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Varitek says Sox stuck together

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 19, 2011

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NEEDHAM - Red Sox captain Jason Varitek remains shocked at how the season ended. But he disagrees with the perception that poor chemistry contributed to the downfall.

In his first interview since the team’s September collapse, Varitek took issue with the idea that the Sox suffered from a lack of discipline and desire.

“It’s embarrassing to be a part of, that we didn’t end up making the playoffs,’’ said Varitek while sitting on the deck of his home. “But all the other stuff that’s out there is crap.

“In my opinion, nobody wants to see the truth. The truth is we have to take responsibility as players for how we performed, and that can go in many different directions.

“That’s why we didn’t win. It wasn’t lack of effort. It wasn’t lack of direction. It wasn’t a lack of being prepared. We didn’t play well.’’

Varitek said he was “surprised’’ when former manager Terry Francona said two days after the season that the players weren’t supportive of each other and he couldn’t reach them.

“I didn’t agree with that,’’ Varitek said. “I believed that this team, regardless, pulled for each other, and those things have been so grossly distorted. It’s just baffling that you can feel that way.

“That’s a personal feel because it still always comes down to us performing. He can’t hit for us. He can’t make a pitch in the ninth inning for us. The only thing he can control is putting us in situations that allow you to be successful.

“That’s Tito’s personal opinion . . . and maybe how he related to the team. The personal perception for him maybe could be that he couldn’t reach the team. But I didn’t see him change. It always comes down to our performance. When somebody becomes a scapegoat, it makes things difficult.’’

A question about whether pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Jon Lester were drinking beer in the clubhouse had Varitek shaking his head.

“It’s normal that guys would be in the clubhouse,’’ he said. “People go back and forth. The perception that there’s rampant drinking going on is frankly just [expletive]. The magnitude of those things are minute in the big picture of an entire season.

“We’ve won here for a long time. We’ve had problems here for a long time. Whether it be players with coaches, players with trainers, players with players. We’ve handled them always in-house and we’ve won and we’ve won a lot.

“All of a sudden you have a collapse and things are looked at differently and people are trying to find a cause.

“Are people working out? Are people not working out? It’s not lack of effort or lack of desire. It’s lack of results.

“If you’re never on the bench, if you’re never around supporting your teammates, that would be a problem. I never saw it as a problem.’’

According to Varitek, the team did all it could to snap out of its funk.

“We had three meetings [in September],’’ he said. “There was one with Tito, there was a players meeting, and there was one with Theo [Epstein]. There wasn’t a lack of direction. Guys were all focused on the same direction. We knew what to do; we just simply didn’t do it.

“I disagree with what has been presented. Guys were going in the right direction. We just didn’t get the right results. There are times in a season when guys get on each other’s nerves and there are squabbles and arguments. This team, in my opinion, liked each other.’’

The 39-year-old Varitek was unequivocal in his desire to play in 2012 and hopes to return to the Sox. He hit .221 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs in 68 games this season.

Pitchers had a 3.57 earned run average with Varitek behind the plate.

“I’ve bled this uniform for 14-plus years. It’s not going to be in my hands totally,’’ Varitek said. “It depends on what direction they want to go in.

“The opportunity may not just be here, it may be elsewhere or it may not be at all. I’ll have to see what happens.’’

After spending his entire major league career with the Sox, Varitek isn’t sure whether he’d play for another team.

“I can’t answer that until it’s presented to me,’’ he said. “I want to be here. I know I can still help this team.’’

With Francona out and Epstein close to leaving the team for the Cubs, Varitek isn’t sure what to expect.

“Everything has been a surprise,’’ he said. “I’ve known for the last eight years that from the top down it goes from the ownership to Theo then to Tito. It went down real quick. But that happens when everything goes wrong like it did.

“If we win a few more games, maybe one more, we’re probably not having this conversation. But that didn’t happen.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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