What might’ve been one final opportunity to interject themselves into the NL East race ended with yet another pair of road series loses for the Mets, R.A. Dickey’s worst start of 2010 giving Philadelphia a lead they’d not relinquish in yesterday’s 6-5 Amazin’ disappointment at Citizens Bank Park.  The club’s latest reshuffling of the deck chairs this weekend involved declaring Alex Cora and his 2011 salary surplus to requirements, along with the somewhat surprising promotions of Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada.  Of the latter’s addition to the sinking ship, the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch warns new leadership is required ASAP, otherwise the likes of F-Mart, Tejada, Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Jonathan Niese run the risk of catching “the same virus that™s swallowed up David Wright and Jose Reyes.”

If the Mets have any chance of changing the culture in the clubhouse, they need a new message from above, starting with the manager: Bobby Valentine is exactly whom the Mets need, but as we™ve speculated before, the Wilpons don™t have the stomach (or, likely, the cash) to hire him. Wally Backman very well could get the job, as he™s proving (again) that he™s able to get the most out of young players. Backman™s Class A Brooklyn Cyclones have the best record in the New York-Penn League.

Omar Minaya received a vote of confidence from Fred Wilpon last week, but that could change if the Mets quit down the stretch and finish with another 90-loss season. Minaya is well-liked by ownership and has done an admirable job keeping his mouth shut while protecting Jeff Wilpon. In all likelihood, the general manager would be reassigned within the organization, where he could take advantage of his greatest skill, scouting.

Where do the Mets go for a replacement? Logic says they™d never take a run at Billy Beane for exactly the same reason they™ll avoid Valentine: He™s too bright, and would ask for more corporate power than the Wilpons would give him.

If they think Valentine is too expensive at $4 million a year, they should think again: A good manager still is cheaper than a No. 3 starter. The same goes for Beane, who™d be a bargain compared to Oliver Perez. Brains always pay a dividend.

That Minaya is said to be safe in 2011 (as of last week anyway) is hard to fathom given that Manuel was his hire and was retained following the ’08 collapse and the 2009 atrocity exhibition. That said, the situation is weirdly reminiscent of another local franchise’s inability to separate itself from an inept executive whose sole strength is said to be flushing money down a toilet scouting.