Mets owner Fred Wilpon “is on the verge of a Steinbrennerian windfall with the opening of Citi Field, and his son Jeff (above), is James Dolan without the guitar”, seethes Newsday’s Wallace Matthews, who not only rues the departure of former punching bag Lastings Milledge, but accuses the not-so-Amazins of “conducting their offseason the way Rudy Giuliani is running his presidential campaign: hoping to win by doing nothing.”

They shed Lastings Milledge, Paul Lo Duca and Tom Glavine. In return, they brought in Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, paid more money to Ramon Castro, Luis Castillo, Jose Reyes and Endy Chavez, and issued a stern warning to Duaner Sanchez to stay out of taxicabs in South Florida at 2 in the morning.

Meanwhile, Johan Santana still is a Twin, A-Rod still is a Yankee and Jose Reyes still is a Met.

And yet, to quote the words of Mets VP David Howard, “If you look at it objectively, [we] are a championship-caliber, playoff-contending team.”

And if you look at it rationally, Howard, or whoever is writing his material, very well may be out of his mind.

They act as if last season was some kind of hallucination, that the historic collapse (they led the Phillies by seven games on Sept. 12 with 17 games to play) never really happened, that despite what the NL East standings showed Oct. 1, the Mets actually were the best team in baseball and, as such, didn’t really need much in the way of tinkering in the offseason.

In fact, when it came to personnel, they didn’t really need anything at all.

All they needed, actually, was a little bit more of your money, because, as general manager Omar Minaya was quick to point out after the Mets lost six of their last seven games of the season, “We spent more days in first place than any other team in baseball.'”

Yeah. And Billy Conn was leading Joe Louis after 12 rounds, the Titanic sailed beautifully for three days and didn’t Lincoln just love the first two hours of the play?

Still, that was reason enough for the Mets to raise ticket prices by about 20 percent for the upcoming season. The reason for this, according to Howard, friend of baseball fans everywhere: “We’re not going to make business decisions based on a two-week period.”

The only saving grace in that statement is that perhaps Howard someday will use the same rationale to hold the line on ticket prices if the Mets ever manage to win a World Series on his watch. (And in other news, Pamela Anderson has asked me to marry her.)