Baseball is supposed to be a game played by athletes of great character. Unfortunately, there are many villains in the sport. Some welcome the label with open arms, while others deny the notion that they’re anything but a stand-up player.
Somewhere along the way, the dynamic has suddenly shifted for the Toronto Blue Jays. A small subset declared the Blue Jays as the new “bad boys” of baseball. Last year it seemed to be the Kansas City Royals, but this year, it looks like the Jays are rubbing everybody the wrong way.
That sentiment doesn’t hold much weight north of the 49th parallel, as the Blue Jays are more popular than ever across Canada. But after a pair of similar stories published by USA Today and ESPN, it sounds like the Blue Jays aren’t all that beloved outside of their Canadian confines.
Here’s what Jose Bautista told Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
“We don’t lie. We’re real. We’re straight up and honest about everything in here. A lot of clubhouses are not like that.
People put up fronts. People lie. People cover their stuff up. We don’t do that. There’s no phoniness in here, but there’s a lot of people in the league not like that.
So I think sometimes people have trouble believing the fact that we’re honest and straight up. I think they get confused. They think we’re phonies, like the rest.’’
Now, the Blue Jays have become the unofficial poster boys for the new brand of baseball. Headed by brash players like Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, the Jays play an unapologetic style of baseball.
You could argue they’ve always played that way, but after the increased attention on the club after their unprecedented run last season, every single one of the Blue Jays’ altercations has being put under the microscope.
First it was Jose Bautista’s Game 5 bat flip, then Jose Bautista’s controversial slide into second base in Tampa Bay back in April, then the brawl with the Texas Rangers, and lastly, Josh Donaldson’s run-in with the Twins this past weekend.
However, in most of these instances, the Blue Jays were hardly the aggressors; they were merely reacting to a moment or another player being aggressive towards them. It’s not as though the Blue Jays take the field looking to start brawls, but apparently other teams do have a beef with the Jays for the way they play the game.
The Blue Jays are a “loud, emotional and passionate” group, but somehow that’s labelled them as being baseball brats. Penalizing players for being loud, emotional and passionate is exactly what’s holding the game back.
In fact, MLB needs more personalities like Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, because frankly, it would be pretty boring without them.
For years, the Blue Jays had very identity and very few personalities in the clubhouse. Now that they finally do have some outspoken players and some postseason experience under their belt, the Jays are a much more confident bunch. They’re no longer hoping to win, they’re expecting to win.
It feels like not that long ago, the Jays were once portrayed as a Cinderella story. Now they’re a team that gets everything that’s coming to them and they’re usually at the centre of baseball’s biggest controversies.
Many are taking the approach of “the Blue Jays are the problem” since the club has been at the centre of so many of these incidents. Admittedly, the Blue Jays have been the common denominator in numerous transgressions, but that doesn’t mean they’re “everything that’s wrong with baseball today”.
I still don’t get how or why the Blue Jays are being painted in a bad light here. Jose Bautista walked away from a fight with Rougned Odor and somehow Bautista ended up looking like the bad guy because he supposedly “had it coming”.
As the Blue Jays themselves will admit, opposing players may not like them … but opponents aren’t supposed to like the Blue Jays. Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista are the kind of guys that rub some people the wrong way, but they’re also the type of players anyone would absolutely love to have on their team.
Labeling the Blue Jays as “bad boys” somehow insinuates they’re either breaking the rules or going about things the wrong way. The only rules they might be guilty of breaking are baseball’s unwritten rules … ones which should have been stricken from the record many moons ago.
Inside the Blue Jays clubhouse, they don’t view themselves as antagonists, but there are many within Major League Baseball’s 29 other teams who aren’t all that fond of the Blue Jays and their own unique style of play.
Do people have animosity towards the Blue ajsy because they’re good? Is it because they are quite animated on the field? Is it because the Blue Jays play with a lot of swagger?
If that’s a reason to hold disdain for someone, perhaps it’s time for those people to look in the mirror and simply be better themselves.
As Jose Bautista said, “Obviously, losers always get offended.”
Image via Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP