The lasting image of Terry Francona embracing Jon Lester after the lefty finished off a no-hitter in 2008 will forever be remembered as one of the most touching moments in Red Sox history.
While nothing could be said to tarnish that memory, Lester's comments to The Boston Globe on Monday certainly come as a bit of a shock from a player who was once said to have a father-son-type bond with his manager.
"I love Tito and he did a great job for us when he was here. On a personal level I was more than grateful for what [Francona] did for me and my family, but there comes a time when your authority is no longer there," Lester told Peter Abraham. "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. … 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."
Lester told the Globe that he hasn't spoken to Francona since the manager's departure from the team and has only communicated with him via text message.
Lester did admit to the accusations of Red Sox pitchers drinking in the clubhouse and eating fried chicken during games. He said it was a bad habit and he "should have been on the bench more," but he downplayed the role of both activities in the Red Sox' dreadful month of September.
"There's a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn't the case," Lester told the Globe. "Most of the times, it was one beer, a beer. … 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."
Lester acknowledged that he was aware of public perception and all that is being said about the Red Sox. He said he understands that and accepts responsibility.
"I don't blame people for wanting answers because we had a hell of a team and we lost," the 27-year-old told the Globe. "You can't have a team that gets paid like we get paid and loses and not expect people to want answers. … If we win a few more games in September and make the playoffs, none of this comes out. But we didn't and that's on us as a team and on me personally. I take a lot of the blame for this, a lot."