Dave Page, who was fired as Red Sox strength and conditioning coach this week, joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday and talked about issues with players failing to adhere to the physical conditioning program leading up to the team's September collapse.
Page said the starting pitchers -- the most publicly criticized members of the team this offseason -- did not stand out as a group that was not following the program. "I think for a lot of reasons that he team in general, we were just, from a physical, fundamental and mental preparation, we just didn't have it every night," Page said.
Page did not name names, but he did reference four players as standing out for their failure to adhere to the conditioning program.
"We got to the end of the year where we had four guys -- without naming names -- we had four guys that we thought didn't make it to that part of the season where we hoped they would be: one position player -- an everyday guy -- one pitcher -- a starting pitcher -- and two bullpen guys," Page said. "For the most part, everybody else had stayed within where we wanted them to be. They were what we expected. Most of them were working."
One such player acknowledged his mistake in a candid discussion during the team's final series in Baltimore.
"I did have a good conversation with one player at the end of the year in Baltimore that really kind of opened my eyes," Page said. "I said, 'Hey, what's going on here? It seemed like you pulled the plug a little bit. Why?' He kind of looked down at the ground, looked back and me and said, 'I don't know why. I can't answer that question.' Which was kind of a shock."
Page said he's received messages of support from "probably 90 percent of our roster" and others in Major League Baseball, including one text from a guilt-ridden Sox player.
Said Page: "I got a text message from one player the other night that said he felt that way. He texted me and said, 'I feel this is all my fault.' I don't want to say who it was, because that's between him and me. But he did say that."
Page pointed to a specific game against the Yankees in late August as an example of the Red Sox' lack of effort.
"The bottom line is we weren't ready to play, physically, fundamentally or mentally the way we should have been, like a championship team should have been," he said. "The one thing that kind of highlights some things is when Curt Young, his dad died, they put Gary Tuck on the bench to be the pitching coach for a few days. So, they asked me to go to the bullpen. So, I'm out there and I get a chance to watch the whole game.
"In the first six innings of a couple of games -- and this was a Yankee game I was out there -- the first six innings, we hit 18 balls in play. [Of the] 18 outs that we made, seven times the guy who hit the ball never made it to first base -- peeled off before he got to the bag. I said something to the other coaches. I said, 'We're just not playing hard.' That trickles down a lot of places. It can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. It really kind of opened my eyes to maybe what was going to lie ahead in the next six weeks."
Following are more highlights from the conversation.
On learning from the team that he was being fired: "I was very surprised. It was a tough thing to hear. It kind of shocked me, the fact they waited this long. I know they had some bigger fish to fry, with the whole Theo [Epstein] situation, Tito [Francona] and all that stuff. But that fact that they waited 33, 34 days from the end of the season to do it, it led me to believe that things weren't going to change, and it really kind of limited my opportunities to move on with another team. It was very surprising."
On if this year was more challenging than his previous five seasons in Boston: "At times it was. I wouldn't think any more than it had been in the past at times. I was there six years. We didn't have a whole lot of roster turnover. Every few years you see new guys you get to plug in. But it's the same guys every year. I knew them and they knew me. They go through things on and off the field that I might not know about that may have limited them. But for the most part, I didn't really see anything."
On Josh Beckett: "Josh has always worked hard for me. He really has. He's been probably one of the guys that we wanted guys in the past to emulate, see young guys coming up saying this is the guy that you need to follow, everything he does. He did express some concerns himself. In fact, he brought it up to me and other members of our training staff, that he felt he was getting a little sideways, so to speak, on his weight. I don't think it was something that wasn't just noticed by outsiders. I think he felt the same way."
On the pitchers eating chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse: "I think that whole chicken and beer thing has gotten a lot of unnecessary play, to be honest with you. I really didn't see chicken in the clubhouse all that often. I'm in and out of there a lot. … I rarely saw the chicken. The beer, if they're drinking beer, it's probably upstairs. And I wasn't up there. … In my opinion, it wasn't as rampant as it's gotten made out to be."
On if he got proper backing from the coaches and front office: "I would say it's been a lot better in the past."
For a transcript of the interview, check the Full Count blog later in the afternoon. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.
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