As the Mike Piazza era likely draws to a close, Mets owner Fred Wilpon views 2005 as a step forward.

The Mets haven't been to the postseason since losing to the Yankees in the 2000 World Series, but they would finish with a winning record for the first time since 2001 if they at least split their closing series against Colorado.

"I think it's progress. I'm not sure success is unless you are in the playoffs," Wilpon said yesterday.

In the first season since Omar Minaya took over as general manager and Willie Randolph became manager, Pedro Martinez flourished and Carlos Beltran foundered for much of the year. And Piazza, 37, is nearing the end of a $91 million, seven-year contract.

"The likelihood is that Mike can be served best in the American League," Wilpon said of the catcher, now a defensive liability, making a possible move to designated hitter in the AL an attractive shift.

* BREWERS CELEBRATION: The Milwaukee Brewers gave their fans their money's worth even though they got into the ballpark for free.

The Brewers beat the Reds at Miller Park in front of a raucous crowd, with everyone admitted for free as a goodwill gesture from owner Mark Attanasio. The turnstile count was 27,008, including paid attendance of 13,173. Those fans who had already bought tickets received a voucher for a free game next year.

Attanasio, who celebrated his 48th birthday and capped his first season as team owner in style from the owner's box, watched the Brewers raise their record to 80-79.

-- From News Services

Mets catcher Mike Piazza, 37, is likely winding up his run in the Natonal League. The AL may be beckoning.