Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester admitted Monday he drank beer in the clubhouse during games when he was not starting, but argued it had nothing to do with the team's historic September meltdown.
Lester conceded to the Boston Globe that "it was the wrong thing to do," but said he and fellow pitchers Josh Beckett and John Lackey were also drinking in the clubhouse on off days when the team was in the midst of its run to the top of the American League.
"There's a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn't the case," Lester told The Globe from his home in Georgia.
"Was it a bad habit? Yes," he went on. "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."
The Red Sox finished the season losing 20 of their last 27 to miss the playoffs by a game.
An explosive report in The Globe last week outed the three pitchers, casting their habit of drinking, eating fried chicken and playing video games as emblematic of the team's failure.
"It was a ninth-inning rally beer," Lester said. "We probably ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month. That happened. But that's not the reason we lost.
"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."
The report also alleged the three pitchers slacked off on their conditioning as the season went along, and dismissed calls from the strength and conditioning coach to stay in better shape. Lester, though, downplayed that aspect of the article, maintaining he was always physically ready to perform.
"I've heard what people are saying in Boston. I can tell you that guys were in the weight room. Guys were doing their shoulder [exercises] and guys were prepared to pitch," Lester told The Globe.
"If we win a few more games in September and make the playoffs, none of this comes out. But we didn't and that's on us as a team and on me personally. I take a lot of the blame for this, a lot."
The 27-year-old, an All-Star the past two seasons, went 0-3 with an 8.24 ERA in his last four starts. Prior to that he was 15-6 with a 2.93 ERA.