GM clarifies his remarks

Crawford was not investigated

Heavily scouted
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / February 25, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Theo Epstein said he did not choose his words correctly when describing the background work the Red Sox did on Carl Crawford during a radio interview last week, but even after his clarification, the story has taken on a life of its own.

“We did not hire a private investigator,’’ said the Sox general manager yesterday. “We did not follow Carl away from the park. We would never go that far.

“We simply had our scouts do a thorough job on his background and makeup, the way we do for all players of interest. I used a poor choice of words during a radio interview, which I regret, and unfortunately that made a story out of a non-story.

“We told Carl in Houston in November that we had gotten to know him pretty well, and that the more we discovered, the more we liked and respected him. We talked about it again yesterday, and I can assure you that he has no problem whatsoever with the Red Sox or with our approach during free agency.’’

In the interview on WEEI, Epstein had said, “We covered him as if we were privately investigating him. We had a scout on him literally the last three or four months of the season at the ballpark, away from the ballpark.’’

Some took that to mean that the Sox literally hired someone to watch Crawford’s every move off the field; in actuality they simply did the same due diligence they have with any free agent signed by Epstein.

Allard Baird, a special assistant to Epstein, scouted Crawford as a player for much of the season but he wasn’t hiding behind bushes to track his every move off the field. quoted Crawford as being “freaked out’’ by the scrutiny, but after that comment was published, Epstein spoke again with his star outfielder, and Crawford told him he was only kidding.

The story took a new twist yesterday when reporters at the Rays camp in Port Charlotte asked Johnny Damon about the Sox’ “investigation’’ of Crawford.

“I’m on both sides of the fence,’’ Damon said. “I know Boston had followed guys before, like Mo Vaughn especially; they wanted to see what he was doing all the time. The Boston fans, they follow you around, too, to see what you’re doing. It seems like they’re everywhere.

“But when a team’s investing $142 million, they probably have a right to know every little bit of your history — ex-girlfriends, how’s his family. It’s a big investment. You don’t like to have that happen, but it needs to.

“Teams can’t afford to make a risk like that for there to be any problems. Teams have to be prepared. A lot of teams signed guys in the past and they didn’t know certain things.’’

When Vaughn was going through some legal issues late in his tenure with the Red Sox, that ownership did hire an investigator to stake him out.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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