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Chin Music, Orioles, Blue Jays, and the Antidote to a Long Season

The season is young, but it is already clear that the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays don't like each other at all. It's silly, maybe, but we need this.
Photo by Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It is still April. Except in the American League East, where the crazy-eyed chest-puffery between Baltimore and Toronto suggests that it must be late August. Within the rusted wire pen of an early, meaningless series, the Orioles and Blue Jays are caged birds, and they're trying to claw each other's eyes out.

This started in the very first series they played this year, when Orioles reliever Darren O'Day threw behind Jose Bautista's back. The Jays' slugger paid him back by putting one in the seats.


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There's a history between Bautista and O'Day going back to last season—the little skip with which Bautista began his home run trot was a callback to an otherwise forgotten moment in which O'Day got the better of Bautista. On Tuesday, Baltimore's rookie reliever Jason Garcia joined the fray when he threw behind Bautista. Toronto second baseman Ryan Goins had been hit an inning earlier; both benches were warned. Three pitches later Bautista emphatically did what Bautista regularly does and vaporized a Garcia fastball with notably disdainful viciousness.

As the ball arced up into the dome's still air he paused for effect, admiring what he had wrought before leveling at Garcia a stare that would strip paint. There was some chirping as Bautista rounded the bases, too. Garcia, a Rule 5 draft pick who had just been shown his place in the order of things, asked for a new ball and tried on his best DGAF face. His nonchalance was as convincing as my five-year-old's when he tells me he doesn't have to go right before I zip up his snowsuit.

See what bothers me, just as a patriot, is how these Canadians play up the drama all the time.— Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

That homer came in the bottom of the seventh, and made the score 13-4 Toronto. The Orioles' feelings were hurt, you might imagine. Toronto first baseman Edwin Encarnacion had earlier put one in the fifth level of the Rogers Center which, as an act of human achievement, is every bit as ridiculous as the fact that any ballpark even has a fifth deck. So perhaps all that came to bear when, in the top of the eighth, as Bautista jogged out to his position, Adam Jones took a moment to tell Bautista that his theatrics were "bush league." Bautista felt a natural compulsion to explain himself, and soon the whole Baltimore bench was on the top step and at the railing.


"Well, tempers have spoiled over here," drawled [sic]-prone Toronto play-by-play man Buck Martinez.

When things finally wrapped up without further incident—final: 13-6 Blue Jays—Bautista was cornered by the press in the home clubhouse. "At least I've gotten the last laugh the last two times," he said, referring to that night's supremely attitudinal bat flip, and the previous week's "Oh, really?" shot off O'Day. When a reporter offered to let Bautista in on what Adam Jones had said about the incident, the slugger cut him off. "I could care less what Adam Jones is saying," he intoned. April, remember.

Those of us who like these sorts of conflicts do so because they call up the storied ones, when rivals often shared cities as well as pennant aspirations. It's Brooklyn and the Giants doing nothing to disguise their animosity for one another. It's Billy Williams standing in against Bob Gibson. The season is long and lazy, the hot months tend to bleed into each other. We need this.

"Yes, I'm upset. But I am going to share these feelings. No more secrets, that's what Dr. Berger said." — Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Understand that I'm not interested in watching beanballs connect with skulls, and don't wish that anybody throws a punch for the sake of my entertainment. The appeal is strictly seeing a pair of teams so transparently give a damn this early in baseball's interminable slog of a season, when it is so temptingly easy not to. There's no question that a fine line separates intense from boneheaded—rushing the mound would succinctly define the latter—but a bit of prideful swagger, like Bautista's staredown, goes a long way toward convincing us we've got the right guys wearing our colors.

And okay, if you want to drill down, there's also the fact that we Blue Jays fans get excited when anything happens to remind the rest of the baseball world that our team exists. Fans look for athletes to carry our banners; civic, state, national. It can get lonely up here, sometimes, and we feel better about ourselves when everyone else is looking at us. Especially when they're watching us circle the bases while glowering meaningfully.

Baseball's Code, though never written or articulated in full, is something of an archaic folk dance, and these are the timeless steps the Jays and Orioles figure to spend the next five or so months practicing. If such things excite you, there will doubtless be other matchups to feature similar antics, but Toronto-Baltimore looks to offer the cleanest burn. The burgeoning Kansas City-Oakland hate-on is undeniably promising, what with Brett Lawrie going into second base with intent and everybody throwing at everybody else in the name of retribution, but those two teams don't share a division, which makes it a bit of a tease. Intra-division heat like this Jays-Orioles spat is both natural and extremely combustible. These teams will soon be very sick of one another. Things will get muggy in Maryland (average summertime high: 89 degrees), and ornery in Ontario (80 degrees). We are, again, roughly one-twelfth of the way through the season.

"Something's brewing here," Jays' color man Pat Tabler put in as things heated up. And indeed there is, or maybe it's safer to say that something is simmering still. There is another game left in this series. There are thirteen games between these two remaining after that, including a set over the Labor Day weekend in Toronto, and four more at Camden Yards in the last week of the season. Somewhere in there, either willfully or by some slip of a finger or fatigued drop in an arm slot, a ball thrown by somebody will come inside on somebody else. As it sings by, or thuds into rib, or thigh, then will turn anew the wheel of fire. It's something to look forward to over the long, hot summer ahead.