Newsday’s Wallace Matthews (above) brags that a Thanksgiving 2006 column blasting the Mets set a record for “most negative responses ever”, and with such lofty journalistic goals in mind, alleges the Metropolitans “have enjoyed more free rides this offseason than a serial turnstile-jumper circa 1977.”

Heart transplants are not available. Character can’t be bought even for A-Rod type numbers. As far as we know, not even BALCO has figured out how to bottle killer instinct.

So instead, they settle for Johnny Estrada, an average hitter at best and a below-average catcher. How far below average? Well, the numbers say he couldn’t throw out David Wells running with a refrigerator on his back. I’m willing to bet he can, but not by much.

Estrada looks to be just another part-time player on a roster that is chock full of same. Aside from David Wright at third, Jose Reyes at short and Carlos Beltran in center, the Mets don’t have one everyday player who looks capable of playing a full season.

Estrada, assuming he stays a Met and is not used as a pawn in another trade, will split time with Ramon Castro. As a man who has suffered from an arthritic lower back, the same ailment that afflicts Castro, I have three words of advice: Lose. The. Gut.

Then there are the corner outfielders: Moises Alou, who is a good half-player, or half of a good player, managing to appear in 87 games last season; Endy Chavez, who made it into 71 games, Lastings Milledge, who showed improvement but was lucky to make it through the year with his head still attached to his shoulders, Marlon Anderson, Ben Johnson and Carlos Gomez. Help.

This is basically the same team that won 88 games last year, but not one when it really needed to. Judging by what’s out there in the free-agent market, it is not going to get appreciably better between now and Opening Day.

True to form, there’s not much in the way of constructive suggestions from Wally. Would he have prefered to seen the Mets commit $300 million to Alex Rodriguez while they already have an MVP caliber player at that position? Perhaps unload one or more of the team’s current All-Stars to acquire Johan Santana – unsigned past 2008 and having allowed a career high 33 HR’s last season? Is not a full season of Luis Castillo an improvement over half a season with the same?

Matthews isn’t totally out to lunch, but we’ve not seen a winter during Omar Minaya’s tenure where the general manager stood pat. Doesn’t November 22 seem a tad early to presume the Met have already written off their final season at Shea? When and if Minaya has successfully traded for Joe Blanton, Dontrelle Willis or A.J. Burnett, I fully expect Wally to castigate the Mets for overpaying and/or failing to include Lastings Milledge in the deal.