Last week, Trevor Story held camp with four young Red Sox infielders and walked them through the way he trains, the way he prepares, and did his best to give them the general road map of what it takes to be an All-Star at the major league level.
From one perspective, this should be an overwhelmingly positive story. Here you have a key member of the 2024 Red Sox not only putting the work in to recapture his groove after a pair of lost seasons, but also going out of his way to make other current and potentially future teammates better. In fact, in this hellhole of a baseball winter, it may be THE most positive Red Sox related story going. But unfortunately, there’s also a concerning undertow happening here beneath this shiny surface.
Attending the event were fellow infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, Vaughn Grissom, and David Hamilton, and good on them for doing so. But the far more pressing question swirls around who wasn’t there, and almost immediately, much of Red Sox twitter began to point the finger at Rafael Devers.
Where is Devers the Butcher?— Lawdog Thrawn (@hiddenregions) January 11, 2024
Devers is the one that should be there. His defense was atrocious last season.— RedSox For Life (@RedSoxWS15) January 11, 2024
Where’s Rafy???— Lespier SAD! (@imlespier) January 12, 2024
Devers not there??? WTF— Manny Colon (@_mannycolon) January 11, 2024
But here’s the thing, Devers not being there doesn’t bother me one bit, and there’s two good reasons for this. The first is summed up well by Sammy James.
Lots of people asking why Rafael Devers isn’t at Story camp in Texas.— Sammy James (@HebHammer94) January 11, 2024
Let me help: he lives in a different country. https://t.co/QhdllUPtq7
But the second, and far more important reason Devers’ absence isn’t concerning comes from the camp’s origin story. You see, before it was “Camp Story,” it was “Camp Tulo.” An idea born out of the passion, work ethic, and burning desire to win that defined former Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
The premise was this: If the club isn’t going to go out and acquire top free agents to improve the team during the star middle infielder’s prime, the star middle infielder should do his part and invite what he believes are the most promising prospects to his facility in the offseason and help fast track them to their ceiling. Getting the young guys to learn and put in the same level of prep and pregame work as the team’s star player can only help identify the future championship pieces faster. And that’s before you even account for how much more likely they may be to reach their ultimate ceiling with the right nurture from a veteran teammate.
So as far as Devers is concerned, it doesn’t really matter if he came to Texas with Story or not. He’s already an established major league star, and Trevor Story isn’t going to teach him anything about fielding there that they can’t work on together in spring training or the regular season.
The far more concerning absentee here is Marcelo Mayer! He checks every box as a perfect candidate for the camp’s original intensions. He’s young (just turned 21 last month), he’s a middle infielder, he has a super high ceiling, and he hasn’t quite sharpened that edge of intensity yet you often see from the best players in big situations.
And more specifically to the point, Trevor Story said he was going to invite him to his powwow. Back in September, when Ian Brown first highlighted Story’s intension to hold camp this winter, Story said this about Mayer: “I’m definitely inviting him”
Okay, now we’ve got a problem.
There’s only three ways we go from Story’s stance established in September to Mayer not being there in January, and none of them are good. So, let’s review the options.
1) Something happened between Story and Mayer that frosted their relationship, ultimately leading Story to backtrack and not invite him to the camp. Having followed Trevor Story’s entire career, and given the fact that he’s going out of his way to help young guys who could be competing for the same playing time as him, this seems by far the least likely scenario.
2) Mayer turned down the invitation. If this is true, yikes! A huge red flag! If you’re a top middle infield prospect, and then a two time All-Star, Major League, middle infielder known for his defense decides to personally reach out to you and help your career, you’re nuts if you decline that opportunity. While I don’t think that’s quite what happened here, it would make more sense than Story backtracking from his words in September.
But in reality, the most likely cause of Mayer’s absence is this:
3) Marcelo Mayer’s shoulder injury that ended his 2023 season is still nagging him very deep into the winter; and that injury is concerning enough to him and/or the team that they don’t even want him participating in the type of workout drills Story is running at his prospect camp.
This is also highly problematic for obvious reasons. In this scenario, Mayer’s left shoulder impingement is either being underreported and/or underdiagnosed, and the Sox super prospect is banged up. Lovely!
Of course, the Red Sox will never tell you the truth here, and it looks like there’s already a distinct possibility they’re feeding BS to reporters. On January 9th, just two days before the flowery Camp Story news came out, WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported “Marcelo Mayer is a full go this offseason and will be part of the Rookie Program in Boston next week. Shoulder is not a hindrance.”
Oh really? Well then why wasn’t he a full go for Camp Story?
Even though there are direct reports of lollipops and rainbows regarding Mayer’s health and how he’s progressing this winter, I tend to believe otherwise. And if Camp Story is anything like Cape Tulo was, it should quickly become clear as to why being able to participate there is a far better barometer of being baseball ready than whatever is going to happen at the Red Sox Rookie Development Program in Boston this upcoming week.
To expand on this, let’s take this quote from Trevor Story himself back in 2015 when he was still a prospect discussing his experience at camp Tulo:
“It was a real long day. We worked out two or three times, fielded all day, and then we hit in the batting cage at 11 that night. On the ride home, (Tulowitzki) asked me if he thought anybody else in baseball did anything more than we did. And I said, ‘There’s no way anybody did anything close to what we did today.’ Tulo responded and said, that’s how you work to be the best!”
That’s the mentality I want my shortstop to have, and hopefully it’s the mentality Story is passing along to the young guys. But it won’t matter if Mayer is damaged goods.
Looking forward, the dream scenario here is that Trevor Story takes Marcelo Mayer under his wing at some point and helps him become a star. Ideally, Story will get healthy, unlock his peak, keep playing short, and then Mayer can end up right alongside him as one of the best second basemen in the league. Then all of a sudden the Red Sox have a Devers / Story / Mayer / Casas infield locked up for years to come, and it’s in the mix as one of the best in best in baseball.
Unfortunately, the path to that scenario took a detour this week, and at least for now, I feel a lot better about Trevor Story as my middle infield leader than I do about Marcelo Mayer.