While the southpaw starter conceded that "it was the wrong thing to do," he said it had no bearing on him or the team's performance during Boston's historic September collapse.
In a phone interview with the Globe, Lester said he and other pitchers who were not scheduled to take the mound would sometimes drink a "ninth-inning rally beer" in the clubhouse during games.
"Was it a bad habit? Yes. I should have been on the bench more than I was," Lester told the newspaper. "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."
The Globe made waves last week after publishing a report chronicling the team's dysfunction on and off the field. According to the report, Lester and teammates John Lackey and Josh Beckett slid into habits of drinking beer, eating fast food fried chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse rather than be in the dugout to support their teammates.
According to Lester, the report was partially true.
"We probably ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month. That happened. But that's not the reason we lost," he said, adding that the beer-drinking was not excessive. "Most of the times it was one beer, a beer. It was like having a Coke in terms of how it affected you mentally or physically. I know how it looks to people and it probably looks bad. But we weren't up there just drinking and eating and nobody played video games. We watched the game."
In September, they mostly watched their team lose. After Sept. 3, the Red Sox went 6-18, relinquishing their seemingly insurmountable lead in the Wild Card race. Like many of his teammates, Lester started the season strong (15-6 with a 2.93 earned run average in his first 27 starts) and ended with a thud (8.24 ERA in his last four starts).
Still the pitcher vigorously defended his work ethic and teammates Lackey and Beckett ("we're not a bad group of guys"). But Lester also seemed contrite about some ill-advised decisions and he wasn't surprised by the backlash following the team's epic slide.
"Are there things I regret? Sure there are. But nothing happened that had me unprepared to pitch," he said. "I don't blame people for wanting answers because we 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."
Yes, people do want answers. Right now, after the swift exits of manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein, Red Sox fans want the answer to a burning question: Isnext to go?