“You wouldn’t think the Mets’ talented right fielder would need much defending,” protests the New York Post’s Bart Hubbach, “what with Ryan Church ranking among the NL leaders in batting average, on-base percentage, multi-hit games and doubles so far this season.”  Even so, Church was benched in favor of the out-of-shape Gary Sheffield during Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, a move Hubbach likens to  “the Mets acting out against Church out of guilt for botching his post-concussion treatment last year, when they inexplicably put him on a cross-country flight to Colorado with his brains half-scrambled.”

You might remember that mid-February morning when Manuel, out of nowhere, proclaimed that Daniel Murphy — who had all of 131 major-league at-bats at the time — was a better hitter than Church. And that Church might end up platooning in right with Fernando Tatis.

Sure, Church was coming off a 2008 season that essentially was a wasted year after he suffered his second concussion in late May.

But Church had been the Mets’ undisputed MVP the first two months of last season and deserved the benefit of the doubt after gamely coming back from one of the most horrific concussions I’ve ever seen (and I covered the NFL for more than a decade).

To this day, I wonder sometimes how Church wasn’t paralyzed — or worse — after his head took the full brunt of Yunel Escobar’s knee at second base that May night in Atlanta.

Yet Church ended up missing less than two months, and his reward on the first day of spring training this year was to be insulted by his manager with comments Church had no idea were coming?

Throw out the hoopla of Sheffield’s 500th home run and you’ll notice he’s hitting .182 while so far proving to no one that he has much left. So in other words, Sheffield gives the Mets less value at the plate and less value defensively than Church.

By all means, start Sheffield regularly!