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Collins making Mets fans think of Bobby V.

Manager Terry Collins of the New York Mets

Manager Terry Collins of the New York Mets looks on from the dugout as his team plays against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (May 20, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

They're really quite different.

"I think they're totally different," said Jason Isringhausen, the only person at this Subway Series to play for both Bobby Valentine and Terry Collins.

Bobby V. probably is the better strategist. Terry C., at least this incarnation of him, might be superior at communicating with his players.

Valentine went to Japan with ambitions of elevating Pacific Rim baseball to new heights. "I just went there to manage," Collins said, smiling.

In the context of the Mets-Yankees rivalry, however? They feel similar. This year's Mets team evokes memories of Valentine's 1997 club, the Subway Series pioneers, as a team that overcomes injuries, makes the most of its humble talent base and rides the energy of its manager.

Just as the '97 team won the first-ever regular-season game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, these Mets won the 2011 Subway Series opener in the Bronx Friday night, with Daniel Murphy's sixth-inning homer off Freddy Garcia the difference in the 2-1 victory.

The Mets (22-22) returned to .500 for the first time since they were 4-4, and they've climbed back from a 5-13 record despite losing Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, David Wright and Chris Young to the disabled list.

"I'm really proud of the way the club is playing," Collins said after the game.

The feeling appears to be largely mutual.

"He has kept us together as a team," Jose Reyes said of Collins. "At the beginning, a lot of people outside this clubhouse disagreed [that the Mets could contend]. Terry really was behind us. He believed we could do this."

"They're the elite team in baseball," Collins said of the Yankees before the game. "No matter where they play, every team wants to be compared with the Yankees. So here we are in the same market as the Yankees. We'll compete very hard, play well against them.

"On a daily basis, no matter who we play, the other team has to get their play up."

It's the sort of confidence that Valentine displayed in his guys. And in himself. Bobby V. reveled in taking on Joe Torre's Yankees.

"They both bring a lot of energy to the game. That makes them fun to play for, especially," Isringhausen said of Valentine and Collins.

The Mets' lineup featured three players who started the season opener April 1 in Florida: shortstop Reyes, rightfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Josh Thole. Leftfielder Jason Bay was on the disabled list, first baseman Murphy was on the Mets' bench and DH Fernando Martinez, third baseman Justin Turner, centerfielder Jason Pridie and second baseman Ruben Tejada were preparing for the start of Triple-A Buffalo's season.

It helps, Collins said, that he spent 2010 as the Mets' minor-league field coordinator. He had a good feel for these players.

Keep in mind that Collins' previous downfall as a manager was that he wore out his players by August or so. He promises that he learned from his mistakes, however, and at the moment, he presents a welcome change.

The only time Collins and Valentine faced each other as managers was in Japan, with Bobby heading the Chiba Lotte Marines and Terry the Orix Buffaloes. They occasionally went to dinner together, and Collins tried to learn from Valentine. "Bobby's real good," Collins said. "He knows what he's doing."

Right now, the same could be said for Collins.

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