Newsday’s Jon Heyman bravely directs his sights towards those Mets fans who aren’t packing Shea Stadium…neglecting to mention, of course, how many major league ballgames he’s paid his own money to see recently.

This is a contending Mets team, one that has as good a chance as anyone of winning the National League wild card.

Ya Gotta Believe, no?

Maybe if the team makes the playoffs, it will sell out then.

Maybe not.

The only games that fill Shea Stadium lately are the ones that guarantee the merengue, the Latin appreciation nights. How about some plain ol’ baseball appreciation nights? Maybe the better business model is to 86 the baseball and salsa their way through September.

If something doesn’t change, the Mets’ September will be filled with meaningful yet rarely seen games.

They returned from a hugely successful 5-2 trip, after finally proving they can win away from Shea and put a nice streak together, to face the wild-card-leading Phillies and a too-empty house. I wonder which was more demoralizing, the unoccupied seats or the first-inning home runs by Phillies Kenny Lofton and Pat Burrell.

No matter, the Mets bounced back from both, erasing a 4-1 deficit to win, 6-4.

“I think they’re missing something if they don’t come. This is a very exciting team they should be proud to come see,” manager Willie Randolph said. “I don’t know who’s here and who isn’t, as long as there’s a few.”

The players’ performance was typically enthralling last night. The fans’ performance was abysmal. The announced crowd was 36,505. That’s 20,864 less than it should have been.

“The weather didn’t help us tonight. I would be more upset if the weather was perfect,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “The weather’s been threatening all day. There’s a hurricane out there.”

Wilpon was talking 15 minutes before game time, and Shea was mostly empty. There were a decent number of late arrivers. Yet, even after everyone filed in, the green mezzanine section was nearly half empty and the red upper-deck section was half empty.

This team isn’t a mirage. The fans need to stop treating it like one. This team deserves your attention, your patronage, your respect.

Sure, Mets fans are skeptical after enduring the Mo Vaughn Era, which partly coincided with the Art Howe Error. That’s understandable.

But 130 games have been played. It’s time, Mets fans.

It’s time to forget the past, to embrace the present, and to realize the Mets are worth your time.

Mike Cameron made it to the ballpark yesterday. If Cameron, who broke his face diving and colliding for a liner, can make it to Shea, you can make it, too.

George Will made it to the park, and he brought family members. Davey Johnson made it to the ballpark to promote the Viagra Comeback Player of the Year award. What, you were expecting Rafael Palmeiro?

Much as I appreciate Heyman’s acknowledging that the Mets are a legit contender, this is much ado about zilch. Mike Cameron, George Will and Davey Johnson have far nicer walk-up seating options than the average Mets fan. OK, maybe not Davey, but you get the idea. Heyman wonders why the Cyclones can sell out but not the Mets, yet the capacity and ambience of the respective ballparks answer that question for him, if not the ticket prices. And 36K on a Tuesday isn’t that embarasing. Were the Mets to sell that many tickets every game, their annual attendence would be just shy of 3 million. Not the rarified air of the Yankees, but a more than acceptable sum for a club that hasn’t won anything in 5 years.