Springer and Spiers, Paul Gibson no Bob
Rick Parker, Kevin Lomon — who game them a job?
—From “Ode to the Unamazin',” by the author, 1997
I've got Barry Zito off my mind. I've got Steve Springer on my head.
The Metsologists among us don't blink. We know Steve Springer was a minor league lifer who sipped a cup of coffee with the Mets at the end of his career: four games with us in 1992 when The Worst Team Money Could Buy was rooting around for spare change between its cushions. Springer, an infielder, was recalled when another fella who was about done playing, Willie Randolph, went on the DL with a broken bone in his left hand. The recall grows sketchy from there. The entirety of my recollection of Steve Springer is that he didn't appear all that athletic (I say from my state of perpetual sloth) and he didn't slow the Mets' descent into oblivion.
Steve's stay at Shea lasted eleven days. He was sent down on August 25, 1992. Two days later the Mets filled their second base hole by trading for Jeff Kent. Kent's still playing, albeit not here. Springer was never heard from again as a player.
Steve Springer, it turns out, could teach Jeff Kent a few things about hitting. He could teach a lot of people and apparently he has. Steve Springer took what he learned in his years in baseball as a player, a scout and an agent and poured it into an instructional CD called Quality At-Bats: The Mental Side. It's endorsed by, among others, Billy Beane, Clint Hurdle, Eric Valent and Brent Mayne.
You recognize those names, don't you? They, like Steve Springer, were Mets. None was one of us for very long, but they are in The Holy Books and there was a moment or more when we applauded them and accepted them as our own.
But none of them — nor Piazza nor Hernandez nor Seaver, for that matter — can say what Steve Springer can say.
That I'm wearing his hat.
And for that, I thank one of nature's noblebloggers.
A little over fourteen years after Steve Springer completed his Met tour of duty, I met Dave Murray for the first time. Metsosphereans will recognize that name as synonymous with Mets Guy in Michigan. He and I became correspondents shortly after each of us started our respective blogs in 2005. E-mail led to friendship. Friendship led to bagels. Dave may be Michigan's leading Mets Guy today but in his youth he was simply another Mets fan from Massapequa. Last winter, he mentioned on his blog that while he can find Mets boxscores on the Internet, he can't find a decent bagel in the Midwest, certainly not the kind we grow here on Long Island.
So I sent him a dozen. Dave has been trying to repay me ever since.
Dude, we're even.
For Christmas/Chanukah, Dave sent me Steve Springer's 1986 gameworn Tidewater Tides cap. It's a beauty. The Tides were still riding the bicentennial cap wave of a decade earlier, so it's a pillbox model: orange bill, blue field, three white pinstripes circling the head, a big orange T for Tides. And in faded ink on the underside of the visor, “Steve Springer #10″.
Holy cap! I'm wearing what Steve Springer wore!
Dave sent authentication along with the gift, but it was unnecessary. Even if somebody sent me a pretend Steve Springer 1986 Tidewater Tides cap, I'd be pretty overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and generosity. He said he purchased ten Tides hats at some point and figured he could get by with nine. I've got one now and it's one of the greatest things I've ever been given.
I mean it's a baseball cap worn by a Met when he was a Tide! Geez!
Like any veteran fan who's seen 'em come and seen 'em go, I have a tendency to be a little snarky toward those we would loosely term obscure Mets. I will probably fall back on that pose, but maybe I'll think twice before chuckling at the CVs of the journeymen who were or are just passing through Flushing now that I share a bit of nogginry with one of them.
Steve Springer's first game in the minors was at Little Falls in 1982 when he was 21. He spent eight consecutive seasons at Triple-A, including stints in the White Sox, Mariners and Indians organizations. He played four games for Cleveland in 1990, then the four with the Mets two years later. And that, despite a .278 average in eleven years in the minors, was it. He was 31 in his last season.
Steve Springer came to bat all of five times as a Met. That's five more at-bats — and two more hits — than I'll ever have. That's something to admire, not deride.
Thanks to Dave. Thanks to Steve. Thanks to both of you for sticking my head more into the game than I could have imagined.