Prior to presiding over Mike Pelfrey’s latest debacle, Willie Randolph endured the humiliation of being called to the carpet by Hall Of Fame baseball executive Jeff Wilpon, only to learn after the meeting that Carlos Delgado either (depending on your point of view) refused to endorse the manager or failed to reply to a baited question. Still, Randolph’s got at least one supporter left, in this case, the same reporter who almost cost him his job. “Given what Randolph has endured in baseball,” writes the Bergen Record’s Ian O’Connor, “his bosses should let him breathe on the issue of race.”

Randolph didn’t say anything divisive or inflammatory when we discussed black and white inside his old home, Yankee Stadium, eight days back. The manager simply raised the question of whether his skin color is among the factors ” on a conscious or subconscious level ” that are weighed by fans and critics when measuring his ability to lead the Mets.

It was and is a legitimate question to ask.

When he meets with Fred and Jeff Wilpon today, meets with them after losing six of his last seven games, Randolph should apologize to his bosses for the play of his $140 million team, and for the comments suggesting the SNY network was fixing to portray him in an unflattering light.

Camera operators are supposed to film managers and head coaches for reaction shots when their teams mess up. It’s called good TV.

Randolph also should accept full responsibility for his statements in an on-the-record, tape-recorded interview conducted before a number of witnesses, a notion he’s comfortable with one day, not so comfortable with the next.

But Randolph shouldn’t retreat from anything he said within the context of race. As the de facto offensive coordinator of Joe Torre’s dynastic Yanks, Randolph was rejected as a candidate for one managerial job after another, this while every white bullpen catcher and his brother got a gig.

Does anyone really believe that a white man who was a two-time champion Yankee as a player and a four-time champion Yankee as a coach would’ve waited as long as Randolph did before a franchise finally called his number?

Randolph wasn’t ranting about overt racism in the Shea stands. He merely was talking about the very real possibility that some have a problem with black leadership, whether they realize it or not..