(32 year old Vinny Rottino’s biggest moment in baseball to date — being punched in the cock by his manager)

Getting the most out of a decidedly Buffalo Bisons-esque lineup, Terry Collins has the 2012 New York Mets just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East at the end of May, a rather staggering achievement given the club’s finances and non-contributions from players injured (Mike Pelfrey, Jason Bay) and healthy (Ike Davis).  While R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana and David Wright are experiencing career revivals, don’t expect the Amazingly Destitutes to revert to their former free spending ways, warns ESPN’s Buster Olney, who writes, “there are no plans to dive back into the marketplace and spend aggressively and restore their payroll to pre-Madoff levels.”

They are switching big-picture strategies, in fact: Rather than making moves designed to lure fans to their ballpark — like the signing of Pedro Martinez and Jason Bay — the Mets intend to follow a path created by their fans’ investment. As the team gets better, and Citi Field attendance climbs, the Mets’ payroll will grow.

It’s a slow-burn strategy, and rival officials believe it has a chance to work under Sandy Alderson, because there is hope on the horizon. Zack Wheeler, the pitching prospect acquired from the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran, is dominating hitters in the minors with a fastball in the range of 94-97 mph, and Matt Harvey is progressing in Triple-A. Jenrry Mejia, whose development was derailed in the past, appears to be back on track.

“Wheeler reminds me of a right-handed Matt Moore — he’s that good,” said one evaluator recently. “He’s got really easy gas — tremendous stuff. You could see a situation where the Mets have Wheeler, Harvey and Mejia in the big leagues by the middle of June [2013], and they could have something building.”

The Mets need help in the middle of the diamond, at catcher, in the middle infield, and they may make intermediate moves as they wait for the maturation of their core of young pitching. But they don’t intend to throw around big money, sources say, and while there has been speculation that signing David Wright may require a 10-year investment, the Mets might be much more conservative in these negotiations than expected.

So there you have it, folks. The burden on putting this promising young team over the hump is squarely on the miserly baseball fans of NYC (or those who haven’t already devoted their bank accounts/allegiance to the Yankees).  Earlier today, WFAN’s Mike Francesa argued the Econo-Mets had more than proven themselves worthy of greater fan support, which certainly begs the question, how many games at Citi Field has the broadcaster personally paid to see this season?  Or does he only attend sporting events where he’s seated next to rock royalty?