"There's a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn't the case," Lester said, according to the Boston Globe. "Was it a bad habit? Yes. 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."
A Globe report last week cited team sources as saying Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse on days they weren't scheduled to pitch.
Lester did tell the paper "it was the wrong thing to do," saying "it was a ninth-inning rally beer. We probably ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month. That happened. But that's not the reason we lost."
The Globe also cited a team source as saying the Red Sox were concerned about manager Terry Francona being distracted by marital woes and the use of painkillers. While Lester didn't address those specific claims, he did say that Francona leaving the team when he did might be for the best.
"I love Tito and he did a great job for us when he was here," Lester said, according to the newspaper. "On a personal level I was more than grateful for what he did for me and my family. But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there. You kind of run your course. People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it. We never had rules, we never that that iron-fist mentality. If you screwed up, he called you on it. That was how it worked.
"I never saw guys purposely breaking rules or doing the wrong thing in front of him and rubbing it in his face. But this particular team probably needed more structure."
The Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in September over the Rays for the wild card, and Lester, Lackey and Beckett went 2-7 with a 6.45 ERA down the stretch.
"Are there things I regret? Sure there are," Lester said to the Globe. "But nothing happened that had me unprepared to pitch. I don't blame people for wanting answers because had a hell of a team and we lost. You can't have a team that gets paid like we get paid and loses and not expect people to want answers."
Team sources had told the Globe that players were not as committed to conditioning as they should have been. Lester doesn't agree, adding that pitchers traditionally gain weight during the season.
"It's probably because of how we eat," he said to the newspaper. "We have some crazy hours with the travel and you get in at 4 a.m. and you get room service or something quick. But unless your body fat is going up 10 percent or something like that, you don't have a problem.
"I've heard what people are saying in Boston. I can tell you that guys were in the weight room. Guys were going their shoulder [exercises] and guys were prepared to pitch. If we win a few more games in September and make the playoffs, none of this comes out."
But it did, in part because the Red Sox lost Lester's last four starts, in which he had a 8.24 ERA.
"It bothers me because I'm supposed to be a stopper," he said to the Globe. "I picked a terrible time to stink. That's on me."