If the New York Mets open the season with an outfield of Alou, Beltran and Green, it’s a pretty fair bet that Carlos B. is going to have to do a lot of running to his far right and left. Newsday’s Wally Matthews, disregarding the glovework of Alou and Green, is more concerned with the Mets’ greying roster, sneering “they claim to be ‘building’ off their near-miss/collapse (your choice) of 2006, but the only thing they are building is a nursing home.”

Last week, the club gleefully announced its sweetheart stadium deal that will hand over to them, rent-free, tax-free and finance-charge free, a virtually limitless source of income for the next several generations of Wilpons.

And in return, they give us Moises Alou (above, left).

And Jose Valentin. And Orlando Hernandez. And let us not forget Damion Easley.

These four gentlemen have one important thing in common. They are all old, verging on ancient. The youngest is Easley; he turned 37 on Nov. 11, a month after Valentin. The oldest, of course, is El Duque, whose official age is also 37, but whose actual age can only be verified through carbon dating. Then there is Julio Franco, the only active Met who can get into Shea on a seniors pass.

Somewhere in the middle sits Alou, 40 years old and more importantly, healthy enough in 2006 to appear in just 98 games. That is one more than the man he is expected to replace, Cliff Floyd, who was let go because, well, he gets hurt too often and misses too many games.

What this means is that the Mets have done the near impossible. They have managed to find themselves an outfielder not only older than Floyd, but equally infirm.

If there is logic in this sort of thinking, it must exist on an intellectual level I am incapable of comprehending.

In my simple way of thinking, in baseball, older generally does not mean better. It means more likely to break down late in the season, at precisely the moment when a team will be least able to afford it. Kind of like what happened at the end of last season, when, in rapid succession, the Mets lost Floyd, El Duque and Pedro Martinez to a malady no doctor can cure: old age. Yes, we know Pedro is a mere 35, but his arm is 150.

Last year, it looked as if GM Omar Minaya had a master plan to keep the Mets in perpetual contention and the Wilpons in perpetual cable subscriptions and season-ticket renewals.

Now, the plan appears to be Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and an annually-changing cast of aging mercenaries.

They passed on Alfonso Soriano, who would have owned leftfield until Jeff Wilpon was old enough to shave, and if they make a big expenditure this winter, it is likely to be on Barry Zito, who at his best will merely be one more slop merchant in a rotation of junkmen.

And that is another lesson seemingly lost on the Mets. You sign a comparatively-young outfielder – Soriano is 30 – for seven years, you can bank on seven years of high-level production.

If Wally has a problem with the Alou deal, that’s fair enough, and his points about the vet-heavy roster are well taken. But Mets fans should be giving thanks today that Omar showed no interest in bidding for Soriano’s services. With the exception of Adam Dunn, Soriano made more errors (11) in LF than anyone else in the majors. As noted earlier, the Cubs have invested $138 million in a guy who struck out 160 times last season — anyone who believes Soriano is going to develop plate discipline at the age of 31 is kidding themselves.

Zito at $15 million+ per year is a risk, no doubt. But the Mets already made a major investment in “a comparitively young outfielder” while “banking on seven years of high-level production.” His name is Carlos Beltran, and not only is he younger than Soriano, his all-around skills compare pretty favorably. Moises Alou will provide a fraction of Soriano’s offensive production (at a fraction of the price), but he’s clearly a stop-gap option rather than the foundation of the franchise.

Besides, a mixture of homegrown, younger talent (substitute Wright, Reyes, Heilman for Jeter, Posada and Rivera) plus a smattering of aging mercenaries sounds suspiciously like the formula that helped the ballclub across town win 9 consecutive division championships.

I’ve had some rough family Thanksgivings and I’m probably the worst person on earth to give advice on diffusing tension. That said, if you want to stay in Greg Prince’s good books, by all means, do not diss Rico Brogna.

What the fuck do you know about my team other than it’s my team? That should be all you need to know. I get enough reminders at work, one month after the fucking Yankees won the fucking World Series, that my team isn’t very good. I know I’m practically all alone as a Mets fan in New York and now my favorite Met has been traded to fucking Philadelphia and all you can say is it wasn’t such a bad idea?

I hate to admit it, Greg, but I can relate. Much as I’d like to claim the Mets’ swap of David Cone for Lt. Dangle and Ryan Thompson had absolutely nothing to do with a) a trip to the emergency room, b) a somewhat contentious break-up and c) a hangover that hasn’t quite dissipated, I cannot.