Is 65 games a large enough sample size to determine the 2008 Mets are not, in fact, a sleeping giant waiting to explode, but rather, a 4th place ballclub unlikely to make major strides, regardless of the manager’s status?

During what appears more and more every day to be a lost season for the New York Mets, it would figure that right about the time the starting rotation comes up with two relatively length outings in a row — 8 innings plus from Mike Pelfrey on Wednesday, 7 shutout innings from Johan Santana (10 K’s, 3 walks, 3 hits) yesterday —- the previously reliable Billy Wagner (above) would falter in spectacular fashion.

Afterwards, SNY viewers of Thursday’s 5-4, 10 inning loss to Arizona would hear Ron Darling and Gary Cohen cite Wagner’s age (36) along with the remarkable burden placed upon the Mets relief corps all season long. Presumably, had Pelfrey or Santana been removed after 5 innings, the Mets would’ve lost both games by double digits.

Aaron Heilman, otherwise relegated to mop up tasts, made a rare meaningful appearance Thursday, and promptly allowed the eventual winning run in his one inning of work. Under current circumstances — Country Time blowing 3 saves in his last 3 tries, allowing devastating home runs in 2 of those 3 instances — Heilman might be be a closing option. And he still might be, albeit for New Orleans.

On the bright side, Ramon Castro was behind the plate yesterday, last weekend’s embarrassing tardiness only being something he’ll hear about for the rest of his career. Castro caught more grief from Mets fans and media for turning up late last Sunday than he ever experienced in Miami after pleading no contest to rape.

On ESPN 1050 Wednesday afternoon, Michael Kay guffawed at the notion of a “part time player” like Marlon Anderson calling a team meeting. Something tells me Charlie Hayes’ leadership wasn’t considered so ridiculous by Kay once upon a time.