On Monday, Jon Lester finally broke the silence that had followed in the wake of "Beer-gate," speaking on reports that he, John Lackey and Josh Beckett snuck off to the clubhouse during games to drink beer, order take-out and play video games per a widely disseminated Oct. 12 story in the Globe.
In phone calls to both ESPN Boston and the Boston Globe, Lester, using terms he had previously with both outlets, admitted to sneaking "occasional" "ninth-inning rally beers" in the clubhouse with John Lackey and Josh Beckett.
It was a time to breathe a bit as a Red Sox fan.
Finally, at least one of those was speaking up and owning up.
"I'm not shying away from saying I did it," Lester told ESPN Boston, "I admit it, and I'm sure the other guys would say it too. But we lost because we did not play good baseball."
Lester had plenty else to say, too, notably the following, as quoted on ESPN Boston:
People are making us out to be a bunch of drunk, fried-chicken eating SOBs, playing video games. You can ask my wife, for the last 10 years I don't think I've played a single video game, and Josh and Lack are the same way. But one person writes an article, and things have gotten blown way out of proportion, almost to another planet. We're getting crushed.
The media hype of the starting rotation's clubhouse behavior is nothing new for Boston sports writing. The anger in Lester's comments is not a foray into uncharted territory, either. To quote again from the ESPN Boston story:
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.
On Tuesday I sat down to write an article defending Lester. It was pretty clear the guy was speaking from his heart and his mind.
Lester's comments were not a glossy mea culpa statement ghostwritten by a PR guru, rather, they were the earnest and often rambling thoughts of a man trying to, as Lester himself said, "set the record straight."
But setting the record straight is far from what Lester did.
Late Tuesday afternoon, WHDH-TV, Boston's NBC affiliate, published a report that Lester, Lackey and Beckett drank beer in the dugout.
WHDH's sources were two anonymous team employees.
The comments that WHDH quoted were sharp and stinging:
Beckett would come down the stairs from the dugout, walking through the corridor to the clubhouse and say "it’s about that time." Becket 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.
WHDH's story certainly got the attention of the accused and the team in general.
All three pitchers issued statements through the Red Sox denying that they drank in the dugout.
This was the first time that Beckett and Lackey had spoken publicly at all on "Beer-gate."
Terry Francona and Larry Lucchino also both issued statements through the team.
Francona joined his pitchers in denying the report, saying that, "In 32 years of professional baseball, I have never seen someone drinking beer in the dugout."
Lucchino backed the statements of his pitchers and his former manager:
Tonight our organization has heard directly from Jon, Josh, John and former manager Terry Francona. 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 Sept. 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.
So what now? It's hard to know which party to trust, WHDH and their two anonymous sources or the company line from three pitchers, Lucchino and Francona.
All parties involved seem to have a lot to lose from lying about a story or denying a story that's true.
At lunchtime on Tuesday it looked like Red Sox fans could breathe a little easier. Lester, the one who means the most to the organization going forward, had cleared the air.
It appeared that all of the nonsense surrounding "Beer-gate" might be done, once and for all.
It appeared that the players, the front office, the media and the fans could all move on from this embarrassing but indeed overblown debacle and concentrate on preparing for 2012.
I was all set to tip my hat to Lester for taking the initiative, growing a pair, speaking up and perhaps most importantly, owning up.
No more. As quickly as "Beer-gate" looked like it might be over it was blown up all over again.
Fall is not even half over and it's already been a long winter for Red Sox fans. As much as wanting a winner, fans want players they can respect and enjoy rooting for.
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