projects have included me painting said house in a Mets fashion. A disclaimer: my wife wants you to know our whole house doesn't look like this. I have free reign in two areas: the garage and the basement. So Mets fans, please know that my wife is an impeccable, amateur decorator. An addendum to that disclaimer: I'm not a painter, so if a line doesn't look quite right or there's a touch of white somewhere, go easy on me. Now that I'm covered my bases, here's the story.

When I wanted to revamp my garage last March, I decided I would use the main, front-facing wall and a homage to the Mets. The result was a painted Shea Stadium replica wall. I found pictures of the retired numbers for the right font, blew them up in MS Paint, and traced them. Since I can't draw a good circle if my life depended on it, I used paper plates as a stencil. Just some standard painters tape to?separate?the "foul line" and "home run" marker. The 338 measurement could be straight away left or right field, and?I used a Citi Field-esque soot color for the background on the retired numbers?(Hodges, Stengel and Robinson are pictured, but be sure, Tom Terrific is there, too) to tip my cap to the Mets' current home. Little did I know the walls would look essentially identical to this a year later.

Once that was completed, I let myself enjoy what little leisure time I had. That is, until late February. I lacked any kind of adrenaline since the Jets lost their last game on New Year's Day, I had cleaned out all the closets, and I had a marked up basement wall that looked kind of shabby. Like any good home owner, I have no idea where the original wall paint color is, so I decided to give it a Mets treatment.

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April will be a?pivotal?month if the Mets plan on raising a few eyebrows this year...

Peering ahead at the schedule, 15 of the team's first 19 games (include 12 straight to open the season) will be against NL East opponents. That's a scary thought, considering the consensus view is that the East is by far the toughest?division?in the National League.

The Mets open against the Braves, after which they'll host the Nationals, then travel to Philadelphia and Atlanta before turning back to Flushing to play the Marlins on the back end of a seven-game homestand that also includes the Giants.

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First, it was David Wright's rib cage. Then Scott Hairston's oblique. Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Reese Havens, Tim Byrdak and Ronny Cedeno all got tripped up with various aches, pains or tears. And then, of course, there's Ruben Tejada's aspirin-inducing groin strain. It's not unfair to ask what is going on in Port St. Lucie?

Even though panic seems like the most appropriate reaction, I think we can arrive at an answer without flying off the handle. With the exception of Hairston and Byrdak, it doesn't appear, at least on the surface, that these injuries will amount to anything other than a few less opportunities to catch some familiar faces when the spring games are televised. In the past, the Mets have come under fire for reportedly encouraging players to play through injuries. The end of 2008 and the entire 2009 season immediately come to mind. So while I understand the frustration Terry Collins expressed in the clubhouse yesterday afternoon, I would much rather see the Mets be light on fire power in the Grapefruit League than in their first 12 game stretch, which by the way, are all against NL East opponents.

Secondly, I don't think it's?coincidence?fans are hearing about every jolt of pain that sends a player into the trainer's room, no matter how temporarily. It doesn't take experience in the public relations industry to know that the Mets have had some trouble getting out in front of their own stories. With player injuries, transparency is the key. In years past, Mets fans have been justifiably frustrated with how player injuries have been relayed to the media by the organization. Day-to-day seemed to turn into a 60 day DL stint in a hurry, so as the Mets exercise caution in how far they push ailing players, I believe they're approaching the media, and by extension, the fan base, with the same?trepidation.

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Six months ago, I got married. My wife gave me this as my wedding present:

She scored the Shea seat off eBay, then my father-in-law and her help custom built the frame box, stained it, found the Mets fabric to act as the backdrop and commissioned the design of engraving plate. It reads: "Shea Stadium. April 17, 1964 - September 28, 2008" along with the Mets skyline logo emblazoned in blue and orange on the left hand side.

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All this talk about retired numbers got me thinking about where I stood on the matter, so I took to Twitter to express my opinion on forever enshrining a player in franchise lore by taking his number out of circulation and putting it on the left field wall.

