(above : NY Post back page that can be recycled, as need be, over the next two summers)

Did anyone else find it curious the Mets selected assistant GM John Ricco for bulldog duty this week, entrusted to tow the Amazins’ party line during an unseemly pissing match with Carlos Beltran and Scott Boras? Well, anyone other than the Daily News’ John Harper, who called Omar Minaya’s inability to be reached by telephone Thursday, “another sign that ownership no longer trusts him to be their front man, that he’s a lame-duck GM whose powers have been significantly reduced.” “They don’t have telephones in Arizona,” quipped WFAN’s Joe Benigno-Gazingo yesterday morning, a jibe that must’ve registered with someone in the Mets hierarchy, because, voila, Minaya was once again, capable of making public statements by day’s end, though this time, of the conciliatory variety. From the New York Times’ David Waldstein :

“Everything is fine. Listen, we have no problems with Carlos Beltran,” Minaya insisted. “I have no problem with him and ownership has no problem. We love him. The only issue was with the process, not the player.

On Friday, Minaya suggested there might have simply been a misunderstanding.

œWe spoke on Tuesday and he told me about the diagnosis, Minaya said of his initial conversation with Beltran about the pending surgery. œI said, ˜O.K., as long as it follows the protocol,™ and I wished him well with everything in general. I told him it has to follow the protocol.

When asked specifically whether he gave Beltran permission to have the surgery, Minaya said it was not his to give.

œThat has to be sorted out between the doctors first, he said. œThat™s the protocol.

Of course, whether Beltran had any idea about the team™s protocols regarding surgery was unclear.

Without knowing for certain what was discussed between the Mets’ CF and embattled GM, it seems more and more likely this “follow the protocol” rhetoric is a very awkward way of saying Minaya OK’d Beltran’s surgery, yet didn’t have the authority to do so. It wasn’t enough for Minaya and Dr. David Altcheck to approve the procedure — apparently, the only way Beltran could maintain the sanctity of his Mets contract was by obtaining written permission from Ricco, Fred & Jeff Wilpon, Kevin Burkhardt, Matthew Cerrone, Pete Flynn, Mr. Met, Julian Casablancas and the late Doris From Rego Park.