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Curt Schilling on M&M: Red Sox ‘have no leadership whatsoever in that clubhouse’

Former Red Sox [1] pitcher Curt Schilling [2] called in to the Mut & Merloni show Monday to discuss the news that Jon Lester [3] acknowledged there was drinking in the clubhouse during games this season, although Lester downplayed the situation and insisted it had nothing to do with the September collapse.

“I mentioned something last week that I had talked to a couple of people that I’m very comfortable [with], are being up front and honest about this. And the one message I got was that Jon Lester never stopped busting his ass to the bitter end from a work perspective,” Schilling said.  “Unfortunately, I asked that when you think about his September, his final run of starts, you just have to attribute that to just lackluster performance. I was kind of hoping that wasn’t the case.

“But as far as Jon goes, I’m happy that the kid I knew, and the young man that I knew, wasn’t kind of dragged into this.”

Schilling said it’s not uncommon for pitchers to have a beer in the locker room after being lifted from a game. But if pitchers were exhibiting that behavior on days they weren’t pitching, that crosses a line.

“I was more concerned that this was something that was happening around guys just because. They were going up and having a beer in the clubhouse,” Schilling said. “I think for some of these guys that’s exactly what it was. But I would bet you that when it had to do with Jon Lester, the beer he was having was after he was out of a game. And given how they pitched in September, there might have been more than one beer.”

Asked if Josh Beckett [4] should be next to come forward and explain his behavior, Schilling said all the pitchers should.

“I think they all have to. I don’t know how you get away from [it],” he said. “I mean, you were directly responsible for the largest collapse in baseball history as one of the pitchers that went down on the ship. As the leader of that staff, I think absolutely, he’s one of the two guys that absolutely has to.

“In my mind, there’s only one way to do this. It’s to sit in front of the media and say, ‘Listen, this is what happened. It’s horrific. It was stupid. I made a bunch of mistakes on top of other mistakes. It cost us a chance to go to the playoffs. It cost our manager his job. And I’m sorry. And I’m going to do everything I can do to make up [for it].’ Unless it’s a complete mea culpa, I don’t know that there’s any other path here, especially for these fans.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page [5].

On Terry Francona’s perception of players choosing to relax in the clubhouse instead of supporting their teammates on the bench: “Clearly, that’s the message that Terry got — that these guys weren’t in the clubhouse getting work done. They were in the clubhouse because they didn’t want to be on the bench. That’s a very different setup.”

On Lester’s comment about Francona losing his authority with the players: “[It] kind of boggles my mind that he said that. Because at the end of the day, these are grown men. These are grown men. Do you need a manager to tell you? They all knew. And you always know when you’re doing something that’s questionable or wrong. They chose not to correct it. And because they chose not to correct it, I think some of them were absolutely not in good enough shape to pitch through September and help them win games.”

More on Lester’s comments about Francona: “That’s sad. That’s embarrassing and that’s sad. That basically says at the age of 28, 29, 30, I need an adult more mature than me to give me rules and guidelines. I understand that for certain players on the roster, for young players. And generally, the younger players are better about it than — clearly, they’re better about it than the older players.

“That’s sad. That’s sad because that’s why we won those World Series [6]. We won those World Series because he was that way, because he allowed us to police ourselves. What it says to me more clearly, and you guys touched on this earlier, they have no leadership whatsoever in that clubhouse. And if you think about this, if you go out this winter and sign that leadership guy, how hard is his job going to be? ‘Hey, you’re only going to get 150 at-bats. No one really cares what you do on the field. Get these guys in order.’ ”

On owner John Henry’s comments about not wanting to sign Carl Crawford: “In my mind, that interview goes to show you how out of touch with reality and the real world this leadership group is. That’s not how you motivate Carl Crawford, No. 1. And No. 2, it’s not your job to do that. If you’re going to do something like that, you don’t do that publicly. He embarrassed his player. He basically said, ‘I didn’t want the guy but somebody else convinced me to sign him.’ How is that motivating? That’s insulting to me.

“But again, I think that they’ve fumbled left and right day after day after day. I just heard that a source has come out and refuted Lester’s comments. This is going to be that all year long. This franchise deserves so much better than that.”

On the direction of the team: “I think the reason players love playing here, at least for, in my mind the front office was Theo [Epstein]. Theo was the guy you could sit with and talk with and if you had issues he was the buffer between ownership and players, ownership and the manager and the other way around. I think he was so damn good at it and knew the players so well.

