Count Clay Buchholz among those Red Sox who have apologized for drinking in the clubhouse but think the story is being blown out of proportion.
Buchholz joined the Mut and Merloni program on WEEI Thursday to discuss his team's September collapse, as well as the not-so-complimentary reports now surfacing about him and his teammates.
"Yeah, it did happen," said Buchholz about the drinking in the clubhouse. "It wasn't to the extent that it's being told right now. The whole chicken thing, it wasn't like the guys were sitting in there saying 'We're going to order chicken today.' It was, we'd come upstairs, there would be chicken on the table and it happened maybe three times this season. The whole beer thing, it was more of a rally-beer thing.
"And yeah, it might not have been right, but I feel like there have been other teams in baseball that have gone through stuff like that. Not to say it wasn't a big deal, because it was a mistake, grown men shouldn't be making those decisions like that during a baseball game, but like I said before, you've got to live with what you've done and learn from it. I'm sure it's not going to happen again because it's a lot bigger right now than everybody ever thought it would be."
When asked if he had ever seen beer in the dugout, Buchholz responded, "No. Never. Never."
Buchholz called the team's collapse "the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen." In fact, he's still not quite sure how it happened. He said the entire team expected to just show up and win every night.
"I just think the big problem this year was everybody on the team knew how good we were on paper, the best in baseball in the last 10 years or whatever," Buchholz said. "Even me, in September I'd say 'My God, how are we losing these games?' We expected to go out on the field and win. It wasn't happening and no one knew what to do."
"Shock" was the word Buchholz used to describe how it felt to see Terry Francona go, and he hopes there aren't too many changes to the team's pitching staff next season. He praised Josh Beckett, a player he looks up to, as being the team's best pitcher.
"If anything, I think Josh Beckett was different in a good way this year," Buchholz said. "He's one of the guys that I've always looked up to regardless of the situation was, he's got that killer mentality of going out and winning a game . . . He's one of the hardest workers. I mean, I'm not saying this because he's my teammate and I'm trying to cover anybody's butt, but he was in the clubhouse everyday early, got his work done, ran and did all his stuff. He was the best pitcher on our team this year. I didn't see anything different from Beckett."
But what about Beckett's visible weight-gain, Clay?
"Gaining weight is gaining weight," Buchholz said. "You still have to go out there and perform. That's just the way it is. If this game were easy, there would be more than 750 guys out there doing it. He still went out there and did his job, gave us a chance to win a game every time he went out there. That's all you can ask for from a starting pitcher."
Buchholz also said he thinks John Lackey can turn things around after his poor season.
"I hope he's back," Buchholz said. "I think he's gonna turn it around. I think he was pitching with a lot of stuff. He was hurting a bit, there was some stuff internally with him and everybody else."
The pitching staff's demise was seen by many as the team's reason for falling apart, but now, even though pitching coach Curt Young is rumored to be headed back to Oakland, Buchholz wouldn't throw Young under the bus. He did intimate that it was a much different environment with Young around compared to when John Farrell was in Boston as the pitching coach.
"It was a different personality," Buchholz said of Young. "Curt's a really laid back guy. I have nothing bad to say about Curt. He talked to me about whatever I needed to talk about. Curt is laid back. John, with John it was, I don't wanna talk to him unless I have to because I'm scared of him.
"John was more of an intense guy, a straight shooter," Buchholz added. "I dont think anybody took advantage of Young. They were two different coaches. Hard to compare guys that are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum . . . Everyone knew what their job was as starters. no one was gonna go out there and say 'Wow, I'm not gonna win this game.' Everybody knows what their job is, one person coming in isn't going to make you change how you're doing your job."
Despite the reports and despite the perceived disconnect in the Red Sox clubhouse, Buchholz thinks the Red Sox will be fine when they return for spring training in 2012.
"On paper this team is really good," he said. "We just gotta get our priorities right and move forward. This is one of the best teams in baseball regardless of what happens . . . Everyone's going to come into camp a little bit more ready to do what we need to do."