- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox late Tuesday night released statements from three players, departed manager Terry Francona and CEO Larry Lucchino refuting a report by WHDH-TV in Boston that cited Red Sox employees as saying pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester drank beer in the dugout during games.
"I cannot let this allegation go without response; enough is enough," Beckett said in the statement, his first public comments on the issue of beer drinking by the Red Sox pitchers during games, which Lester acknowledged occurred in the clubhouse in interviews Monday. "I admit that I made mistakes along the way this season, but this has gone too far. To say that we drank in the dugout during the game is not true."
Lackey also made his first public comments in the statement. "There are things that went on this season that shouldn't have happened, but this latest rumor is not true, and I felt that it was important to try to stop this from going any further."
Lester, who earlier Tuesday night had called the WHDH report "completely false," expanded on his comment in the statement.
"The accusation that we were drinking in the dugout during games is completely false," Lester said in the statement. "Anonymous sources are continuing to provide exaggerated and, in this case, inaccurate information to the media."
The employees cited as sources in the WHDH report said that Beckett, Lackey and Lester would leave the dugout around the sixth inning, walk back to the clubhouse and fill cups with Bud Light. They would then return to the dugout and watch the game while drinking beer. One Red Sox employee told the station that the pitchers were "bored on nights they weren't pitching and this is how they entertained themselves."
According to the report, another Red Sox employee said: "Beckett would come down the stairs from the dugout, walking through the corridor to the clubhouse and say, 'It's about that time.' Beckett was the instigator but Lester and Lackey were right behind him.
"It was blatant and hard not to notice what was going on with all three guys leaving at once."
Francona, whose eight-year tenure as manager of the Red Sox ended when the team did not exercise a two-year option on his contract on Oct. 7, said he never witnessed the players drinking.
"In 32 years of professional baseball, I have never seen someone drinking beer in the dugout," Francona said in the statement.
Lucchino addressed the comments by Francona and the players in his statement.
"Tonight our organization has heard directly from Jon, Josh, John, and former manager Terry Francona," Lucchino said in the statement. "Each has assured us that the allegation that surfaced today about drinking in the dugout during games in 2011 is false, and we accept their statements as honest and factual.
"As we continue our internal examination to fully understand what went wrong in September 2011, we appreciate these strong and clear statements from our players.
"It is time to look forward and move forward, rather than allow a reckless, unsubstantiated accusation from 'anonymous sources' to mislead the public."
Players continued to deny the allegation on Wednesday. Longtime catcher Jason Varitek was asked by WAAF in Boston if players drank in the dugout and he said "absolutely not."
A Red Sox employee who was contacted by ESPNBoston.com on Tuesday evening to react to the latest story said he had heard complaints about players drinking in the dugout during the 2010 season but did not personally witness it either that season or in 2011.
Another Red Sox staffer who was in the dugout during every game told ESPNBoston.com he never saw Beckett, Lackey or Lester drinking in the dugout, nor had he heard anything about that happening.
On Monday, Lester, reacting to last week's Boston Globe report that said that he, Beckett and Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse during games, acknowledged to ESPNBoston.com and other media outlets that the pitchers had had an occasional "rally beer" in the clubhouse.
"People are making us out to be a bunch of drunk, fried-chicken eating SOBs, playing video games," Lester said.
"Did we drink an occasional beer? Yes. Did it affect our performance in September? No. This stuff has been going on long before September, and not only in this clubhouse, but 29 other clubhouses too. We ordered fried chicken maybe three times in six months. Other guys who were not playing that day would come in and have a bite to eat.
"But what people are trying to do is a witch hunt. They're looking for any reason to basically tear somebody's head off because we lost, and people right now are saying it's because we did this. I'm not shying away from saying I did it. I admit it, and I'm sure the other guys would say it too."
The Red Sox held a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card race as late as Sept. 3, but went 7-20 in September and lost the playoff spot to the Rays on the final day of the regular season. It was the biggest collapse ever by a team holding as big a lead as the Red Sox did that late in a season. In the aftermath, Francona's contract was not extended in what he insisted was a mutual decision, and general manager Theo Epstein has agreed to a five-year contract to join the Chicago Cubs, the deal held up while the sides decide on compensation for the outgoing general manager.
The Globe report last week also said that the team lacked veteran leadership and called out Varitek.
Reached by the Globe on Tuesday, Varitek refuted that characterization.
"We lost because we played poorly and we had some health issues and we probably taxed the bullpen too much. ... We didn't lose because of some issue in the clubhouse. That's a lot of crap," he said, according to the newspaper.
Varitek also said that the report of partying in the clubhouse was exaggerated.
"That's a minuscule issue," he said. "Guys are in the clubhouse all the time," he told the Globe. "I'm in there watching pitches because I can't see what I need to see from the bench. To me, that is not an issue at all."
Despite the collapse and the subsequent dissection of the team, Varitek said he still wants to return.
"I'm a free agent, that's out of my hands," he said, according to the Globe. "But I've bled in this uniform for a long time and I want to continue that. Hopefully that will be the case."
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald was used in this report.
3hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com