When I see Lucas Duda hitting another long home run, or Justin Turner playing second base like he was in the seventh game of the World Series, or Dillon Gee on the mound making me think of a young Tom Seaver, I realize that 2011 is not another lost year at all: it is more like 1968 all over again. For those of you too young to remember that, it was a turning point for the Mets organization. I believe this year is pretty much the same thing.
Like the 1968 Mets, the team got a new manager. It is interesting to compare Terry Collins with Gil Hodges, whose managerial styles seem similar. In fact, Hodges took over a dismal team and made the players think they could win; Collins has done pretty much the same thing this year.
The 1968 Mets were 73-89 for the season, but this was an internship for most of the young players and, just like the 2011 Mets, there were quite a few of them on the team. The elder statesman in '68 was Ed Charles (35), but the rest of the players like Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, and Ed Kranepool were in their mid-twenties. Seaver was 23 and clocking in with a 16-12 season. Gee will probably end with a better winning percentage this year, but the similarities are striking.
There was also the most salient aspect of life for the 1968 season: Hodges wanted those kids to go out and have fun. In the process they were learning, sort of on the job training, and the same thing is happening with the 2011 Mets. The current team is 67-69 and may just end with a better record than their 1968 counterparts, but the foundation is being established by Collins for next year, just as Hodges did in 1968.