Yes, I'm one who thinks Mike Piazza's 31 is the only number not currently adoring the outfield wall that should one day be there. And since most of the debate has largely surrounded the cogs of the '86 team, when Jon Presser, a friend of the blog and author of TheSheaFaithful.com, sent me this Tweet, it really ended up making me think:

Tags: Brian Erni, Brian Erni
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On the blog, we've talked a bit about some of the non-tender candidates that could possibly fit into the Mets' 2012 plans. So with tonight's deadline quickly approaching, here are three names that popped up on MLBTR's list of potential players who could be cut loose tonight that should pique Sandy Alderson's interest:

Hong-Chih Kuo: As far as I'm concerned, if Kuo is indeed let go by the Dodgers tonight, he?is the grail of the 2011 non-tender class. Last year, Kuo was a disaster. He pitched to a 9.00 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP during 40 games and 27 innings with Los Angeles. However, even during what was his worst season thus far in the Majors, Kuo showed plenty of strike out potential, whiffing 36 to account for 12 strikeouts every nine innings. He also held right-handed batters to a measly .204 average. Taking into consideration that just a season before, Kuo threw 60 innings with an eye-popping 1.20 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP and 73 strikeouts, while baffling both lefties (.095) and righties (.159), the 30 year old, Taiwan-born lefty should be worthy of consideration.

J.P. Howell: A lynch-pin in the 2008 American League Championship run in Tampa, Howell struggled in his first season back after missing all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery. The 28-year old accrued a 6.16 ERA, although he did hold lefties to a .222 mark in 2011. He also?put together consecutive sub-3.00 ERAs in 2008 and 2009 for the Rays. If the Mets do have doubts about Daniel Herrera as the second lefty in the bullpen behind Tim Byrdak, maybe Kuo or Howell could fill the role.

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Last night, the Mets made a series of moves that began with the signing of Jon Rauch, continued with the trade of Angel Pagan and culminated with the inking of Frank Francisco. So after this flurry of activity, how do the Mets stack up against how they looked 24 hours ago?

Let's start with the trade. Angel Pagan is now a San Francisco Giant with the Mets receiving outfielder Andres Torres and pitcher Ramon Ramirez in return. I've always valued Pagan as both a centerfielder and a hitter, but I think the Mets did well in cashing in his value. Torres, 33, and Ramon Ramirez, 30, both offer the Mets two vital upgrades. In center, Torres' defense will provide a major boost. I think Pagan played above average in covering some very expansive ground, but Torres is one of the most underrated ball hawks in the game. His defense should make the Mets feel much more comfortable about Lucas Duda's presence in right and should give some inner peace to the pitchers who throw to contact (such as R.A. Dickey and Mike Pelfrey). In addition to the defensive upgrade, Torres comes with comfort and experience (1093 plate appearances)?batting lead off, something that Pagan never did except, according to multiple reports. Admittedly, his on-base percentage leaves something to be desired, but it isn't a big fall off from where Pagan would have been either. Torres offers some speed offensively, with 26 and 19 steals in the last two seasons respectively, and has some pop in a bat that slugged 16 home runs in 2010. While 2011 was an injury-plagued campaign, I think it's reasonable to expect a solid bounce back year.

In Ramirez, the Mets land the unsung hero of the Giants' 2010 playoff run that resulted in a World Series title. In 66 games with the Giants last year, Ramirez pitched to a 2.62 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP and a 2.5 K/BB ratio. In other words, the Mets got a solid swing and miss arm that won't put a lot of runners on base in the latter innings.

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The impact on the defense is certainly an element of the new dimensions that has flown under the radar. Sure, the fact that more fly balls the Mets hit will leave the yard should help their mental approach to hitting a home. But how will the shortened and moved in fences affect the fielders who roam the outfield 81 games a year in Flushing?

First, as a quick point of reference, let's take a look at the chart the Mets released earlier in the offseason. I tweaked this slightly to only show the new dimensions, thus making it more clear to imagine the space the outfielders will have to explore in 2012 and beyond:

Tags: Brian Erni, Brian Erni
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Today's announcement of the Mets' plans to honor the 50th anniversary of the franchise marked a very exciting day for me. It may not have been the signing of a player, but what it did ensure is that, for the first time since 1998, the players who take the field in Flushing will actually look like the Mets.

The '90s were a strange time for uniforms, and the Mets got swept up in it all, first introducing the "hybrid" black crown/blue brim caps, the black tops and incorporating a black dropshadow onto the road grey and snow white jerseys in '98. By '99, the dropshadow found its way onto the sacred pinstripe uniform, the all-black cap had been born and the skyline logo had been redesigned in black. And for 14 years, the team propped up the black elements, from wearing black hats in every one of their five World Series games in 2000 to keeping the dropshadow on the new "throwback" alternate introduced prior to the 2010 season.

