NBC Sports

Tomase: Don't compare Story to Crawford, because they're not remotely the same

NBC Sports

I have no idea how Trevor Story's Red Sox career will pan out, but I can tell you whom he'll never be -- Carl Crawford.

The Story-as-Crawford narrative is an easy one, given the former's rough start and the latter's cautionary tale of a Red Sox tenure. But that's where the story ends, as it were, because they're nothing alike. The facile comparison offers zero insight into Story's struggles.

While one can argue that Story would've preferred to sign with his hometown Rangers, he ultimately came to the Red Sox willingly as an active participant in negotiations, which included a pivotal recruiting call from incumbent shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The same cannot be said of Crawford, who he didn't even know he had signed with Boston at the 2010 winter meetings until his agent told him.

Crawford and Boston were a bad fit from Day 1. A speedy, dynamic outfielder, Crawford had already won a Gold Glove and led the American League in triples and steals four times each when the Red Sox signed him to a seven-year, $142 million contract that easily goes down as the worst of Theo Epstein's tenure.

Instead of embracing his strengths, however, Crawford decided all that money meant he needed to hit for power. He was coming off a career-high 19 homers with the Rays, but 11 of them had come in cozy Tropicana Field, where it's 320 to right and 370 to right-center. Unless he planned on targeting Pesky's Pole, he'd need to hit the ball 380-plus to leave Fenway to right. That did not play to his strengths.

 

Story, by comparison, doesn't need to alter his game for his home park at all. A right-handed pull hitter, he should've peppered the Monster by now, but he's flailing at sliders off the plate and then being locked up by fastballs. It's called a slump, and he's clearly struggling with the many new adjustments in his life: team, position, city, organization, league. Heck, his wife just had a baby, too.

The Story-as-Crawford narrative is an easy one, given the former's rough start and the latter's cautionary tale of a Red Sox tenure. But that's where the story ends, as it were, because they're nothing alike. The facile comparison offers zero insight into Story's struggles.

John Tomase on the Story/Crawford comparisons

It's probably no coincidence that he delivered his best game in weeks on Tuesday in Atlanta, recording two hits and a lineout. Back on familiar National League turf, against a pitching staff he knows from years of battles with the Rockies, he found a comfort zone. That performance should encourage Red Sox fans that Story's troubles are ones of acclimation more than a degradation of skills.

Crawford, by comparison, battled injuries throughout his Red Sox tenure. A hamstring strain robbed him of his explosiveness during his 2011 debut, leading to a career-low 18 stolen bases. A wrist injury then begat elbow pain, culminating in Tommy John surgery shortly before he had his salary dumped on the Dodgers in 2012.

The real difference between the two didn't occur on the field, though. If a more sensitive athlete has graced Boston than Crawford, I haven't met him. Crawford desperately wanted to please his new bosses and fans, but he heard every last criticism to the point of suffocation.

Tomase: These three players are holding the Red Sox' offense back

I'll never forget an April trip to Anaheim, which saw Crawford's average drop to .135 before he delivered back-to-back two-hit games while launching his first Red Sox homer. Crawford was feeling good about himself and expressed relief that he had made it through "the grind" of three awful weeks. Then WBZ's Jonny Miller, never one to mince words, peppered Crawford with questions about his abysmal start. Crawford answered patiently, but betrayed some agitation. When Miller walked away, Crawford exploded.

"G--damn!" he said. "G--damn! Finally feeling good about myself and he's asking me all these negative questions! Now I feel terrible again!"

That was par for the course with Crawford, who drove himself crazy trying to live up to his contract. When he finally left the Red Sox for the Dodgers, he called the atmosphere in Boston toxic and admitted the entire experience had left him depressed to the point where he probably never would've succeeded there.

Nothing Story has said or done suggests he's taking criticism -- or the boos he heard for the first time last week in Fenway -- so personally. "Comes with the territory," he said.

So while his numbers, including a .204 average, may look like Crawford's, that's where the comparisons end. One guy never should've been here, and everyone in baseball knew it. The other may still yet find his way.