End of the line?

NEW YORK -- It looks like the end of the line for Art Howe, who could be managing his final game for the Mets Tuesday. <P> Howe met with club chairman Fred Wilpon and GM Jim Duquette in a 30 to 40 minute session early Tuesday afternoon, and though neither Howe nor Duquette would divulge the contents of the meeting, no one could even confirm that Howe would be managing the club Wednesday – not exactly a ringing endorsement.

"All I can say I'm managing tonight," Howe said.

Speaking on behalf of the Mets, Duquette continues to insist that the club has still not made a decision to fire Howe – a direct contradiction of the New York Daily News' report on Monday, which stated that Wilpon was convinced Friday to axe the manager at the end of the season.

"There's been no final decision on that," Duquette said. "We'll continue to evaluate."

But when Howe addressed reporters in his usual pregame session, he seemed as though there was something he wanted to say, only he couldn't quite say it. His demeanor seemed a bit off as he vaguely discussed his early afternoon meeting, and forget 2005 – Howe wasn't even able to say that he'd finish out the year.

Of course, Duquette also refused to commit past this evening's game for Howe. The writing is on the wall, but the way things have gone this week, who knows?

A noon press conference Wednesday to announce Howe's dismissal seems just about as likely as three more weeks of belaboring the point.

But Howe, who openly challenged the organization Monday to fire him immediately if they'd already reached a decision to do so, grinned often and seemed at peace with whatever might happen. He also offered no regrets for speaking his mind a day earlier with regard to the firing issue.

"I'm proud of what I've done here," Howe said. "I've done the best job I possibly could here. But I guess the record speaks for itself."

Regardless of what the Mets decide to do, Howe said he'll get along somehow. He won't resign from his commitment to manage the Mets as long as the club wants, but was less sure if he'd want to be in baseball next year.

"I wish I had a dime for every time my dad said life isn't fair," Howe said. "You find that out all the time. But it doesn't mean you quit."

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