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Jason Varitek on WAAF: ‘I believe this team liked each other’

10.19.11 at 11:23 am ET

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek defended his teammates and lashed out at the unnamed sources who have been revealing clubhouse details during an appearance on Wednesday’s Hill-Man Morning Show on WEEI sister station WAAF.

During his hour-long appearance, Varitek said the team disharmony was not at the level that has been reported, nor did the team tune out manager Terry Francona.

“Did this team respect Terry Francona? I would say yes,” Varitek said. “Everybody has their own respect for their own manager, yes. ‘€¦ I honestly can’t speak for anyone. But, yes, he is your boss. What I believe in is you’re going to have coaches you don’t like, you’re going to have management you don’t like, you have players you don’t like, but I’m still going to play with that utter respect. This is my elder. This is the way I was brought up, the way I was raised. No matter what, I’m going to respect them and treat them with that same respect.

“Whether guys are going to go in a foxhole with somebody, at this point it doesn’t matter. Because you have to function. He’s still our boss. It doesn’t matter what happens. He makes the lineup, we go out and play. He makes the lineup, we go out and play. And with him, whether or not guys would go in a foxhole or have that much respect, you have to. You don’t get to that many wins and those things going on.”

Added Varitek: “What I disagreed with was that this team didn’t like each other. I believe this team liked each other. Whether [Francona] lost this team or didn’t lose that team and he felt that way, that’s the way he felt. Whether he does or doesn’t, and feels like he loses this team, those things, in my opinion, it always comes back to us. Because when it comes down to it, whether his chain of command, he’s our manager, we have directions, we have to perform. We didn’t perform.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the WAAF website.

On if he saw pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester drink beer in the dugout during games: “Absolutely not.”

On the leaks coming from Fenway: “We’ve got to quit filling the coolers with vodka and beer. [Laughs] You can go that far with this, and have a level of stupidity. Guys are professionals. And I believe this group still handled themselves that way, despite that going on. And I think the worst thing going on is that this team has always handled thing internally. We’ve had problems in the 15 years that I’ve been there, but nobody knows about them. Whether it be guys fighting, guys having a problem with a coach, guys having a problem with a trainer, having problems with each other, guys having fun, guys playing cards, people playing cribbage, to everything. You can’t have 25 guys around each other for 6-8 months and not have trouble. ‘€¦ Those things have happened. The problem is, we’ve handled them internally for so long. We’ve won the majority of the time that I’ve been here. We’ve had that opportunity to go the playoffs. We took care of them internally.

“All of a sudden we don’t, we don’t perform well and these things are now brought about by an unnamed source? Shame on them. If it’s a player, if it’s a trainer, a coach, management, ownership. Shame on you, if you can’t come out and be a part of it.”

On if he thinks a player is the one revealing clubhouse information: “No. But we don’t really know at this point. That’s what shameful in this whole thing. Besides the way we played. We played absolute bad baseball, without saying it any other way.”

On if anyone on the team quit: “I don’t think anybody quit. I think there were a lot of contributing factors that relate to baseball. Why did we stink early? We didn’t hit when we pitched well enough to win. We didn’t hit. Why did we win in the middle? We knocked the cover off the ball. Or we pitched well enough to allow ourselves early to knock the cover off the ball. That’s how we won. We didn’t win with stellar defense, stellar pitching. We won with offense and just getting by with our pitching.

“Our pitching had gone through a lot of health [issues]. We lost Lester, we lost Beckett, we lost Lackey after the first two starts. You lose Daisuke [Matsuzaka], you lose [Clay Buchholz]. ‘€¦ While that goes on throughout those three winning months, our bullpen carries on a big burden. We don’t have extended arms. You don’t have extended call-ups. You don’t have those things going, and they did a great job. We still had to ask them to do the same thing the last month of the year between doubleheaders, extra-inning games, we had a lot of those. We played catchup. This is the reality. we played catchup with our pitching staff from the first month or so on. ‘€¦ Those are real things that happened.

