BOSTON -- With the Boston Red Sox hosting the New York Yankees in a three-game set at Fenway Park this weekend, a lot of focus will be on Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who is playing while appealing his 211-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.
The Red Sox are no strangers to clubhouse controversy. After they collapsed during the final month of the 2011 season and missed the playoffs, a report came out saying some members of the pitching staff were drinking beer and eating chicken in the clubhouse during games.
"We put ourselves in those situations -- right, wrong or indifferent," Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester said Friday. "At the same time, this is our home. Just like your home; you want what happens in your home to stay in your home. You don't want your kids or your wife, father-in-law, whoever, running their mouth about what's going on in your house.
"There are other ways to handle it, but that being said, I'm a big believer in everything happens for a reason. Maybe that was a wake-up call for me, for a couple of other guys, and we figured out what we needed to do to make it right. There's only so much you can do. The biggest thing is coming out and talking about it and moving on from it.
"The biggest issue for us with [the chicken and beer] was involving everybody else," added Lester. "Everybody else had to answer questions about it, whereas they didn't mess up, and that's why I felt the responsibility to set the record straight and try to minimize what's going on."
Lester went on to say he feels bad for A-Rod's teammates, but clarified he doesn't have sympathy for suspected PED users.
"So, yeah, the sympathizing goes for the other 24 guys in [New York's] clubhouse that aren't involved because they have to constantly answer questions about [A-Rod]. It gets tiring, old for them. But I don't sympathize with the guys who put themselves in that situation. They did that to themselves."
Lester believes A-Rod should have accepted his suspension, but also understands the importance of the appeals process from a union perspective. Lester nonetheless believes Rodriguez should not be allowed to play, especially in a tight AL East race where his production could change the landscape of the standings in the final stretch run of the 2013 season.
"Obviously being a part of the union you understand, that's the tough part and I think that's where players are stuck on it," explained Lester. "For me, this guy got caught, the evidence is there, proven guilty, and for him to be able to play, especially in our division, this guy can turn some things around, or affect a game one way or another coming down the stretch. If that means us not making the playoffs, or Tampa, or whatever because of it, I just don't think that's right."
Lester, however, said he understands how important the appeals process is for the union to protect the players.
"If something was to happen, not necessarily related to steroids, that needed to be appealed and needed to go through a process, and it was a guy in our clubhouse, I would want him playing. It's tough. With this situation, just with the past, I just don't think it's right. All the other guys took their punishment and did what they needed to do. I know his is a little stiffer, but I don't think he should be playing. But being part of the union, I understand the process."
Another aspect of the A-Rod mess that bothers Lester? The notion that union dues pay A-Rod's legal fees.
"It sucks because our dues are going towards his legal fees," Lester said. "That's also kind of a sore subject for some guys. We're paying for him to appeal this. One hundred out of 100 guys will say, 'No, I don't think he should be playing.' But when it's all said and done, we all understand the process and it needs to take course."
"I've never experienced having a bad clubhouse," Lester said. "We spend more time together and we're basically brothers, so you're going to fight, you're going to not like each other for a couple of days, or a couple of hours, but that just comes with being a baseball player."
Lester also said he's enjoying how tight this year's team is.
"The camaraderie off the field is better than I've ever experienced. That's been the best part of this year."
Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia cited clubhouse chemistry as one of the reasons the Red Sox are in first place in the AL East.
"It's real important," said Saltalamacchia. "You've got to get along for 162 games because you're together for a long time, spring training as well. It's real important you can trust each other and hold each other accountable, too, and not be afraid to talk to each other and all get on the right page."
Saltalamacchia, for his part, said he wasn't concerned with what's happening in the Yankees clubhouse.
"I'm not going to sympathize with them because we're trying to beat them," Saltalamacchia said. "I'm not going to sympathize, but at the same time we obviously understand a little bit of that because we had to deal with a lot of stuff last year and answer a lot of questions. ... It's tough to focus and concentrate. It's something I don't envy. We've come a long way and we're definitely moving forward. I'm excited and happy where we are."