BOSTON – Jason Varitek has a simple explanation for the Red Sox’s historic September collapse.

“We played like absolute bad baseball,” the captain said in a radio interview Wednesday.

During a scheduled, in-studio appearance for WAAF-FM, Varitek disagreed with the notion that a lack of discipline in the clubhouse, including in-game beer-drinking by several starting pitchers, contributed to a 7-20 finish that caused the Red Sox to squander a nine-game lead on Sept. 1 and miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Instead, Varitek pointed to the team’s on-field performance and alluded to a lack of pitching depth that left the bullpen taxed by the season’s final month. In September, the Red Sox posted a 5.84 team ERA, including a 7.08 by the starting pitchers.

“Our pitching had gone through a lot of health (problems),” Varitek said. “We lost (Jon) Lester, we lost (Josh) Beckett, we lost (John) Lackey after the first two starts, you lose Daisuke (Matsuzaka), you lose (Clay Buchholz). So, while that goes on throughout those three winning months, our bullpen carries on a big burden. We don’t have extended arms. We don’t have extended call-ups, and they did a great job.

“We still had to ask them to do the same thing the last month of the year, between doubleheaders, extra-inning games, we had a lot of those. This is the reality. We played catchup with our pitching staff from the first month or so on. Those are real things that happened.”

But in the aftermath of the collapse, attention has focused on other things, namely the in-game habits of drinking beer and ordering fast-food fried chicken developed by Lester, Beckett, Lackey and other starting pitchers. And as more details emerge about Red Sox behaving badly, Varitek and other veterans have faced criticism for a lack of leadership.

Varitek disclosed that David Ortiz called a players-only meeting in mid-September, within a week of the Sept. 7 team meeting in Toronto convened by former manager Terry Francona. But it didn’t change the Red Sox’ fortunes any more than Francona’s efforts, a pep talk from General Manager Theo Epstein or even principal owner John Henry’s invitation to the players to have a party aboard his yacht.

“When players speak and handle things with each other, people get involved,” said Varitek, who added that he wasn’t in attendance on Henry’s yacht on Sept. 12 when the players were given expensive headphones as a gift from the owner. “It’s just the way it always is because these are your peers. Everybody’s involved. Everybody’s focused in the same direction, there’s some excitement — and we go out and we lose.”

Varitek defended Beckett, who appeared to gain weight during the season en route to spraining his ankle Sept. 5 and posting a 6.52 ERA in his final three starts, by saying the All-Star right-hander was “not fat, not out of shape.”

And although Varitek said the pitchers were “wrong” for drinking in the clubhouse during games, he echoed Lester’s comments from earlier this week by downplaying any link between the pitchers’ behavior and their failures on the mound.

“Yeah, it’s wrong. Was it out of control? I don’t believe it was out of control,” Varitek said. “Did it happen and probably no one was aware of it that it was going on? Absolutely, over a long period of time. But is it something new? No. It’s something that’s not good to be promoted for baseball, period. But for it to be a problem? No, it’s not a problem.”

Varitek recalled the 2004 season when first baseman Kevin Millar “giggled” about leading a group of players in taking pregame shots.

Because the Red Sox won the World Series, the team was embraced as self-proclaimed “Idiots.”

Additionally, Varitek joined the chorus of players who have denounced WHDH-TV’s report Tuesday night that the pitchers brought beer into the dugout during games.

“Absolutely not,” he said, while lashing out at two unnamed team employees for leaking the information. “For that to happen, like they’re saying an unnamed source and they say it’s clubhouse personnel, these people are our life. They do everything for us, from our laundry to getting our stuff ready, making sure everybody’s comfortable. All of a sudden, these things are brought about by an unnamed source, shame on them. If it’s a player, if it’s a trainer, a coach, management, ownership, shame on you.

“This team has always handled things internally. We’ve had problems the 15 years I’ve been there, but nobody knows about them. Whether it’s guys fighting, guys have a problem with a coach, have a problem with the trainer, have a problem with each other, guys playing cards, people playing cribbage, to everything. You can’t have 25 guys around each other for six to eight months and not have trouble. But we’ve handled them internally for so long.”