The Boston Red Sox had a host of problems this past season, including a trio of star pitchers who partied in the clubhouse while their teammates blew a big September lead, and a manager who could not regain control of the situation, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday.
A team source told the newspaper that Terry Francona was distracted by marital issues and his use of pain medication last season, allegations the former Red Sox manager has strongly denied.
"It makes me angry that people say these things because I've busted my (butt) to be the best manager I can be," Francona said when the Globe presented him with its findings. "I wasn't terribly successful this year, but I worked harder and spent more time at the ballpark this year than I ever did."
Francona, married to his wife, Jacque, for almost 30 years, moved out of their house and lived in a hotel this past season, the newspaper reported.
According to the Globe, team sources also had concerns that Francona's performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication.
Francona -- who left the Red Sox in a mutual decision announced Sept. 30 -- has had nearly 20 surgeries on his knees and used pain medication for many years. He told the newspaper he used painkillers after knee surgery in October 2010 and used them during the season after doctors drained blood from his knee at least five times.
Francona told the newspaper that he consulted with the team's internist, Dr. Larry Ronan, during spring training after one of his children expressed concern about a pill bottle in his hotel room.
"I went and saw the proper people and it was not an issue," Francona said. "It never became an issue, and anybody who knew what was going on knows that.''
Reached by ESPNBoston.com Wednesday, he said he would have no further comment.
But Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia had plenty to say. Speaking to WEEI from vacation in Mexico he couldn't believe someone from the organization would talk that way about Francona, who "had everyone's back since Day 1."
"He's protected every single guy in that clubhouse and that's why I respect him like you can't believe," Pedroia said. "Whatever job he gets, if he needs me for a couple of games or whatever just let me know, I'll go play for free. That's how I care about this guy. This guy is my family.
"For him to have to deal with this, he's the best manager in the history of the Red Sox organization. He won two World Series, look at the run that he had there, it's pretty remarkable. That's the part that hurts and whoever the person it is that's saying this I think they need to take a step back and kind of look in the mirror and understand what they're saying about a guy. A lot of guys in this organization have his back and I'm one of them."
But team sources didn't stop at blasting Francona. Even though the Red Sox were in the midst of a free fall, pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse on days they did not start, the sources told the Globe.
Drinking beer, ordering food and playing video games was permissable in the Red Sox clubhouse, and the trio -- who were sometimes joined by fellow pitcher Clay Buchholz -- started the practice in 2010 and continued it into this season, sources told the Globe.
According to sources, not showing solidarity with teammates was one thing, but the lack of focus filtered into the pitchers' conditioning programs. The pitchers cut back on their regimens, despite strength and conditioning coach Dave Page cajoling them to remain committed.
"It's hard for a guy making $80,000 to tell a $15 million pitcher he needs to get off his butt and do some work," one source told the Globe.
While the Red Sox went from leading the Tampa Bay Rays by nine games in the wild-card race to missing the playoffs, Beckett, Lester and Lackey went 2-7 with a 6.45 ERA.
If the allegations are true, it's not the first time Beckett has hung out in the clubhouse, according to former manager Jack McKeon. In 2003, McKeon used to lock the Marlins clubhouse door to keep Beckett and Brad Penny from spending too much time in there.
"In between innings they'd go to the clubhouse to get a drink or hang out,'' McKeon told the Palm Beach Post.
"I said, 'Hey, I got no rule against going up if you have to go to the bathroom or something, but get back.' A couple of times I looked down the bench to talk to somebody and they weren't there. They were in the clubhouse. So I went up and got them out and said, 'OK, boys that's it. We'll lock the door.'"
The Red Sox's collapse featured pettiness, as well. With Hurricane Irene set to hit Boston and the Oakland A's in town, the Red Sox juggled the schedule to fit in a day-night doubleheader so as not to have to reschedule with a team on the opposite coast. But some Red Sox players angrily protested, according to the Globe.
The team swept the twin bill, but sources said resentment continued, to the point that Red Sox brass gave all of the players $300 headphones and invited them to a night on owner John Henry's yacht.
The gesture didn't stop the team from unraveling, however. Sources told the paper that Francona's closed-door team meeting Sept. 7 didn't change the deteriorating attitude.
Francona denied, though, that the fact he hadn't gotten a contract extension, that he had marital woes or even that he was distracted by worry over his son Nick and son-in-law, Michael Rice, serving in Afghanistan had an effect on the team.
"You never heard any of these complaints when we were going 80-41 because there was nothing there," Francona said, according to the newspaper. "But we absolutely stunk in the last month, so now we have to deal with a lot of this stuff because expectations were so high."
"I don't know why people want to blame (Francona) for all of this," Ortiz said Wednesday during an interview with ESPN's Colleen Dominguez. "He can tell us what to do. But he is not the one who has to go out there and perform."
As for the reports of drinking in the clubhouse, Ortiz said it was nothing new.
"We had that when we won the World Series in 2004," he said. "We had that when we won the World Series in 2007. Beer in the clubhouse, it's always been there. Video games, that's always been there; guys eating fried chicken, that's always been there."
The pitchers in the story would not comment to the Globe on the allegations. All remain under contract to the Red Sox, while Francona is gone and general manager Theo Epstein is reportedly on the verge of leaving for the Chicago Cubs.
Only Pedroia escaped completely unscathed in the article, and he wasn't going to point any fingers.
"I just know that playing in Boston, you're required to play your tail off every day to try to win ballgames for this city," Pedroia said, according to the newspaper. "That's what hurt so much as a player, that we not only let each other down in the clubhouse but we let the city down."
Pedroia told WEEI, though, that neither distractions, motivation nor leadership were a problem with the team.
"We had the best record in baseball up until September and then we ran out of gas," Pedroia said. "We didn't play well in the end. That doesn't have anything to do with Tito or Theo or any players or what went on in the clubhouse. The leadership was there. We had guys that cared. We just didn't play well in the end. That's it.
"You guys in the media point fingers and say 'some guys were out of shape, some guys were drinking in the clubhouse ...' But that's not the case. We didn't play well. That's the bottom line. It's not Tito's fault. It's not anybody's fault. We didn't play well. It's our whole team's fault. We didn't win games when we needed to. That's why we didn't make the playoffs and that's why our season ended."