On Monday, Jon Lester spoke to The Boston Globe about drinking in the clubhouse, fried chicken and how Terry Francona's time had run its course in Boston.
On drinking and eating in the clubhouse during games:
"There's a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn't the case," Lester told The Globe. "Was it a bad habit? Yes. I should have been on the bench more than I was. But we just played bad baseball as a team in September. We stunk. To be honest, we were doing the same things all season when we had the best record in baseball."
"It was a ninth-inning rally beer," said Lester, who indicated that the drinking in the clubhouse was only done by starting pitchers not pitching that day. "We probably ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month. That happened. But that's not the reason we lost."
Lester blamed strange travel schedules, not fried chicken, for what he considers to be minimal weight gain, explaining this is typical for pitchers during the season.
"It's probably because of how we eat," he said. "We have some crazy hours with the travel and you get in at 4 a.m. and you get room service or something quick. But unless your body fat is going up 10 percent or something like that, you don't have a problem."
Lester said he did not have permission to speak for Josh Beckett and John Lackey, but needed to support them. "Consider us a unit when it comes to these accusations," he said of his fellow starters. "We either fall together or rise above it all together whether they like it or not. Things got magnified because we lost and sources started telling people what happened, which has me upset because if you're going to say something, be a man to put your name to it. But we're not bad people and we're not a bad group of guys."
"Are there things I regret? Sure there are. But nothing happened that had me unprepared to pitch. I don't blame people for wanting answers because we had a hell of a team and we lost. You can't have a team that gets paid like we get paid and loses and not expect people to want answers."
On the perceived negative influence from Beckett:
"I'm not a follower. I'm a grown-ass man. I made my decisions. He wasn't twisting my arm like I was in high school," he said. "Did I try to emulate him as a pitcher when I was younger? Sure I did because what he does works. Now, over time, I've tweaked what I do because that's what works for me."
Lester added, "as far as decisions, he doesn't make them for me. I'm who I am because of my wife and my mom and dad. Not Josh."
On Francona's departure:
"I love Tito and he did a great job for us when he was here. On a personal level I was more than grateful for what he did for me and my family," Lester said. "But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there. You kind of run your course. People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it. We never had rules, we never had that iron-fist mentality. If you screwed up, he called you on it. That was how it worked."
"I never saw guys purposely breaking rules or doing the wrong thing in front of him and rubbing it in his face. But this particular team probably needed more structure."
On the team's need for leadership:
"We need that good veteran presence," Lester said, regarding high-character players like Alex Cora, Eric Hinske, and Sean Casey. "If you have somebody like that, it makes everybody better. Everybody is accountable and we have plenty of people to look up to. That's not the problem. But we have a lot of guys who are kind of middle-aged in terms of their careers. Sometimes you need veteran guys who know their roles and can reach out to everybody."
Update: Lester also spoke with the Providence Journal on Monday. He reaffirmed his position that the beer and fried chicken stories were exaggerated, again using the term "rally beer" and saying the pitchers consumed fried chicken "maybe three times."
More on Francona:
"Tito has been great to me and great to my family, and I've thanked him many times for what he's done for me off the field more than on the field," Lester said of his former manager. "But there comes a time, like in any business in the world that's run by somebody, that you need to step back and let a fresh face step in. Tito got burnt out. Eight years in Boston, it's a tough place to be a manager or be a player . . . He was ready to go.
"The really good thing about Tito is that he keeps everything in-house so well," he added. "I've been in his office a couple of times when he's needed to kick me in the rear end to get me going or tell me I need to quit bitching about things and move on and start pitching better. But nobody would ever know that because he does it in his office. It's just you and him or you and him and the pitching coach. I didn't have any issues with that stuff this year."
On the unity of the rotation:
Regarding Beckett and Lackey, Lester told the Journal, "those two guys are two of our bigger leaders on the team. If you get rid of those two guys just for the sake of getting rid of them, that tears us apart, period. Josh is a very influential person in that clubhouse, and so is Lack. Guys look to them for advice. Guys look to them for leadership and people are making these guys out to seem like the devil."
"I know Lack hasn't performed up to what people think he should. He'd be the first to come out and say that . . . He's not going to talk about his personal life, but it's tough to perform when you're going through stuff like that."
On reports of the pitchers playing video games during games:
"Video games never happened," Lester said. "I don't even know where that came from. I don't even know how to turn one of those fricking things on."
On the team's future:
"This is a good group of guys who want to compete and win, and that's getting lost in all this hoopla of finger-pointing and getting reports blown out of proportion, Lester said. "People are on a witch hunt to try to find out why the second-highest-paid team in baseball lost. It's not one particular reason. It was a group effort. We didn't play good baseball at the end of the season. I hope people can understand that we care and that we're going to do better next year. We're going to compete our asses off for the city of Boston. That's the biggest thing I want to get across to fans. We're going to do this. We're going to make it right."