By Ernie Palladino
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Amid the USA World Cup fever, anticipation of Fourth of July festivities, and summer vacations, somebody up and stole our baseball season.

Whoever did it remains unknown. Some believe it was an individual, others believe it was a group of perpetrators working in concert. However it went down, retrieving the purloined property is going to be quite a task, probably an impossible one.

On paper, the Yanks still have a shot at making something out of the season. But anyone who watches that brownout of a lineup knows that the 3 ½-game gap between them and the first-place Orioles and Blue Jays might as well be 10 games.

The Mets? Well, at least Sandy Alderson has come off that 90-win nonsense he was spouting before the season. Now he claims the Mets are a .500 club disguised as an 11-under-.500 catastrophe. It still sounds silly, considering how this 37-48 squad has let the year spiral out of control on every level. But at least the architect of this low-budget Citi Field ruin has gotten a bit closer to earth and, as such, reality.

Things have gotten so bad around the Mets that even the return of David Wright from a bruised left rotator cuff hasn’t raised a ripple of anticipation. Perhaps it’s because his absence had little to do with the recent 1-6 road trip. They’ve lost 20 out of 30 one-run games on the season, and Wright was there for most of them.

Terry Collins said his players need to stop looking at the standings and concentrate on winning one game at a time. He’s absolutely right, if only because the fourth-place standing is so depressing. They are wandering the desert, miles from an oasis, no help in sight. Even top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard has been stinking it up so badly in Triple-A Las Vegas that Collins admitted he may not make his Major League debut this year.

The Yanks represent the other end of the spectrum. They spent gadzillions to bulk up their lineup. The combined return on Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian Roberts, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran so far has been around a .250 average.

They don’t hit with men in scoring position, a situation that carried over from last year. They don’t hit homers, which is bad when based in a launching pad of a home park. That’s a big reason they are just 18-23 at Yankee Stadium.

One can understand the Mets’ issues at Citi Field. They’re an ill-constructed club which is not suited to the pitcher-friendly dimensions of their Flushing home. But the Yanks have a bunch of proven hitters who are not producing. So in that respect, their woes are even worse than their cross-town cohorts.

The one kid who showed tons of potential in April, Yangervis Solarte, headed off to Triple-A Scranton Thursday. Yep. That’ll fix things.

The great shortstop is literally on his way out. The big bopper, Mark Teixeira, is breaking down physically before our eyes.

On one end of town, we have minor-league quality players playing minor-league quality ball. Up in the Bronx, we have a set of proven stars playing far, far below their contracts and their pasts.

It adds up to nothing right now.

Somebody walked off with our baseball season, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be returned any time soon.

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