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Trevor Story sparks a ‘culture reset,’ emerges as badly needed Red Sox leader – NBC Sports Boston

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Red Sox need more players like Trevor Story.

You can take that in any of about a dozen ways. They need to sign more guys worth $25 million a year. They need veteran All-Stars to show the next generation the way. They need players who can field their position. They need to bring an edge to a clubhouse that’s devoid of recognizable names. They need leaders who don’t mind standing front and center and declaring, “We’re sick of losing.”

Story, despite his unfortunate and extensive injury history thus far in Boston, actually checks those boxes. If the Red Sox had two or three more players like him, the tenor of this entire season would change considerably. Instead, the franchise that only recently saw Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jon Lester pass the torch to Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Nathan Eovaldi now finds itself devoid of players who have actually played starring roles on good teams and possess the experience to lead.

There’s Story, there’s relievers Chris Martin and Kenley Jansen, and that’s about it. Rafael Devers does not yet qualify from a maturity standpoint, and so the clubhouse leadership void gapes like a chasm, serving as another reminder of the terrible team-building approach that has neglected the big-league club at the expense of an uncertain future.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Red Sox didn’t have to punt on multiple seasons because “the pace of the rebuild dictated it,” or whatever jargon they want to employ to avoid admitting surrender. Story actually represented a plan, signed after six excellent seasons in Colorado to be the bridge between Bogaerts and top prospect Marcelo Mayer.

At this point it’s fair to note the plan hasn’t exactly worked. Story arrived with a bad elbow, broke his wrist in a case of bad luck, and then underwent modified Tommy John surgery that cost him most of last season. All the Red Sox have to show for their $140 million investment is a .227 average and nearly 200 missed games. It’s tempting to call him a bust.

It’s also premature, because two days into spring training, it’s already clear that Story brings desperately needed leadership and accountability to the clubhouse. From the offseason workouts he hosted for some of the organization’s top young infield prospects, to the intensity with which he described the cultural reset the team is in the process of undertaking, the two-time All-Star stands out as a potential anchor for a young group that might otherwise be adrift.

Too bad there aren’t more of him.

“I think we’re going to be a team that is going to have to get the best out of what we have,” he said. “I think we could be really competitive and I don’t see why we can’t take a run at the whole thing. We’re a bunch of competitors here, so that’s what we feel and that’s what we’re going to talk about.”

Someone needs to say it, even if the rest of us are skeptical: the Red Sox think they can win the World Series. Otherwise, what’s the point of playing? Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow declined to answer the question a day earlier, dispassionately noting, “It’s kind of foolish to make predictions like that.”

Not if you’re Story. The odds of the Red Sox escaping the American League East cellar may not be great, but they’re not zero, and a young team needs a reason to believe. If ownership and the front office won’t provide it, then maybe someone in the clubhouse will.

To that end, Story said this spring is going to be about competition from Day 1. Every job must be earned. Whether that’s enough to overcome the talent gap between the top and bottom of the division remains to be seen, but at least Story isn’t accepting mediocrity.

“I think you’re going to see a grittiness and a hunger that really embraces the town,” Story said. “And that starts right here. We’ve underperformed, there’s no doubt about that the last couple of years, and no one’s happy about that. And that’s what’s driven me in the offseason, every workout, every hitting session, every throwing session. We don’t like to lose and we’re tired of it. We have the team that we have and we’re going to go out there and compete. We’re a very talented group. Everyone has counted us out already, but we don’t feel that way.”

For years, we took for granted all of the players who could inspire their teammates. Story may not be in the class of Pedroia or Ortiz, but he’s the best the Red Sox have got at the moment, and it would be nice if he had some backup.

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