J.P. Arencibia knows the critics are out there.
He just doesn’t care what they have to say.
The Toronto Blue Jays catcher is enduring a tough year at the plate and behind it. Entering play Tuesday, the 27-year-old is batting .219/.247/.427/.674 for the season with nine walks and 90 strikeouts.
His 15 home runs are tops amongst MLB catchers, but so too are his 10 passed balls.
Following Monday’s 8-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, a game in which Arencibia contributed a key two-run single with the bases loaded in the third inning to put Toronto ahead 4-0, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons acknowledged his starting catcher might be receiving more than his fair share of negative media attention, referring to Arencibia as “the whipping boy.”
“He’s frustrated, he’s a great competitor,” said Gibbons. “He’s a guy that gets a lot of focus on this team. He’s kind of been the whipping boy in a lot of ways. There’s always one, sometimes two, but he’s kind of that guy.
“That’s fine, that’s part of it,” continued Gibbons. “As long as he gets the credit when he plays good that’s fair.”
A short time later at his locker, Arencibia was asked whether he’s felt that way at times this season.
“It is what it is,” he said calmly. “I’m learning real quick some of the reactions and some of the business. Obviously that’s your guys’ job. If there’s something to be pointed at, it’s always going to be at somebody. If it’s not one person, it’s the other, so it’s part of your job.
“There’s no hard feelings. You’re not going to call me when my career is over, because I’m not going to call you. So I just go out there and do what I’m put on this Earth to do.”
Big things were expected of Arencibia and the Blue Jays entering the 2013 season.
Arencibia got off to a good start in April, batting .253/.267/.566/.833 with eight home runs, but his team did not, struggling to a 10-17 mark.
And by the time the Blue Jays turned things around in June, going 17-9 including an 11-game win streak, Arencibia had cooled off considerably posting a .188/.241/.325/.566 line for the month with 25 strikeouts.
The fact that the Blue Jays weren’t winning when Arencibia was producing and the 11-game win streak coincided with his recent slump, merely provided critics with more fuel.
Now entering his third full big-league season, the personable Arencibia was asked how much attention he pays to what’s being said and written about him.
“I pay zero attention because I’ve learned more and more how — no offence — how much you guys don’t know,” he said.
He went on to say he’s never had a hard time blocking out the noise, positive or negative.
“It depends on who you play for,” he explained. “With my faith system, I don’t play for the fans, I play for one being. I go out there and I’ve been blessed with abilities. I try to maximize and play as hard as I can with the gifts that I’ve been given.
“So good or bad, (what people say) is out of my control. I can work hard, I can do all the things to prepare and that’s all you can do.
“Results will come. I’m confident enough in my abilities, but again, guys need something to talk about and obviously I’m the one that they talk about. Do I care? Not really.”
Arencibia says he is concerned with winning, and he says the key to his team’s recent turnaround was faith in their talent and a level head.
“If guys in here didn’t believe, you wouldn’t be able to be down where we were and have that kind of a run, because that’s all confidence,” he explained. “If everyone was down, that run doesn’t happen, so that’s why you have to constantly stay on that same line.
“I try to stay as even keel as possible,” he continued. “You try to stay away as much as possible from the downs, but there’s always going to be another up, and that’s the biggest thing.”
Despite striking out three times on Monday, the two-run single was definitely another “up” for Arencibia, one Gibbons hopes is a sign of bigger things to come.
“When you’re in one of those kinds of ruts it’s tough, and you feel it, but a hit like that can do wonders,” he said. “I think he had three strikeouts on the day. But that one hit right there… he’ll feel good about that tonight and build off that tomorrow.”