Blue Jays' J.P. Arencibia rips analysts Hayhurst, Zaun

Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia has responded to criticism from Toronto baseball analysts Dirk Hayhurst and Gregg Zaun, saying he and his teammates don't respect them because they are "informing fans the wrong way."

Catcher says ex-players were 'below-average', doesn't regret comments

Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia has been struggling, batting .216 with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia stuck to his guns Thursday afternoon, saying he doesn't regret comments he made on an all-sports radio station about former Blue Jays and current team broadcasters Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst.

Arencibia took to the airwaves to respond to criticism from the two analysts, saying he and his teammates don't respect them because they are "informing fans the wrong way." In an interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, Arencibia said Hayhurst and Zaun were "below-average" players who make the game sound easy.

"It's tough to hear people like that criticize," he said on the radio show. "I know it's part of their job, but to sit there and inform the fans that this is wrong and this is not the way. They quickly forget how hard this game is."

Arencibia didn't back down from his comments when he met with reporters before Thursday night's game against Detroit at Rogers Centre.

"I said what I felt," he said. "I said what I said this morning and I don't regret anything. I feel like myself and my teammates feel the same way."

Like many members of the baseball media, Hayhurst and Zaun have been critical of Arencibia's play this season.

Entering the series finale against the Tigers, the 27-year-old catcher has posted decent power numbers with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs. But he has struck out 92 times, is hitting just .216 and has an on-base percentage of only .244.

"Speaking for myself and for the team, that there's not one person in our clubhouse that respects those guys because they're informing the fans the wrong way," Arencibia said in the morning. "It's not right." 

He said the criticism has been ongoing for a while and that the positive things he does often "go unsaid."

"It's just unjust sometimes," Arencibia said. "Obviously we're not where we wanted to be. The season hasn't gone with the high expectations and that stuff. It's nothing specific, I think it's over a period of time. I was just making a point."

Speaking on his daily baseball show on the The Fan, Hayhurst said Arencibia is entitled to his opinion.

"I think he has every right to feel the way that he does and he has every right to voice his opinion on critics," Hayhurst said. "He's had a really rough year. I think the entire Blue Jays team has had a rough year if you take a moment to consider the expectations that this team came into the season with.

"That being said, J.P. hasn't lived up to those expectations and there has been a lot of negative topics to discuss."

Shaking hands

Hayhurst shook hands with Arencibia in the clubhouse before batting practice and they chatted for about 10 minutes. Arencibia added that things might be different if he saw Hayhurst and Zaun more often.

"They're never around in the clubhouse," he said. "I was able to talk to Dirk today and 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."

After revamping their roster in the off-season, the Jays were touted as major contenders in 2013. But they have been inconsistent and sit last in the American League East, 10 games back with a 41-43 record.

Arencibia has made three errors this season and allowed 33 stolen bases and 10 passed balls.

"Our job as analysts is to look at some of the negative stuff and you look at the play that J.P. Arencibia has had this year and there's been a lot of negative things to discuss," said Hayhurst. "I think he's struggling right now. I think that's a warranted comment and I think it reflects in his stats."

Arencibia said he understands the role of the media and that criticism is part of the job. But he feels more balance is necessary.

"I agree with some of the things that he says, my point is the game is not that easy," Arencibia said. "The game is not that easy. To make it seem like it's that easy and not point out the positives, I mean let's talk about where the team ERA is when I've been back there.

"Let's talk about the good things that's been going on."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was also asked for his reaction during his pre-game media availability.

"[Arencibia's] got a right to say what he wants, you know," Gibbons said. "But he does get chiselled pretty good — from the cheap seats."

Gibbons added that Arencibia has been doing a solid job defensively.

"You guys were raving about the bullpen the last couple weeks," he told reporters. "Who's catching the bullpen? I mean the starters are struggling and he's catching the starters, but he's also catching the bullpen. I mean if you're going to be fair about things then let's be fair."

Arencibia took shots at the careers of both Zaun and Hayhurst on the morning radio show.

He suggested Zaun, a former catcher, used performance-enhancing drugs and "was able to stick around as a below-average player in the major leagues."

Zaun spent 16 years in the big leagues, including five seasons with Toronto, batting .252 in his career.

He was mentioned in the 2007 Mitchell Report on the use of steroids in baseball but the accusations have never been proven and he has said in the past that he didn't violate baseball's drug policy.

Zaun weighed in during a late afternoon segment on The Fan.

"I actually kind of giggled when I heard him," said Zaun. "I can understand how frustrated he is. If I was him, I would be too if I was playing the way he's playing."

PED allegations

He was also asked about the PED allegations.

"I never failed a drug test in my career," Zaun said. "People can write all the things they want to say about you, it doesn't mean they're true."

"I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, done and said a lot of things but that was over the line," he added. "You can be upset with my analysis of your play all you want to but to flat out say those kinds of things on air publicly, that's out of bounds."

Zaun said he hasn't talked to Arencibia since he made the comments.

"He knows where to find me," he said.

Arencibia called Hayhurst, a former pitcher, "another guy who had below-average baseball tools."

Hayhurst pitched just over 39 innings in his major-league career, posting a 5.72 ERA. He also spent eight seasons in the minors.

"I feel bad for fans that they have to listen to that stuff," Arencibia said. "Maybe they could give the fans the knowledge to understand why this play turned out the way it did or why this could have been a mistake."

Hayhurst said major-leaguers need to have a thick skin.

"I don't think you can survive in the big leagues and not understand that when you play bad, you're going to draw criticism," he said.

He added that he can handle the shots from Arencibia.

"I don't think it's completely fair some of the things he said, but I can take it and I'm fine with it," said Hayhurst. "I hope that he feels better about it now and I hope that he goes on and has a more productive season."

Arencibia said that he takes tremendous pride in his job and can often be found studying film before and after games.

"I care a ton," he said. "No one is harder on myself than me. I said what I said and it's nothing to back away from."