Baseball can be a humbling sport. One night, you can drive in three runs on two doubles to make it feel as though you are about to come out of a slump. And then, less than 24 hours later, you can strike out four times in the same game and get booed by your home fans.
That is what Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story experienced in Thursday’s 8-0 loss to the Angels at Fenway Park. After going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs on Wednesday night, Story told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) that he thought he was getting his timing back.
“I think it’s very close,” said Story. “It’s hard to say 100% because if it feels 100% for everyone, you’d never get out. But I’m feeling good about myself in the box.”
To follow up one of his best offensive performances of the season to date, Story went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and two runners left on base against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels on Thursday afternoon. His third punchout, which came on an 88 mph slider in the fifth inning, produced some light boos from the Fenway faithful. The fourth one, which came on a 98 mph four-seamer in the seventh, prompted more pronounced jeers from the 29,476 or so spectators on hand.
All told, Story swung-and-missed nine times en route to picking up his first Golden Sombrero as a member of the Red Sox. Following Thursday’s outing, the 29-year-old now finds himself batting a modest .210/.293/.296 with no home runs and nine RBIs through his first 21 games (92 plate appearances) of the 2022 season.
Given the expectations that come with signing a six-year, $140 million contract in free agency, Story has clearly fallen short of them to this point. That the right-handed hitter has yet to hit a home run after establishing himself as one of the top power-hitting infielders in his time with the Rockies is quite indicative of his current struggles.
Of course, Story’s free agency was rather unique due to the nature of the MLB lockout and the shortened spring training that followed. Shortly after signing his deal with the Sox in late March, Story left the team for a few days to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. He only got into five Grapefruit League games before the start of the regular season, then missed three straight games in April due to food poisoning. On top of that, he switched agencies after signing with Boston and has been adjusting to his new role as both a second baseman and leadoff hitter.
Taking all that into consideration, there is valid reasoning behind Story’s early-season difficulties. But, as he told Cotillo himself, the two-time All-Star is not one to make excuses.
“It was kind of a hectic situation that we were going through but that’s life,” Story said. “No one’s going to feel sorry for you or feel bad for you. We’re here playing ball and we’re here to win games.”
As he learned on Thursday, Red Sox fans are not feeling sorry for Story and are instead growing impatient with him as well as the lack of production from the lineup as a whole. It also does not help that the team they are supporting has lost seven of its last 10 games to drop to 10-16 on the season.
Still, given his track record, it would be unwise to judge Story’s six-year deal based on the first month of it alone. On Thursday, Sox manager Alex Cora said that Story’s work ethic “has not changed. J.D. Martinez added that he likes to “measure guys at the end of the year, not after a month” while Rich Hill described Story as “a great teammate” who is “putting in the work and the time.”
In the wake of Thursday’s defeat to the Angels, which marked the Sox’ fifth consecutive series loss, Story, Martinez, Alex Verdugo, and hitting coach Pete Fatse headed straight for the batting cage. According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Story remained there, honing his craft, well after the clubhouse closed to the media.
It remains to be seen if the extra work Story is putting in will pay dividends for he or the Red Sox. One thing is for certain, though: Story needs to perform at a high — or atleast near-to-high — level and he needs to start doing so soon.
(Picture of Trevor Story: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)