Several years ago now, the artist formally known as "Archi" Zuber (now of the Score) and I went to Cito Gaston's final game as Blue Jays manager. We sat along the first base line and cracked wise with each other and those around us. It was all very friendly with a guy who was sitting in front of us, until the subject of Cito's decision to start John Buck over JP Arencibia came up.
Both Zuber and I agreed with Cito. My thought was that Buck was the veteran, going into free agency. Cito was always known to favour the veterans and likely Cito was giving Buck the opportunity to pad his numbers a bit, rounding off a very solid offensive campaign. Arencibia had been a call-up, and was seen as the catcher of the future and would get the starting catcher job in the following season. He would have plenty of time to live up to whatever his potential was.
Well, making this argument to the guy in front of us was apparently equivalent to saying you drop kick kittens for fun. He stopped interacting with us. He wouldn't even look at us. It was so abrupt and obvious that Zuber and I have referred to it as the defining incident of that whole game and have brought it up in the years since because it was just so damn weird. The dude could just not handle that this was our opinion. He thought it was just so wrong. He was offended.
I was reminded of this incident now that it seems the Arencibia Experiment is over in Toronto. The Jays have signed Dioner Navarro for $8 million over 2 years and Shi Davidi (as well as a few other people) now report that if the Jays can't find a trading partner for Arencibia, they will non-tender him by midnight, making him a free agent.
One can't really argue that it was hard to see this coming. Arencibia had a terrible 2013. Various people have argued that he's just living up to his pre-ordained terribleness, but I think it also had something to do with the fact that he played with bursitis in his knee for most of the season. It didn't really explain why the guy refuses to take a walk, but it might explain why some of his numbers that were at least approaching average fell off a cliff in 2013.
But it wasn't just that Arencibia was having a terrible year, it's that he wasn't handling it very well. JPA got into that public feud with Hayhurst and Zaun and took to Twitter to vent about various things. I didn't agree with a lot of the things in that whole situation. But if you are a public figure, it's just not a good idea to do that because it just sours people on you. And fair or not, Arencibia did become the poster boy for the terrible season. This is a move that needed to happen. If you are anti-JP, you can see this Navarro signing as an needed improvement behind the plate. If you are pro-JP (and yes, those people do exist), see it as a chance for the dude to move on.
Dioner is served? No? Too far? Too far.
— Matt Ross (@TheMattRoss) December 2, 2013
A bunch of other people wrote and talked about this move.
Here is just one of the things Stoeten over at DJF had to say about the situation. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs made very reasoned arguments . Wilner and Ben Ennis podcasted about it.
Shi Davidi wrote more about it, illustrating just how ugly it's gotten.
"What’s clear is that the team believes Arencibia’s personal collapse this past season created too much baggage on both ends for them to continue together, and that his potential was unlikely to be realized in Toronto."