“There’s a feeling around the Mets that somehow they are the uncrowned champions of the National League, the best team with the worst luck, or some such nonsense,” chortles Newsday’s Wallace Matthews (above), whom despite being a rather constant critic of New York’s senior circuit entry, apparently has some insider access to the same players and front office types he routinely trashes.  “When baseball’s truly good teams play their best baseball,” argues Matthews, “the Mets play their worst. Or they don’t play at all.”   The argument advanced below is slightly less fascinating than the notion Matthews’ editors approved such a piece two weeks after the Mets were eliminated.  Presumably, the start of the Islanders’ 2008-09 season is someone else’s beat.

even if the Mets had lucked up and nipped the Brewers for the wild-card spot on the last day of the season, by now they would be out of the playoffs, vowing revenge for next year and making excuses for how, once again, the Best Team in the National League made an early exit.

And that kind of thinking, my friends, would have been a recipe for a fourth straight disaster in 2009.

Watching the Phillies beat the Brewers in the Division Series, and take a 2-0 lead on the Dodgers in the NLCS only confirms the suspicion the Mets are more than just a minor tweak or two from what they believe to be their entitlement.

The unvarnished truth about this incarnation of the Mets, the $140-million All-Star Revue that disappears along with the warm weather, is this: They now have played a total of three absolutely, positively must-win games. The first was Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. The second was the 2007 season finale against the Florida Marlins. The third was this season’s curtain-dropper against the same underfinanced Triple-A outfit.

They lost all three.

That is not by accident, any more than it is by accident that for the past two seasons, the Mets have finished behind the Phillies, a team they arrogantly dismissed in not one, but two preseasons.

So which is it, Wally? Did the Mets lose the NL East to the Phillies because Philadelphia was decidedly better, or was it down to the cavalier ‘tude you claim still exists halfway into October? Is it impossible to believe the Mets — owners of a better regular season record in ’08 than Los Angeles — couldn’t have held their own with the Dodgers?  There’s no sense in arguing the Mets don’t require an overhaul (ie. an entirely new bullpen), but Matthews’ circuitious logic really comes down to, “they’re lousy because they suck” and “they suck because they’re lousy”.