This article in today's Boston Globe has caused my Twitter feed to just about explode. Material like this is simply too good to pass up:
Instead, Boston's three elite starters went soft, their pitching as anemic as their work ethic. The indifference of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey in a time of crisis can be seen in what team sources say became their habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season.
Do I think beer, fried chicken, and video games were the main reasons the Red Sox missed the postseason? No. It's silly to try and attach narratives to a collapse after the fact, when the big picture is still that the Red Sox suffered a flurry of injuries at the end of the season and their starting rotation fell to shambles. And really, I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out starting pitchers on all teams goof off when they aren't pitching.
Also, it's not uncommon for teams and players to relax their workout regimes at the end of the season; Joe Maddon purposefully let his players come to the ballpark late during September and discouraged them from working themselves too hard before a game. The season is a long and arduous one, so by the end of the year, you're best conserving what energy you have.
But does that mean we can write this entire story off as hogwash? No, I think that's also being too extreme. A lack of conditioning is a lack of conditioning, and it certainly won't help you play better baseball to allow yourself to get too relaxed down the stretch. There's a fine line that players need to walk as the season goes along, so I wouldn't write this story off too quickly as the Boston press wanting to throw everyone under the bus.
Maybe this was a case where conditioning and clubhouse matters impacted the play on the field, but the problem is, we'll never know for sure. I prefer to stick with the things we do know when it comes to analysis. But if we're instead talking about simply enjoying a story for it's ridiculousness...well, it's tough to top the fried chicken.