Crazy shit, ladies and gentlemen. Not only does Newsday’s Wally Matthews echo oh so many of my earlier remarks about the contractual status of Mets skipper Willie Randolph…but he managed to write an entire column without one gratuitous insult directed at Lastings Milledge.

Randolph’s $700,000 a year is good money if you are a cop, a fireman, a teacher or a newspaperman, but in baseball it doesn’t even buy you a backup shortstop. After being rejected by 12 teams in his quest for a manager’s job, the Mets got him on the cheap. Now, they are treating him as if he should just be thankful to have a job.

In truth, it is they who should be thankful. Randolph won his division last year, in his second season, and with a little help from the front office, might have taken the Mets at least one step further and maybe all the way.

It is easy to quibble, and I have, with individual in-game decisions made by Randolph, such as sending gimpy Cliff Floyd up to try to hit a series-winning three-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS rather than have someone else bunt the runners over.

But it is impossible to argue the fact that having been forced to work the entire postseason with an injury-ravaged starting rotation, caused by a lack of foresight in the front office, Randolph actually did a remarkable job to get his team as far as he did.

And yet, incredible as it may seem, it appears as if the Mets are holding Randolph responsible for the NLCS failure against the Cardinals, as if he could have breathed new life into Glavine’s 40-year-old arm, or kept Billy Wagner from blowing the key save in Game 2, or forced Carlos Beltran to lift the bat off his shoulder in Game 7.

There can be no other explanation for why this is not getting done. Clearly, Minaya has no problem asking his owners for money to spend on players, no matter how old, and just as clearly, the Wilpons have no problem saying yes.

So there must be something else at work here, some lingering doubt about Randolph’s capabilities or some festering resentment about the way the season ended and who was to blame.

We all knew it would take a huge free agent acquisition to push the Blue Jays’ signing of Tomo Ohka off the front pages of North America’s newspapers….and the White Sox snapping up Darin Erstad as their replacement for the injured Scott Podsednik, was not that acquisition. The Griddle’s Bob Timmerman notes that if you combined the ’06 production of Erstad and Scott Pods, “they would have batted .255 and hit three home runs. And they drew a combined 60 walks against 114 strikeouts.” And they’d have 4 arms, 4 legs and two heads!