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Mets morning briefing 2.18.11

Second day of pitchers and catchers official workouts on Friday. Position players report Saturday, so it may be a day before we hear from Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Jason Bay.

On to the news reports ...

Dave Howard, the Mets' executive VP for business operations, told Newsday's Neil Best that Mets tickets are selling like gangbusters. "I would characterize it as encouraging overall," Howard told Best. Specifically regarding season-ticket renewals, the executive VP added those were "substantially higher than where we were last year." The team on average sliced ticket prices by 14 percent and added an extra 10 percent discount for season ticket holders.

• The national media made it to Port St. Lucie on Thursday for Fred Wilpon's press conference. Fox's Ken Rosenthal believes Donald Trump is unrealistic and praises the New York media's civil handling of the interaction with the Mets' principal owner. "[Wilpon] spoke clearly and forcefully, addressing the Mets’ beat writers by their first names, yet chiding the group at large for questioning his integrity and reaching premature conclusions," Rosenthal writes. "The reporters, in turn, acted quite respectfully toward Wilpon, even while peppering him with tough, direct questions."

• Newsday's Jim Baumbach caught up with former Jets head coach Walt Michaels, who also led Trump's New York/New Jersey Generals for two seasons in the USFL. The 81-year-old Michaels thought Trump was a great owner, but doesn't see him as the minority-partner type. "As much as I know of Donald from the little time I was with him, he would do everything in his power to try to win," Michaels told Baumbach. "Now being that he was the owner, he also wanted everything done his way. And you can't blame him for wanting to do that."

Here's advice from Newsday's Ken Davidoff to the Wilpons. Writes Davidoff: "I'm not sure how much [Fred] Wilpon's outreach and access helped his family's cause, which prompts this question: Are the Wilpons, so often private when they should have been public, now making themselves visible when they should be hiding?"

• Daily News media critic Bob Raissman echoes Mike Lupica's thoughts of the day before that the Wilpons are smart to vigorously defend themselves rather than go underground. Raissman also notes that you'll see a knee-jerk reaction from media to blame a potential slow start or player transaction on Madoff rather than just actual baseball factors.

• Meanwhile, Post columnist Mike Vaccaro writes that Wilpon's forcefulness Thursday defending his integrity may be misguided. Vaccaro notes that the vast majority of reasonable people likely accept the Wilpons didn't know it was a Ponzi scheme. Yet, as Vaccaro notes: "My gut and my instincts tell me Fred is telling the truth here: We weren’t deceitful. Just dumb. And I don’t think that qualifies as being 'in on it.' But that’s not really what’s at issue here. It’s if the Wilpons benefited -- knowingly or not -- from Madoff’s fraud. If they have an ethical and moral compulsion to pay a breathtaking fortune in fines. And the hard truth is this: On one hand, they truly may receive the vindication they crave -- and on the other, may still have to write a check they won’t be able to cash."

• Here are the reports on Fred Wilpon's media address in The Times, Daily News, Post, Star-Ledger, Record and The Journal.

• The Daily News' Andy Martino notes that former hitting coach Howard Johnson has left the organization. Ultimately, HoJo was offered the hitting coach job at St. Lucie or Brooklyn, but that came after a winter of being not a priority. I only hope a bridge wasn't burned, especially since it's the 25th anniversary of the '86 Mets this year. HoJo didn't feel like talking about it when I reached out to him Thursday. You may remember Mookie Wilson had a fallout a few years ago and left the organization after feeling slighted, but he's thankfully back now as first base coach.

• Apparently, former manager Jerry Manuel would be in a Twitter war with Ozzie Guillen, his successor as White Sox skipper, if only Manuel knew how to use Twitter, writes Newsday's Steve Marcus. Guillen mocked Manuel's Mets on Twitter for being among the leaders in outfield assists, writing: "When your team leads the league in assists from outfield or in double plays that's not good. Means there's a lot of people on base, come on man." To which Manuel, now on MLB Network, replied, according to Marcus: "We allowed the fewest baserunners and then threw out the most base runners. So there you go, Ozzie. But what you got to do Ozzie, you got to teach me how to tweet so I can get back to you. You don’t have to put me on blast."

• Set the over-under on Johan Santana's return at July 1 apparently. Here are the write-ups on Santana's rehab progress in the Post, Star-Ledger and Newsday.

• Former Mets manager Joe Frazier died at age 88 on Tuesday in Broken Arrow, Okla. Read his obituary in The Times as well as at ESPNNewYork.com. He managed the Mets in 1976 and was fired during the following season.

• The Post's Mike Puma notes that Terry Collins was mildly displeased during Thursday's first workout because there was unintended idle time between stations, such as catchers having to stand around and wait for pitchers to loosen before throwing bullpens. Collins wants every minute to count. "You don't see me standing around very much -- I can't stand it -- so when I see people standing around I want to know why," Collins said.

• The Times' David Waldstein notes Jason Isringhausen is wearing No. 45 this spring rather than his customary No. 44. The latter number belongs to Jason Bay. "Let's see if I make the team first," Isringhausen told Waldstein. "We'll talk about it then."

Sophia Hollander in The Wall Street Journal finds disgruntled Mets fans and the newspaper trots out a photo of two fans with paper bags over their heads.

• Daily News columnist John Harper breaks from the Wilpon pack to write about baseball, even if it's noting the Mets' rotation doesn't exactly match up with the Phils'. Referring to Chris Capuano and Chris Young, one Mets official told Harper: "If we can get 40-45 starts out of those two guys, our pitching will be fine."

BIRTHDAYS: Plenty of ex-Mets born on Feb. 18, including Shawn Estes (1973), who threw behind Roger Clemens; John Valentin (1967); Kevin Tapani (1964), who went to the Minnesota Twins in the Frank Viola trade; and Jeff McKnight (1963).