TORONTO - When a season doesn't go as planned, a team drastically underperforms on expectations, inevitably the time comes when a player-media spat makes its way into the public realm.
If you had July 4 in your office pool, congratulations.
Hours after going on a Toronto radio station Thursday morning to call into question the persistent criticism he's received from broadcast analysts and former major leaguers Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst, J.P. Arencibia stood by his comments before a large media horde at Rogers Centre.
"I said what I felt," said Arencibia. "I said what I said this morning and I don't regret anything. I think that, again, I feel like me, myself and my teammates feel the same way.
"Part of you guys is to be critical," he continued. "You're not going to talk about every good thing. You're not going to talk about this guy running the ball out hard. You're not going to talk about the "sexy" things about the game. Obviously, controversy and negativity is sometimes part of the job. I think that was my point and I feel like I said what I needed to say."
Zaun, a former catcher who played for the Blue Jays from 2004-2008, and Hayhurst, who pitched for Toronto in 2009, have regularly criticized Arencibia's handling of the pitching staff, his defence and his offensive approach.
Entering Thursday's series finale versus Detroit, Arencibia's .216 batting average ranked 152nd out of 157 major league players with enough plate appearances to qualify. His .244 on base percentage ranked last among 158 qualified hitters.
Arencibia's 15 home runs leads all major league catchers but eight of them came in April, as did 16 of his 38 RBI. His WAR rating, which calculates a player's value to his team above a minor league replacement, is 0.2. Defensively, Arencibia leads the majors in passed balls (10).
Analysts in Toronto and elsewhere have opined on his pitch-framing abilities and his game-calling. Arencibia is a work in progress, he'll admit as much, and says he's among the first to arrive and last to leave the ballpark. Whether it's watching video or poring over scouting reports, Arencibia says he's constantly preparing.
Behind the plate, Arencibia is a workhorse, having caught all but two games not started by R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer has a personal catcher, first Henry Blanco and now Josh Thole, otherwise it's likely Arencibia would have played in some of those games.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm excited or should be patted in the toosh for what I've done but I also think there are a lot of things that go unsaid," said Arencibia. "It's just unjust sometimes. I think, obviously, we're not where we wanted to be. The season hasn't gone with the high expectations and that stuff but I think there's nothing specific. It's over a period of time I was making a point of what was being said."
After suggesting that because Zaun and Hayhurst played professional baseball, they should have a better understanding of the daily rigours, Arencibia called on both to become more accessible to the players.
"I was able to talk to Dirk today," said Arencibia. "I told him, you know hey, you can say what you want to say. Just be around the guys more. Come in. Why was it the first time that you've shown face, today, when something was said? That's my point. They were both on the other side of the game, they both understand the way it works, I understand it's part of their job. Again, why is it the first time that they come around? Why aren't they around our team? Probably because there's a little bit more to that."
"You never see either one of them, that's a fact," said manager John Gibbons, who identified Arencibia as the club's "whipping boy". "Where that goes, people view that as gutless. If you're going to write things, you show up. That's just the way it is, that's how these guys view that stuff. If you're going to take your digs, you've at least got to be around. That's the way (the players) think."
Arencibia is 27-years old but still hasn't hit the three-year anniversary of his major league debut. Highly touted, he made a splash in his debut on August 7, 2010. In that game, a 17-11 win over Tampa Bay, Arencibia went 4-5 with two home runs and three RBI.
It seemed the great expectation was set from the get-go. Now, while he struggles for a prolonged period of time, his ceiling has come into question.
Kind of like the Blue Jays, version 2013, isn't it?