But all that changed this morning at Citi Field. The Mets will wear this gorgeous logo as a sleeve patch (and a slightly altered one on the back of the blue caps) in 2012. They'll don dropshadow-less jerseys, wear blue caps, sleeves and accessories on the road and begin to phase out the all-black alternate in favor of blue one similar to the "Los Mets" style worn twice last August. They'll even get a batting practice look free of black (pictured below) that did not appear at the unveiling today.

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With news breaking today that Matt Kemp is close to signing an eight year, $160 million dollar deal with the Dodgers, one has to wonder what impact that will have, if any, on the Jose Reyes market?

It's possible that the two may not end up correlating, but it's rare that long-term, big dollar contracts get looked at in a vacuum by Major League front offices. Executives are prone to look at a long-term deal and say, "Well, if Player X got that, then Player Y deserves this." So?what happens when Kemp is stacked up to Reyes? Does Jose's perceived value sky rocket or end up taking a hit?

Tags: Brian Erni, Brian Erni
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Roy from Florida sent in an email asking: If Jose Reyes does leave, I think Daniel Murphy gets pushed into the spotlight. Obviously Murphy proved he is a Major League hitter last season, but will the Mets ever find a spot for this guy to play full time? Assuming Tejeda shifts to short, is Murphy the team's every-day second baseman? And more importantly, can he handle it defensively?

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[avatar name="erni"]Brian Erni: It seems like discussing Murphy's ability to handle second base is a right of passage each of the last three offseasons, and there's good reason for that. Murphy has yet to show that he can handle the?physical?demands of the position. Don't get me wrong, Daniel was much more?competent?than I expected he'd be at second base. At times in 2011, he showed flashes that ranged anywhere from strong to brilliant. He's a hard worker and he really committed himself to the position.

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With the recent chatter about the soon-to-be Miami Marlins contacting Jose Reyes the moment free agency began, it got me thinking about the very real possibility that the Fish will open a new stadium with our home grown star donning what may be one of the most insane uniforms in MLB history. The conclusion I came to: I'm not okay with it.

But it's not for the obvious reasons. Yes, of course the idea of Reyes in Marlins' rainbow colors hitting home runs and?inciting animation from?that freakish new art deco?sculpture in centerfield makes me queasy. And of course? it would be the ultimate indignity to have to watch Reyes play against the Mets 19 times this and every year for whatever the length of the contract. But the scarier thought is not even getting a first round draft pick for the departure of one of Flushing's brightest stars.

I said last week on Twitter that one undervalued component of Reyes potentially leaving is the two draft picks the Mets would net from the signing team. Sure, MLB draft picks are volitale, but for team looking to restock their system and turn it into a legitimate feeder, a first rounder and pick in the supplemental round (between rounds one and ?two) from the signing team, in addition to their own assuming they do not sign a Type A free agent, would be a nice way to enter the 2012 draft. That is unless the Marlins land Reyes.

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At the forefront of the list of Mets?arbitration-eligible?candidates whose place in the fold for 2012 is in question is Angel Pagan.

The Mets' centerfielder for the past two seasons just finished his third year of?arbitration?eligibility and is entering his fourth, meaning this will be his final season due for a raise through arbitration before team control expires and he heads to free agency. The Mets have until December 12th whether or not to decide to tender Pagan a contract for 2012. If they choose not to, Angel will become a free agent. And with the air of discontent that seems to permeate around Flushing lately, the mindset from some seems to be change is good. Though, at what point is change just for the sake of change?

Taking a look at the market, a few names jump out as potential low-cost investments that could pay dividends if things break right: Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus. But do any of these options truly offer a?substantial?upgrade over Pagan?

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It didn't clinch a division. There was no champagne celebration in the clubhouse after the fact. Actually, the game seems all but forgotten in the annals of Mets lore. But June 11th, 2005 was the best regular season game I had ever been a part.

Sure, it wasn't scoring 10 runs with two outs in the eighth inning against a hated rival. Or hitting a home run that made a country heal and gave a fan base hope of an improbable run at the division. What seemed anything but noteworthy -- a early June contest in an interleague matchup against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- was one of the most riveting games my eyes have ever witnessed.

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Yesterday, Ruben Tejada went 2 for 4 with four RBI, including the eventual game winning hit in the top of the eighth inning.

Tejada also cleared the bases with a three-run double in the fourth inning.

Both hits gave the Mets the lead.

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