Apologies for the tardiness. Darn day games get me every time.

Anyway, I listened to the Mets game as I drove from a morning getaway to Yankee Stadium, and it didn't sound like a team drawing the white flag. It sounded like a team that could've hung 'em up for the day, down 6-2 to Roy Halladay, but did not. Putting the tying run 90 feet away with two outs in the ninth and just falling short.

I'm not saying give them points for any sort of moral victory. But I will contend that Jerry Manuel hasn't "lost the team," as the saying goes. They played the Phillies hard for three straight days. The Phillies just happen to have a better team, even when they're missing guys with injuries.

That said, in light of the moves the Mets made Saturday, they probably owe their players an explanation for their thinking. Manuel can't deliver the message, since his complete lack of power is evident to all. Omar Minaya could deliver it, but I don't think he has it in him to play bad cop.

No, it's gotta be Jeff Wilpon, the team's COO. It's rare for someone from ownership to address the team as a whole - that is, besides George Steinbrenner's frequent pep talks back in the day - yet this situation calls for it.

If I were Wilpon, here's what I would say to the players:

"Look, we all know this has been a strange season. We're all extremely disappointed by what has transpired, particularly since the All-Star break.

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Yes, we've made some changes. But we're not giving up. Not by a longshot. I know you're disappointed that we didn't make any moves at the trade deadline, but we simply couldn't find a deal we liked that wouldn't hurt our farm system.

Luis and Frenchy, you're on the bench because you didn't get the job done. It's as simple as that. We want to see if Tejada can grow offensively - we already know he'll help us on the defensive side - and we want to see what Martinez can give us. We have to start thinking about the future, but we're not crippling our present.

The odds are against us, but teams have climbed out of deeper holes. And if you put together a run, then it's not too late for us to make a trade to improve us for this season. 

The onus is on you. Be great, and we'll have your backs. We won't give up unless you give up."

Would the above message be entirely truthful? No. It would bypass the Mets' perceived financial issues. But it would at least give the players something with which they could work. It would be worth a shot.

@NewsdaySports

Odds of this happening? What's that old Robert Downey Jr. film?

--David Lennon breaks down Carlos Beltran's breakdown. At this point, the Mets have little choice but to keep running Beltran out there and hope he approaches his old self with repetitions, just like Jose Reyes did earlier this season. The better Beltran plays by the end of the season, the more likely the Mets can trade him this winter.

--Bob Klapisch thinks the Mets should fire Manuel right now.

--Off the Yankees game, I wrote about the fallen (for now) rivalry. The Red Sox should be back next year. But if Josh Beckett and John Lackey are both on the downside of their careers...the Red Sox sure will be paying a lot of money to two guys on the downsides of their careers. Particularly in Beckett's case, however, it's too early to make such proclamations.

Kudos to the Yankees, meanwhile, for promoting Dustin Moseley to the Yankees right before he used his opt-out to leave Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barres and become a free agent. He has given the team nice depth as a fill-in for Andy Pettitte.

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--Look at the standings. Now look at the schedule of the next few days. The nation's heartland is the place to be. Cardinals at Reds for three days, starting today, and then Twins at White Sox for three days, starting tomorrow. Should be great games.

--I'll check in after Red Sox-Yankees.

--UPDATE, 6:21 p.m.: Hell of a game here at the Stadium, with the Red Sox prevailing. The late innings were especially exciting, with the Yankees repeatedly threatening but not quite tying the game against the Boston trio of Jon Lester, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.

Curtis Granderson's first two at-bats against Jon Lester were respectable, producing a pair of flyouts. But what people will most remember is his seventh-inning at-bat, with the bases loaded and none out, when he struck out against Lester.

Granderson is of course a complete liability against left-handers, so the Yankees will have to stock their postseason roster to ensure such a scenario doesn't arise then, when there are real consequences.

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But I'm going to write about a more interesting postseason decision: Whether to put Phil Hughes in the starting rotation or in the bullpen. The earlier conventional wisdom was that, with the eighth inning uncertain, you'd want Hughes in your bullpen, to reassume the job he had last year.

Now, though? Joba Chamberlain looks better, David Robertson has been quite good and even Boone Logan has excelled as a LOOGY. Meanwhile, isn't Hughes the Yankees' second-best starting pitcher right now? Wouldn't you want him in the postseason rotation ahead of both A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez?

If you could do me a solid, please don't tell the competition what I'm writing.

--In other news, the Mariners fired Don Wakamatsu, and I enjoyed Dave Cameron's linked take on it. As we said all the way last November, bringing back Ken Griffey, Jr. was a mistake for Seattle. I never could've imagined it would turn out to be such an impactful mistake.

A year ago at this time, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik was one of the game's rising stars, excelling in his long-deserved first chance to run a club. Now? Wow, does he have some cleaning up to do.

There already has been speculation about Bobby Valentine getting the full-time managing gig this winter. Could be, although keep in mind that two years ago, the Mariners didn't even interview Valentine.

--Thanks to JE for this link, another take on the Year of the Pitcher.

--Have a good night.