Theo Epstein [7] was the first general manger that I think understood the clubhouse and knew when to be there and when not to be there. A lot of other general managers try to push themselves into the clubhouse culture or they awkwardly bring themselves into it. I never thought that Theo was out of place down there. He knew his place down there. I’ve never had an owner other than Jerry Colangelo that I could say the same thing about. In a lot of cases it is us against them.

“I’ll give you a great example and this is another [thing] that bothered me about the piece: The split doubleheader. There was a lot of discussion around the split doubleheader and how the players were upset about the split doubleheader and the hurricane and all the stuff that went around it. People lost their lives. People lost everything. Writing it the way Bob Hohler wrote it I think is very disingenuous.

“And then you have the owners buying $300 headphones and taking the players out on their yacht. How do you not piss fans off by saying something like that. The players were bothered not by the split doubleheader but by the fact that it was a split doubleheader. They wanted to play two, the traditional doubleheader. You ask players anywhere, playing a split doubleheader is the worst possible outcome you can have for a lot of physical reasons. Owners want to split the doubleheader because they don’t want to lose the gate.”

On the headphones: “That’s embarrassing. I would be embarrassed as a player to have that admitted publicly. I’m making $15 million a year and you’re making it up to me by buying me headphones? What? How does that work?”

On how he feels about the direction of the organization with Theo leaving, and if he feels the front office can turn this around? “I don’t think these guys can, no, absolutely not. And let’s not talk about Theo ‘possibly,’ he has to leave now. He can’t stay. There’s no way. The two guys at the core and foundation of rebuilding this franchise. I’m not belittling what it means: The ownership group of this team gave their blessings to sign checks. These two guys, the manager and the general manager along with the player envelopment staff and all the things that go into it, they trued this franchise around. Those two guys, you ran out of town.”

On Jason Varitek’s leadership and whether he should be more vocal: “Jason Varitek is not a vocal leader, has never been a vocal leader. Jason is not a guy that will stand up on a day-to-day basis and have team meetings. He will have them. He will say things. He is not comfortable, has never been comfortable, being that guy. Jason is a guy that wants you to see how he does things, how he plays the game and he wants you to mimic and follow that. His leadership method is much more physical than it is verbal.

“He’ll say to someone, ‘Hey, listen, we need to have a meeting and can you address this and can you talk to guys about this.’ I’ve been involved in that process. He will stand up and talk every now and then, but he’s never been a guy who’s comfortable standing up in front of groups of people. In his mind it’s a one-on-one with someone because you never want to embarrass one of your teammates. He did a lot of his work behind the scenes. Him standing up and having a clubhouse meeting, that’s not who Jason is for me. Jason is a guy who leads by example.”

On the owners: “Contrary to what has been said, they are far more involved than they would have anyone believe. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I know it. If they are truly going to turn this around then I think for the first time they need to hire baseball people and get out of the way. I don’t think they’re capable of doing that and I don’t think they’ve ever been capable of doing that. Why would Theo want to leave his dream job? He wasn’t allowed to do the job he was hired to do.

“Clearly they are involved because the manager was looking for a vote of confidence, never got it. They’re not the hands-off guys they would have you believe, they never have been. It’s next to impossible for people like that to be hands-off because they’re control freaks. Theo’s job became less optimal for Theo because of the amount of involvement that he was having to shoulder from people who never should have been involved.”

On if the owners are too concerned with the public relations side: “Oh, absolutely. The problem for me is there are two distinct fan bases in this region. There are the pre-2004 fans and the ones who can talk about 1967 and ’75 like the birth of their child, and then there are the new fans. They’re both incredibly important fan bases, but you get the feeling based on comments over the last two weeks and how situations have been handled that they’re pandering to the new-age fan and offending like hell the older fans.

“What they did to Terry was an affront and an offense to everybody that’s a Red Sox fan. It was disrespectful to him, I think it’s disrespectful to the organization. But I think they’re so caught up in all the new stuff. Those fans [are important] but you can’t cater to both because one believes in its heart of hearts that is the greatest franchise that’s ever existed, and the newer fans, the reason there’s been 700-some sellouts is because Fenway is a cool place to be.”

On the source of the Francona allegations: “It had to come from one of the owners, the team doctor who would risk losing his job if he revealed that information or the head trainer. That information doesn’t come to that detail, doesn’t come from somebody that isn’t in one of those positions.

“As hard and as much as they can try to control the message, those sources don’t work in the organization if the ownership knows who they are and disagree with what’s happening. There should be people being fired left and right. As a player or a coach, why would I come here if I know, what free agent would want to come here? Look at the Carl Crawford situation. What if I go there and a have a bad year? Is that what my life is going to be?”