The New York Post’s Joel Sherman doesn’t think so. Reluctant to overly praise Manuel for leading an injury ravaged Mets squad to a 48-40 All-Star break mark — the Amazins are just one game out of the NL Wild Card after Johan Santana reminded the likes of Joe Benigno-Gazingo he’s still capable of putting the team on his backSherman tackles the dilemma posed by the eminent return of Carlos Beltran and finds a way to imply the manager isn’t nearly concerned enough about the health and well-being of his charges.

Manuel understands the rules of engagement. He is 56 and without the kind of distinction to think another organization would ever hire him to manage. He has just an option with the Mets for next year, nothing guaranteed. So there is this season for him and nothing else. That is why he pitched the heck out of Fernando Nieve early and Bobby Parnell recently. It is why he used Jose Reyes as strictly a righty hitter, to heck with the oblique injury and Prevention and Recovery.

And it is why when the second half opens, Beltran will be hitting cleanup, Jeff Francoeur will be on the bench and Jason Bay should be watching his back. The only season that matters to Manuel is this one. If he retains his job, he will take any offended souls out to the finest restaurant in Port St. Lucie — I believe that is Chili’s — and do a mending job in February 2011.

Manuel revealed just how much current events will influence this decision just yesterday. Before the game, he indicated Angel Pagan would play against righties, Francoeur against lefties and Bay would be his everyday left fielder. But then Pagan produced three more hits, and excellent catches to end the first inning and the game. Alex Cora called Pagan “our first-half MVP” and after the game, Manuel was promising to play him pretty much every day.

He did not offer the same sentiments for Bay, saying: “I don’t know right now. I want to take these three days before I come up with that.”