The morning after dropping their 2nd straight to Ryan Howard and the Phillies, the Mets have fallen 2 1/2 games off the Wild Card pace, and seen their fan base castigated twice in 3 days, this time courtesy of the NY Daily News’ Bill Madden :

So this was the most meaningful September baseball game at Shea Stadium since 2000.

Not only was it lost by the Mets in tepid fashion, it was also apparently lost on the better part of their constituency. It was not until after Billy Wagner had struck out David Wright to end the game that the Mets’ media relations staff announced a paid attendance of 38,316 for yesterday’s 3-1 pratfall that ended the home stand on a real downer for those faithful that really were there.

We’re glad Fred Wilpon got the revenue for 38,316, but trust us on this: There were nearly that many empty seats at Shea for what you could argue was the most important game the Mets have played all season – meaningful pennant-race baseball, if there ever was, on a spectacular sunny September afternoon.

Meanwhile, across the street, they’re averaging 53,000 for the U.S. Open tennis.

In a conpletely unrelated story, the Mets have added Daniela Hantuchova to the 40 man roster. If that doesn’t spark some offense on the eve of a brutal stretch of games in Florida, Atlanta and St. Louis, Newsday’s Jon Heyman has some further advice :

Because the Mets’ front-office folks did what just about everyone else did at both trade deadlines, which is to say nothing, Willie Randolph’s going to have to rely on his smarts and guts. Here’s what we suggest:

1. Move Carlos Beltran from third to second. He thrived in the No. 2 hole late last year, nearly putting the Astros in the World Series. He could better utilize his speed there. “That’s not my decision,” said Beltran, who’s willing to hit “anywhere” in the lineup.

Randolph said it’s something he’s thought about. “But if I do that,” he said, “it thins us out a little bit. I’d probably hit David Wright third and Cliff Floyd fourth, and who’s going to protect Cliff? Wright’s a little more selective. I could bat Wright fourth and Floyd third.”

Final word: It appears Randolph thinks Mike Jacobs and Victor Diaz are talented but too unproven to protect Floyd. Perhaps if Mike Piazza became healthy, he’d more seriously consider my Beltran suggestion.

2. Insert Marlon Anderson at second base. He couldn’t do any worse than what we’ve seen lately. Miguel Cairo is a nice bench player but gets exposed as a starter. Kaz Matsui is, frankly, over. Randolph didn’t sound ready to take my advice. But he didn’t rule it out, either.

“This time of year, defense is crucial,” he said. “Not to say Marlon can’t do a decent job defensively. But you can’t be thinking about just the offensive side of it.”

Final word: Sorry, Willie. Checking out the boxscores lately, I’m thinking offense.

3. Give Steve Trachsel a start next week. Hey, he isn’t doing anyone any good in the bullpen. He said he takes 60 to 70 pitches to warm up, and for him, that’s close to an eternity.

Trachsel would have looked better had he happily run to the bullpen. But he was just being honest; he can’t do it.

I might have scored my first hit with this one.

“Nothing’s official,” Trachsel said with a smile.

“Nothing’s official,” Randolph said.

Final word: Unofficially, it’s looking good for Trachsel to start sometime next week.

4. Switch Roberto Hernandez and Looper, making Hernandez the closer. Hey, why not? I know one thing: The fans would approve. Randolph didn’t like it as much. “No, not that. You’re trying to start some stuff,” he said, smiling. “Even for you, that’s a little over the top.”