Springer out to earn respect of teammates

February 23rd, 2021

It would be easy for to walk into the Blue Jays' clubhouse in Dunedin, Fla., with an ego.

He's got a World Series ring, three All-Star appearances and two American League Silver Slugger Awards, accolades that few players on this young Blue Jays roster can match. The ink is still drying on his six-year contract for a club-record $150 million, too, but that's not the approach the new face of the franchise is taking.

Springer knows he'll be looked to as a leader for all those reasons. That process starts quietly for him, though, watching and listening to understand the environment he's stepping into. He'll shape himself to the Blue Jays, not the other way around.

"It's my job to earn the respect of the guys that are in the locker room," Springer said. "It's not just handed out, so I need to earn that respect. And the atmosphere that's been here, that's been established here already, it's my job to understand [that] and it's my job to navigate it. It's not anybody else's job to figure me out, it's my job to figure them out."

The early impacts of Springer's influence will be quiet, too, but they matter.

Manager Charlie Montoyo alluded to this Tuesday in regards to Springer's daily routines. Springer likes to hit off the fastball machine at higher velocities, which some players don't incorporate, but as soon as they saw Springer doing it, Montoyo noticed more and more of his young players trying it out.

Eventually, Springer's leadership will be louder and more obvious. You'll see it on your screen or, eventually, live at the ballpark. The truest value of this will show down the stretch, though, and into the postseason.

"That experience is going to be huge," Montoyo said. "He knows what it takes for a team to get to October, so I'm looking forward for that to happen. And then when we're in October, to see our kids follow his lead, because he's been there and he's done great on that stage. I'm looking forward to that. That will be great."

Springer has appeared in 63 career postseason games, the same number of postseason games the Blue Jays have played in their organization's history. There are reasons Springer is a great fit with Toronto that go well beyond his pure talent, and this is at the forefront.

Over those 63 games, Springer's power has been on full display with 19 home runs and 38 RBIs. He's hit .269 with an .895 OPS and taken his game to the next level in the World Series, with seven home runs and a 1.295 OPS over 14 games.

The bigger the stage, the better he's played.

"I like to try to enjoy it," Springer explained. "A lot of people tend to put emphasis on stats and all that stuff, and in my opinion, in the playoffs, stats don't matter. It's about a win or a loss. At that moment in time, just slow yourself down and try and do whatever the game says. Then, honestly, whatever happens, happens and you move on."

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That philosophy is easier to embrace, of course, when you trust that the hitter behind you or the defender next to you is going to make plays. Springer didn't need to carry the Astros, as their lineup was stacked with star talent around him. The same goes in Toronto, where he's joined a Blue Jays club alongside Marcus Semien this offseason to complement a young core.

The Blue Jays still have needs, of course, particularly in their starting rotation, but while it's a bit early to be projecting World Series runs, this club is no longer the up-and-coming Canadian team satisfied with a taste of October. The expectations are higher now and losing can no longer be categorized as a development experience. This will be familiar to Springer, because postseason contention is all he's ever known.

"As a manager, that's what you want," Montoyo said, "and most teams that win in the playoffs and most good teams have those guys like who can speak up in the clubhouse and speak up with the manager and everybody else. Having George, he should be one of those guys, and that's great for me, because good teams have guys like that."

The expectations being placed on Springer are significant. Besides, there's nothing subtle about a six-year, $150 million deal. The Blue Jays can get to the doorstep of the postseason -- and proved as much in the expanded 2020 format -- but Springer knows just how to take those next steps and this young core will be watching his lead.