Claiming that last night’s 5-1 loss at the hands of the last place Seattle Mariners revealed “these were the same Mets you came to know and loathe under Willie Randolph,” Newsday’s Wallace Matthews lays into the Flushing Faithful, but not before wondering about Johan Santana serving up a grand salami to Felix Hernandez (“this was no cheapie, down-the-line paint-scraper of a home run, but a rocket blast over the right-centerfield fence on a pitch clocked at 94 mph”).

For their $137.5 million, spread out over seven years, the Mets have now gotten seven wins, six losses and a 9-7 record in the games Santana has started. Worse than that, he has now surrendered 14 home runs in less than half a season, putting him well on pace to match and perhaps exceed his major-league leading total of 33 bombs from last year, which may indicate his subpar 2007 season was not an aberration, but an omen.

“Personally, I felt pretty good,” Santana said. “We didn’t make routine plays that you make to win games, little things that make you a winner.”

Presumably, that includes retiring the opposing pitcher. Santana’s seven innings, seven hits and just one earned run was the most misleading line since Don Imus claimed he was actually defending Pacman Jones.

But Santana wasn’t the worst performer of the night; that honor goes to the Shea crowd, which started the night chanting Manuel’s name during batting practice, but was booing as if Randolph had just summoned Scott Schoeneweis after Santana gave up Hernandez’ home run.

But the crowd reserved its proudest moment for the fifth, when it cheered the sight of Hernandez hobbling around in obvious pain after Beltran slid hard into him to score the Mets first run of the night. The jeers continued when Hernandez, who had pitched three straight terrific games and was on his way to a fourth, stumbled off the mound while attempting a warm-up pitch to see if he could remain in the game.

At that point, the crowd seemed worthy of the rather dubious spin one local paper put on Manuel’s “fertilizer” line, and the game which so much promise of providing a fresh start to a team badly in need of one, turned into one more ugly, depressing three hours of bad baseball.

There are, of course, cities in America where one could attend a ballgame and not witness an injured player from the visiting team being verbally abused.  Those towns, however, generally only have one or two daily newspapers and few of ’em would be prepared to match Wally’s current salary.