“People get all over Daniel Bard because a few holds got blown in September. Is that because Daniel’s not in shape. Go look at him. Go see what he does. In his case, he led the league in appearances all going up to September, pitching part of the seventh and then the eighth inning. All of a sudden he has one or two that it goes and it doesn’t go his direction, and bam.”

On accusations that Terry Francona lost the team: “I don’t think that you lose somebody. Because I’m one that believes that responsibility and things come [from] within, and come from the players. It doesn’t matter who’s telling us what and what not to do, but there’s a level of respect that you have to have always.”

On Francona’s team meeting in September: “It was just refresh guys, make sure everybody’s everybody focused in the same direction, make sure we keep our same objectives that we had. After that, we slid. Now, did we slide because of that? No. People were focused.”

On Carl Crawford: “Carl cares more than anybody. He almost cares too much. ‘€¦ There’s never been an issue, from the day Carl signed.”

On John Henry’s comments about not agreeing with the decision to sign Crawford last offseason: “I can go personally of having to deal with stuff like that, when I signed after my free agent year, when management and things came over. I didn’t fit their mold as a player. This was eight, nine years ago. I didn’t fit their mold statistically as a player. That changed through time because of what I do, intangibles and different things. But statistically as a player, I didn’t fit them. ‘€¦ Carl didn’t have his best year. But Carl had faced probably more than he had in his entire career. Next year, the next year, the next year is just going to be even better.”

On Lackey: “Lackey takes on — I’ve said it all year — he takes on a role with that pitching staff that you can’t replace by what his numbers are on the mound. He does his work. He supports his teammates. [The pitchers] all support their teammates. They blow one thing up as if they’re not supportive. I don’t agree with it.”

On Lackey showing up teammates or the manager during games and if it was addressed by teammates: “It comes across that way. But you’ve played against him, you’ve seen it. You play with him, you see it as — those are emotional things that go on. ‘€¦ You have to understand where the human being has been from and what he does. The fact that he’s there every day, he does support his teammates. Nobody questions Lackey in showing people up. Every once in a while, if those things happen, guys talk about them, or you talk about it directly with Lackey. ‘€¦

“I would say on his part of his emotion when he pitches, it didn’t affect [us], it’s just part of him. Because of the human being and who he is to the rest of that team, if he wasn’t a good teammate and those things, people would probably get offended. ‘€¦ Lackey’s so respected amongst his teammates, whether he’s performed well or not, that they would not question what that is. They know what that is. That’s emotion.”

On Lackey’s future in Boston: “I may be totally speaking out of where I normally am comfortable speaking, but the man pitched probably all year for us, took the ball every day, whether he was healthy or not. He had to deal with a lot physically. Everybody’s making a big deal of what he had to do off the field. That’s not a part of it. That’s a part of his life, but it’s not part of him as a human being. He took the ball when he didn’t have to. ‘€¦ He wasn’t 100 percent.”

On if he lumps himself with those who played poorly at the end of the season: “Absolutely. It would be ridiculous for me not to. ‘€¦ Does that mean I forgot and didn’t all of a sudden care about calling a game, and I’m now stupid? No. But that’s kind of what in my opinion is the perception of what’s gone on. We didn’t perform well. And we have to take that responsibility as players, outside of everything that’s gone on.”

On teammates’ respect for him: “When it comes to yourself, do my teammates respect me, this, that and the other, where that would get? Ask my teammates. You ask my teammates. I’m not defending myself. I go to my job, I do my thing. I can walk away, I can look at myself in the mirror every day and be happy with what — not necessarily the way I may have hit that night, but be happy with the professionalism and the teammate and those things that I am.”

On the team’s conditioning program: “I think conditioning has gotten more and more over time that I’ve been here. It’s more and more controlled, it’s more and more a priority. ‘€¦ It’s pretty regimented.”

