Apr 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) is restrained by second base umpire Tripp Gibson (73) as he engages in a verbal altercation with Baltimore Orioles players prior to the eighth inning at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays won 13-6. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
What American League East team is the “enemy #1” of the Baltimore Orioles? The first answer probably for most people would remain the New York Yankees. For so many years they have spent their way into annual contention, embittering opponents like the O’s with contracts such as the Mark Teixeira deal in 2009 that gave the Maryland native $180 million for eight years (the final year coming up). Yes, there is plenty to dislike about New York.
Perhaps the second-most common answer would be the Boston Red Sox. They too have been odious because of their deep pockets and occasional deep runs, like the World Series championship season of 2013. Even more than the Yankees, it has often been the character of certain Red Sox players that make them less than attractive to Baltimore fans — the silly snoot on Jonathan Papelbon, the Big Papi telephone bashing incident in the visiting dugout, etc. We could name more, not to mention their ridiculous cavemen appearance.
It is more difficult to gin up a great deal of hatred for the Tampa Bay Rays. Even if Joe Madden’s defensive shifts were maddening, you sort of had to feel sorry for them and their empty stadium with the upper deck essentially shut down. They truly don’t have money, and yet they have drafted well and been a model of player development. They’re annoying, but difficult to truly hate.
So that leaves the brethren from Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. Full disclosure here: I have always hated the Jays more than any other team. I disliked them in the 90s with the walk-off homer over the Phillies (the local team where I lived at that time). They screwed the minor league son of a friend of mine. But more than anything over the past two decades, they have not been very good, and yet, somehow, they would win seasonal series over the Orioles. Admittedly, the O’s were also not very good over that same time. But it really hurt to see them get beaten by such a sorry outfit as the Jays.
Now, in modern times, the Jays have become another spending version of the Yankees and Red Sox. It really did not work for them terribly well, until this current season … or should I say gleefully, this “past season for the Jays” since it ended for them yesterday with a loss to the Royals.
For a long time, I pretty much had the Jays-hate bus to myself. Most people were on the Yanks and Sox busses. Now it is crowded and more difficult to find a seat. This trend significantly picked up over the past offseason with entire Dan Duquette scenario, and a lot of those sitting around me don’t think it is actually over. It is difficult to argue that it is history, or that this resent history did not impact the past season for the Orioles.
Adding to the rise of the Blue Jays on the enemies list is, of course, the display of varied antics by Jose Bautista — the battles with Darren O’Day, resenting being hit by Jason Garcia, the verbal exchanges with Adam Jones, and the admiration of his long balls. And to show it is not merely a Baltimore thing, his big homer in the playoffs against the Rangers featured a bat flip for the ages — admired by those who like the guy (or who are simply glad he plays for their team), but disrespected by the majority of baseball lovers elsewhere.
So perhaps there is a bit of karma in that the winning run that eliminated the Blue Jays last night was scored when Bautista threw the ball back to second base on a long single into the right-field corner, thus allowing Lorenzo Cain to score from first base on the hit. It was not a smart play with the score tied 3-3 in the eighth inning. And perhaps the karma is more for his crazy antics back in April of venting his anger in trying to throw out Delmon Young on a single, straining his shoulder at that time.
Anger issues aside — and he does indeed have them in abundance — the guy can hit a baseball. Last night, his two homers accounted for 100% of the Jays scoring. For 11 playoffs games this year, he was 12-for-41 (.293) with four homers, three doubles and 11 RBIs. He hit 40 homers during the season. And though his average was only .250, his OBP was an amazingly higher .377, due to the fact that he led the AL in walks with 110.
So, a motivating factor for offseason interest will be how the Orioles can re-tool to defeat their bird-of-a-different-feather enemy from Toronto. Please, just get it done; we can’t stand to see another year of these guys in the ALCS or any other CS or WS! Enemy #1 (for now).
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