Exchanging Throws: The Toronto-Baltimore Story

It’s rare to see two teams absolutely despise one another on the baseball field. Toronto versus Baltimore is a special case full of different chapters, wrapped tightly in a book that I love. On the staff here at Baseball Essential, editor Josh Sadlock and I enjoy our own little version of Toronto versus Baltimore, so we thought it would be fun to bring a little of that debate out for everyone to read.

Dustin Saracini:

The Blue Jays and Orioles have had it out for one another since their first meeting in April, which can be viewed as odd to some. For the past 10 years, Toronto and Baltimore have been victims to the top heavy American League East. New York and Boston have absolutely owned the division, aided by two of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball. We were always the little guys looking up, together, but in 2015, a new rivalry has formed within the division.

Stemming from a feud between reliever Darren O’Day and power hitter Jose Bautista, the word “hate” has been taken to the next level.

A brief synopsis to how this rivalry began: A few years back, O’Day struck out Bautista in a big situation and skipped his way off of the mound. Days later, Bautista had the opportunity to face him again, hit one into the seats, and chirped at him while in the midst of his celebratory jog.

This season has been no different.

Chapter One: On April 12th, O’Day came in to face his nemesis, number 19. In a one-run ball game, whether intentional or not, the big reliever threw behind Bautista. Given the history between the two, O’Day may have been trying to send a message. Judging by what Bautista did in the same at bat, that message wasn’t well received.

Chapter Two: Fast forward to April 22nd where the rivalry continued to heat up. This time between Jose (of course) and reliever Jason Garcia. In an 11-4 ball game, Garcia threw a two-seam fastball behind Bautista, prompting another copyrighted stare down from the second all time home run leader in franchise history. Now, it was 11-4, there had been no animosity between these two players, but the history between these two clubs may have boiled over to yet another manifestation of hostility. No matter the cause, Bautista didn’t take kindly to Garcia’s pitch location.

Pimping the home run? Check.

Taking your sweet time rounding the bags? Check.

Yelling at poor Ryan Flaherty (just an innocent bystander!) while doing so? Check.

Chapter Three: Adam Jones took exception to this and had some choice words for the right fielder the next time he took the field. This may be the pinnacle of a legitimate rivalry that is just beginning to take shape.

Emotion is great for the game, rivalries are great for the game, and there’s nothing like seeing two of Major League Baseball’s top hitters exchange heated words in between innings. But, was he wrong to disrespect the O’s like that? Or did he have every right to showboat after being “thrown at”? Bautista would end up injuring his shoulder in the same inning trying to throw a runner out at first. An injury that still lingers to this day, and yet another focal point of the immense hatred between these two teams.

Chapter Four: Taking the clash to the next level off the field is what is entirely unique about this development between the Jays and the O’s. Here are Bautista’s thoughts post-game.

This wouldn’t be the last time the O’s and Blue Jays would exchange blows.

Chapter Five: And we’re back at it again on June 19.

After rookie Mike Wright plunked Bautista in the bottom of the first, both dugouts were warned. Then, inexplicably, John Gibbons gets himself run as he tries to defend his team. C.B. Bucknor had a quick thumb in the first, and with the warning in effect, Roberto Osuna also hit the showers early after throwing at Jones with a 3-1 pitch in the top of the eighth. The Toronto broadcast crew would defend Osuna (as the hometown broadcasters must), but he got Jones in the fat part of the back with a base open on a 3-1 count. Why pitch around the Orioles’ leader when you can extract some modicum of revenge?

Chapter Six: Surprisingly, the teams seemed to mostly behave themselves in their most recent series. Jones did wear another pitch, and Bautista went deep twice, but everyone stayed in their respective dugouts, took their bases quietly, and ran the bases in a somewhat subdued fashion.

It’s pretty easy to understand who is behind this rivalry. Jose Bautista. He is the type of player that you hate when playing against him, but love him if he’s on your team. It’s just in his DNA. If he wasn’t this competitive, he wouldn’t be Jose Bautista, and he wouldn’t be one of the top hitters in Blue Jays’ history. As a fan of the game of baseball and Toronto in particular, you have to root for the guy who grew into a superstar here in your backyard. Some players would be able to forget and turn their back on being thrown at, but not Joey Bats. He is the catalyst to the rivalry just as he is Toronto’s success, and I can’t say I hate him for it. He brings excitement to the park, especially if the team across the field is wearing black and orange. It used to be pinstripes, it used to be red and grey (although we still do hate these teams as well). Next time the Blue Jays play Baltimore it will be the last series of the season, the O’s may be well out of it at this point, but I expect they wont’t go quietly into the night.

JS: Well – where to start?

For the better part of my 25 years walking this planet, the Orioles have essentially served as the league’s punching bag. For years, I hated the New York Yankees with a burning passion for the way they rolled over the Orioles with seemingly very little effort. That was, of course, aided by the stellar pitching efforts of such names as Sidney Ponson, Jason Johnson, and end-of-career Kevin Millwood (end-of-career Kevin Millwood was really, really bad).

There was not really much reason for anyone to actually have a rivalry with the Orioles. We had our little Kevin GreggDavid Ortiz spat in 2011, but that was Gregg’s doing and most Orioles fans hated him just as much as they hate Ortiz. That tiff with Boston saw the Orioles play the role of pesky kid brother who gets upset when big brother won’t let him win (the Orioles got their own revenge later that year).

It’s refreshing to see the Orioles finally have a rival. Bad teams don’t have rivalries. No one circles the calendar when the Philadelphia Phillies come to town. There is no air of excitement when the Milwaukee Brewers come to town, ready to be swept. Rivalries are good for fans on both sides, as well as the players. Players need a little something extra to get up for every once in a while, and rivalries provide that spark.

Now, on to actually discussing the genesis of this rivalry. Darren O’Day is one of the classiest players on the Orioles. I doubt he meant to show up Bautista when he skipped off the mound. He certainly was not looking to spark a rivalry. That’s on Joey Bats, and he has continued to wear the villain hat well, at least to the good people of Baltimore.

Bautista is like the guy at the bar who’s had one too many. He’s got his beer muscles on, and you’ve hit on his girlfriend (by mistake, of course). The only problem for you, is he’s actually got the muscles to back it up. Chris Tillman and Bud Norris (more like Dud Norris, am I right?) will continue to have nightmares about what Bautista has done to their ERA’s this season five years after their careers end (and no, neither will be preparing a Hall of Fame speech at the time). Bautista has hit Orioles pitching to the tune of a .372/.500/.814 line with four doubles, five home runs, and 17 RBI. He might be chirping, but at least he’s backing it up.

I don’t really want to assign blame for the rivalry. These things come and go in Major League Baseball. Both teams have done their part in the back-and-forth. Bautista seems like a jerk to me, but I’m the Orioles fan. To a Blue Jays fan it’s Adam Jones who is disliked. That’s the way a rivalry works, and it’s nice to be able to just enjoy a legitimate rivalry as an Orioles fan. All that’s left for me to do is sit back and enjoy the extra electricity that hangs in the air whenever these two play each other.

2 Responses

  1. Warren

    This “rivalry” actually started last year with the Jays pitcher Stroman plunking the O’s hitters. Retaliation escalated things from there. Stroman just got off of the DL for the Jays and it will be interesting to see if he pitches against the O’s and what he does if he pitches.

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  2. Mike

    I had forgotten about Stroman throwing at Joseph’s head last year, but the reason a lot of O’s fans dislike the Blue Jays goes way back to what Cito Gaston did to Mike Mussina in the All-Star game in Baltimore, when he did not use a pitcher in his home stadium. I mean, who does that?

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