On how Beckett is as a teammate: “Josh, outside the day he pitches, is as social and as much a part of the clubhouse as anybody. He talks to everybody, he talks to me more than I talk to him and it doesn’t matter if you’re a first-year guy, second-year guy or a last-year guy.”

On if Beckett was a bad influence on Lester: “I think when Josh had a 2.00 ERA the whole year that’s a bad influence? ‘€¦ Jon’s his own man. He’s been through everything he’s been through. They’re on different programs, different days, they do different things. Josh is getting all these fingers pointing at him. If it wasn’t for Josh, the way he performed throughout the entire year, he was the only stability in the rotation.”

On if drinking in the clubhouse was wrong: “Wrong? Yeah, it’s wrong. Was it out of control? I don’t believe it was out of control. Did it happen and nobody’s aware of it that it’s going on? Absolutely, over a long period of time. Is this something new? It goes all the way back to ’04. Everybody giggles about [Kevin] Millar taking shots back then. It’s something that’s not good to be promoted in baseball, period. But for it to have been a problem? No.”

On himself and Jonathan Papelbon allegedly celebrating after Francona resigned: “That’s just a normal case of what happens at the end of the year. This year is even more different for more. I may have played that Sunday and New York may have been my last game here. So you not only blow your season, your an emotional wreck because of that, you have different things going on. But at the end of the year everybody packs up and goes. ‘€¦ Every year, guys go to dinner, you try and get together one last time. I don’t know when I’m going to see those people ever again unless I’m in this uniform. You live in different states, people live all the way out in California, to Kansas City, to Texas. We try to get multiple people together. ‘€¦ So we’re on our way to dinner and Terry [resigns]. But you hear and we’re just about at dinner. And for us to be there at dinner to celebrate Francona’s demise? I wouldn’t do that if I hated somebody.”

On what the idea that Red Sox ownership trashes former players/employees: “I think it just deals with the same issue going on right now. You don’t know at this point exactly where everything came from, in this case the beer, the this, the that. It came from somewhere. With those different things with those players, it’s a shame that those things would have to happen. I think that people take on a level of scrutiny that they don’t deserve. Johnny [Damon] didn’t deserve it, Nomar [Garciaparra] didn’t deserve it. It doesn’t tell the full story of what’s going on. Mo [Vaughn] didn’t deserve it, Curt [Schilling] didn’t deserve it ‘€¦ [Derek Lowe] , Manny [Ramirez]. There’s always issues. We play a game that you fail 70 percent of the time and you’re awfully good. You’re going to have some issues. You search for them, you’re going to find them. You search for good, you can find them in the same numbers. Not just as a player, but as a human being. Somebody could have a lighter personality, somebody’s more aggressive. You can find things. And to portray things, even with this team, that that’s the issue why we lost? False.”

On if the Red Sox can bounce back from the collapse in time for next season: “The team can have it not be an issue. Can Red Sox Nation, and what builds and fuels this team? If they can’t get over it, then it’s going to be an issue.”

On if he’ll be back with Boston next season: “I would love to be. I have bled this uniform my entire career proudly. I’ve literally bled this uniform. It’s hard to think to go anywhere else. But like I have the last two winters, especially last winter, I know that it might not be in their plans. And then if I’m going to play, I have to be prepared to go somewhere else.”

On what the Red Sox should look for in a manager: “The game’s developed and changed. Somebody to come in, fundamentally sound. What I mean the game’s changed is there’s a whole different speed element. We have some of those pieces in place, both offensively, defensively, to be able to have it on both ends. Because you look five, six years ago, the only team that ran was [Mike] Scioscia‘s [Angels], and then it went to [Joe] Maddon in Tampa, and now it’s dispersed, there’s a lot more small ball in the game. ‘€¦ People respond to somebody that’s a players’ manager. But I think here, with everything that’s gone on, yes you need somebody in here now that’s a strong personality.”

Read More: carl crawford, Jason Varitek, john lackey, Jon Lester
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