I figured it would only be a matter of time before Newsday’s Wally Matthews, an avowed critic of Lastings Milledge, tore into the young Mets outfielder for one alleged faux pas or another. And incredibly enough, Matthews did just that earlier today. So what did Da Edge do this time? Record a followup to “Bend Ya Knees”? Get busy with one of Captain Red Ass’ rejects? High five the paying customers?

Nope. All Lastings has done is drive in 5 runs in 4 games, a stretch in which the supposedly desperate Mets took 3 of 4 from the Reds. Oh yeah, he also had the temerity to appear in full view of Matthews wearing the following ensemble : “the self-styled King of All Bling carefully buttoned his lavender dress shirt, smoothed out the creases of his subdued blue pinstripe trousers, buckled on his jewel-encrusted wristwatch and coaxed his arms into the sleeves of his jacket, all the while carrying on a conversation with two pre-teen boys.”

Can you believe it? A professional athlete being vain enough to dress better than a Long Island newspaper columnist?

It was the fourth day of Milledge’s latest incarnation as a New York Met, and the third in which L Millz, Milledge’s hip-hop mogul alter-ego, played the key role in a Mets victory. Thursday night, it was a mad scramble from first culminating in an artful, non-contact slide that pleased everyone but his manager in a 3-2 win over the Reds. Saturday, it was a seeing-eye single to center that won No. 298 for Tom Glavine. Yesterday, it was a two-run double smoked to right-center, providing the winning run in the victory that kept the Mets 1 1/2 games ahead of the hotly pursuing Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

The infamous hip-hop CD which Milledge … er, L Millz … produced and performed on with his friend Manny D last year, seemed to be the last straw for this notoriously image-conscious organization, but an injury-decimated outfield necessitated the Mets swallow hard and give Milledge one more chance, if only to showcase him as the trading deadline approaches, a possibility general manager Omar Minaya did not rule out.

“Oh, it’s always a big help when you play well,” Minaya said of Milledge. “And when other teams can see it, it’s even better.”

It is no secret that the Mets need setup help in the bullpen, and if the slow-healing injuries to Endy Chavez and Moises Alou don’t improve in a hurry – Alou is scheduled to play in the minors this week, but Chavez is said to be “not even close” to returning – they could be shopping for an outfielder, too.

If nothing else, the way Milledge has played since being recalled could allay the fears of teams who like his baseball skills while dreading the release of his next CD. And so far, Milledge is doing his part to help rehabilitate his image. The dreads are gone, replaced by a conservative edge-up, although he promised yesterday that something a little more eye-catching is in the works. “Just a little sumthin’ sumthin’,” he said.

This week, Milledge has given the Mets a little sumthin’, sumthin’. Call it energy, call it youthful exuberance, call it a mighty ego in search of stardom. Whatever it is, it has been working.

And maybe you could call him a talented ballplayer, one whose work ethic and baseball IQ don’t receive nearly as much scrutiny from the local press as what he’s wearing. Really, what does it say about Matthews’ jaundiced perspective that after Milledge makes some positive contributions in a genuine pennant race, Wally…channels Mr. Blackwell?

If David Newhan wore an earring and went 0 for 4 the same day, I have a sneaking suspicion Matthews would find someone else to write about.