Blue Jays' catcher J.P. Arencibia gets defensive ... with Zaun and Hayhurst: Griffin
The Blue Jays struggling catcher, J.P. Arencibia used the platform of a scheduled appearance on Sportsnet The Fan 590's morning show to fire back at two of his biggest critics, former major-league catcher Gregg Zaun and former Jays pitcher and author, Dirk Hayhurst. This will turn ugly.
Arencibia was a guest on the Fan's morning show to promote a charity with which he is involved, sponsoring a youth baseball team in downtown Toronto.
Arencibia has been criticized openly and often by Zaun on Sportsnet for his unpolished defensive skills and his offensive struggles as the Jays enter Thursday's series finale against the Tigers , losers of seven of the last 10 games. Hayhurst is another Rogers employee splitting time between TV and filling in for Jack Morris on radio. He also co-hosts an hour of baseball talk on The Fan's daytime schedule. Hayhurst pitched briefly for the Jays and has written several books detailing his time as a player. All three men are employed under the same Rogers Communications umbrella.
This was by no means a spontaneous response from Arencibia to his critics, Zaun and Hayhurst. On Wednesday night after the loss to the Tigers, the cather had issued a tweet suggesting that people tune in to his morning appearance, using Zaun and Hayhurst's names as enticement. The hosts, Brady and Lang had clearly also seen the tweet. Arencibia was ready for the line of questioning.
“I think it's very unfortunate that the fans have to hear those guys talk as much as they do,” Arencibia began. “I know speaking for myself and for the team, that there's not one person in that clubhouse that respects those guys. They're informing the fans the wrong way and it's not right.
“One, not a lot of us, including myself, respect someone that used performance-enhancing drugs and was able to stick around as a below average player in the major leagues. I've worked hard. I've never done anything, I've never put anything in my body and I go out there and bust my butt every day. It's not an easy game. Sometmes people forget that.”
Zaun, it should be noted was mentioned briefly in The Mitchell Report. Former Mets' clubhouse man Kirk Radomski, the report's main source, claimed he sold performance enhancing drugs to Zaun in 2001, after a referral from Jason Grimsley. Radomski produced a checque from Zaun for $500. Zaun when he reported to Jays training camp refused to talk about it and the report had no legal status.
“Dirk Hayhurst is a guy, another guy who had below average baseball tools and I was actually the catcher in Triple-A who was busting my butt every single day to try and get the best out of him and he had an opportunity to go up to the major leagues that year. I take a lot of pride in feeling I'm a part of what gave the guy the opportunity.
“It's tough to hear people like that criticize – I know it's part of their job, to sit there and inform the fans and tell them this is not the way. They quickly forget how hard this game is. I promise you that on this earth nobody cares more about what goes on than the players do. It's our careers, it's our well-being. This is what I've done since I was four-years-old. It's very unfortunate that those people are the ones that they have to get their information from.”
The unfortunate part for the Jays is that Arencibia pays too much attention to the Social Media, to the fans, to the critics that react instantly and with great relish, piling on gleefully to criticisms they see Zaun offering on the pre-game and what Hayhurst says on radio. It's unfortunate because the majority of Jays fans across the country still believe that Arencibia is a future star, that he is Captain Canada in embracing the organization, the city, the country and his role with the team.
But that, of course, is the silent majority. He prefers to react to the vocal minority, which in pro sports always presents itself as the strongest critics. Nobody wants J.P. to fail. Arencibia is not going to win this battle and if he turned his full attention to becoming a better player, to perfecting the art of blocking balls in the dirt, to receiving and framing pitches and to swinging at pitches he sees rather than pitches he thinks are coming, because of the count, then that energy would be more productive.
You could see this moment bubbling up and coming to a head. Arencibia is always aware of his critics. But this is not going to change anything. Arencibia needs to shut his critics up with his play.