While Billy Wagner was telling the New York Post his tenure as a New York Met is certainly over, Newsday’s Wallace Matthews veered from standard practice to actually praise Wagner’s manager, insisting “for the past three months, Jerry Manuel has done right by the Mets. Now it’s time for the Mets to do right by him.”

You play well for Jerry Manuel, you play for Jerry Manuel. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t seem to matter how much money a guy makes or how much experience he has or who his godfather in the front office happens to be.

If any of that did matter, Luis Castillo would be playing every day and Aaron Heilman would be closing every night. But Manuel runs the Mets as a true meritocracy, and if anybody doesn’t like it, then too damned bad.

Even if you continue to hate the way the Mets canned his predecessor, Willie Randolph – and I do – you must admit, as I now do, that replacing him with Manuel was the true turning point of their season.

Even if you recognize – and I do – that it says terrible things about the character of some of the Mets who rolled over on Willie, you can’t deny that they have stood up for Jerry.

Whether it’s fair or not, the same Mets who tuned out Randolph seem to listen to Manuel. The same ones who belittled Randolph behind his back seem to respect Manuel. Most importantly, the same ones who laid down for Randolph seem to play for Manuel.

And even if you continue to suspect – as I do – that Manuel got hired for all the wrong reasons, he clearly has proved himself the right man for the job.

While I’d echo much of Matthews’ praise for Manuel, I remain mystified at the way certain Mets’ dogging-it-for-Randolph is cited as a near fact.  Is it beyond the realm of possibility that Mike Pelfrey simply learned how to pitch at the big league level right around the time Randolph and The Jacket disappeared?   That nagging injuries that plauged Carlos Delgado for the better part of 18 months finally healed sufficiently?  Did Danny Murphy turn down an order to report to Flushing because he hated Willie Randolph?