When Dave Page was told Tuesday that he was fired as the strength and conditioning coach for the Boston Red Sox, he said it felt as if he was being made a scapegoat for the players' fitness woes.
"The bottom line is we weren't ready to play physically, fundamentally or mentally the way we should have been, like a championship team should have been," Page said during a nearly 20-minute interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Friday afternoon.
Page said that the perception there were players on this Red Sox team that weren't focused on maintaining their conditioning, particularly in September, was a correct one. The Red Sox went 7-20 in September to slide out of the playoff race.
Page said there were four players in particular -- one position player, one starting pitcher and two relievers -- whose fitness was deemed unsatisfactory at the end of the season.
"We got to the end of the year and we had four guys that we thought didn't make it to that part of the season where we hoped they would be," said Page, who declined to identify the players. "For the most part, most of all of everybody else stayed within range of where we wanted them to be."
In fact, Page explained, he had approached one player during the final series of the season in Baltimore to discuss why that player had seemingly given up on staying in shape. The player didn't have an answer, he said.
"I did have a good conversation with one player at the end of the year in Baltimore that kind of opened my eyes," Page said. "I said, 'Hey, what's going on here, bro? It seems like you've pulled the plug a little bit, and why?' He kind of looked down at the ground, looked back at me and said: 'I don't know why. I can't answer that question.' Which was kind of a shock."
Page would not identify the player, though he did tell WEEI it was not Josh Beckett, who has taken the most heat in the aftermath of the team's collapse and reports of lethargy, beer-drinking and fried-chicken eating in the clubhouse. He did reveal, however, that Beckett was concerned with his weight. By the end of the season, even fans had noticed the pitcher had put on pounds.
"He did express some concerns himself," Page said. "In fact, he brought it up to me and the other members of our training staff, that he felt he was getting a little sideways, so to speak, with his weight. I don't think it was something that was just noticed by us. I certainly think he felt the same way."
The veteran right-hander finished the season with a 13-7 record and a 2.89 ERA in 30 starts, but he had a 5.40 ERA in his last five starts and gave up 12 runs in his last two.
Page told the Boston Herald the primary reason Beckett cut back on workouts was because it was producing results. According to Page, during Beckett's dominant stretch in May and June, the pitcher had reduced his fitness regimen. Because he had pitched great during that span -- a 4-2 record and a 1.97 ERA in 10 starts -- he decided to stick with that routine hoping that the success would carry throughout the summer and into the fall.
"He did things that were away from his normal program," Page told the Herald. "A lot of it, Josh is a routine-oriented guy. If he pitches well doing one thing for those four days leading up to that start, he's probably going to do it again. It's funny to say, but he's got some superstitious tendencies that way. That's not an abnormal thing in baseball.
"But what happened was he had a string of really good starts where he wasn't doing the things we used to do in '07, '08 and '09, and he was having success with it. And he's like, 'I'm feeling good doing these things, so I'm going to stick with it.' For the short term, it probably worked. For the long term, it probably wasn't the best plan."
Page explained that each player's workout routine is tapered toward the end of the season, but he said he was still surprised by how much certain players cut back.
"There were some guys who peeled it back more than I thought, more than I would have liked them to," Page said. "For the most part this team worked hard."
The things Page was noticing about his players' conditioning were passed along to the front office and manager Terry Francona, he explained. Page said part of his job entailed sending a weekly report on players' fitness routines.
"If somebody wasn't represented on that sheet, everybody would know about it every week," Page said.
He also said he went to Red Sox staff members to express concerns.
"There were a couple of times when someone from the front office or the uniformed coaches would come to me and say something, but for the most part, it was me going to them saying, 'Hey, I'm having trouble reaching this guy,' " Page said. " 'Can you give me some backup here? Let's try to use my words and your voice and see what happens.' "
Did he feel as if he was being supported by management in trying to get some players in line?
"I would say it's been a lot better in the past," Page said.
Page, like many players and executives before him, downplayed the presence of beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse.
"There was a lot of grumblings but I think that whole chicken-and-beer thing has gotten a lot of unnecessary play, to be honest with you," he said. "I really didn't see chicken in the clubhouse all that often.
"If they were drinking beer it was probably upstairs and I wasn't up there. You'll see the starting pitcher drink a beer when he comes out of the game, that's pretty common. In my opinion it wasn't as rampant as it's gotten to be made out to be."
Along with Page, who had been the team's strength and conditioning coach since 2006, the Red Sox fired assistant trainer Greg Barajas, who had been a trainer with the Sox since 2009 after spending 12 seasons as a minor league trainer.
Page said that since his firing, he's estimated he has heard from about 90 percent of the Red Sox's current roster expressing support. One of the players, Page said, texted him saying he felt guilty.
"He texted me and said, 'I feel this is all my fault,' " Page said. "I don't want to say who it was, because that's between him and me. But he did say that."
The Red Sox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.