There is something great about playing teams like the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. It’s not just that we get to see great, unfamiliar players like Carlos Gonzalez, and it’s certainly not that the wins and losses count any less than they do against the division rivals. It’s just pleasant to get a break from the tenuous high-stakes divisional play, especially with how absurdly competitive the American League East has been this season. Most of all though, it’s nice to face an opponent that I don’t hate. 76 games against your four divisional rivals is a huge amount of time to build up serious contempt for those teams.
So, here is a detailed report on each of the other AL East teams and the specifics of hatred for them.
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
What Annoys Me The Most: The Toronto fans on Twitter. If you are blissfully unaware of this issue consider yourself lucky. You don’t even have to mention anyone or use a specific hashtag to get their attention. It’s like they just sit at home eating poutine, scouring the internet for people who are saying bad things about their team.
Biggest Villains: Obviously we have to go back a decade and a half and include Roger Clemens, but otherwise there just aren’t a lot of Blue Jays that I feel a ton of ill will towards. I resent Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion but that’s just because they’re good players who hit mistakes a mile. Mostly I can’t stand their fans for booing John Farrell like a bunch of scorned little school girls whose boyfriend dumped them to date someone new. That was beyond annoying. They were all so happy to get rid of him originally. What happened?
Player That I Secretly Don’t Really Despise: It was obviously Munenori Kawasaki until he was sent down to AAA on Wednesday. In a pinch, I’ll go with Jose Reyes because I always find him to be very entertaining for the 100 games a year in which he actually plays.
Manager: I actually feel bad for John Gibbons more than I hate him. This guy got fired by the Blue Jays in 2008, only to get his old job back after Farrell left for Boston. That’s like your wife leaving you, dating other guys for a while, before finally deciding “You know, John wasn’t quite so awful after all. Maybe he’ll take me back.” Poor fella.
High Point of Hatred: When Roger Clemens signed with the Blue Jays, decided that it would was a good idea to stop being fat and out of shape (thanks steroids!), and suddenly posted an absurd 11.9 WAR in his first season with the Jays. It’s impossible to overstate how much a 17-year-old me despised Toronto’s in-shape, dominant version of Clemens.
Current Hatred Level: 5
Team: Baltimore Orioles
What Annoys Me The Most: Their darn scrappiness. Prior to September, 2011, they weren’t really much of a concern to me. They regularly gave the Red Sox far more difficulty than their win/loss record indicated they should have, but it didn’t really matter. Then, in 2011, they made keeping us out of the playoffs their World Series. Ten percent of me admired their scrappiness, the other 90% of me hated them for embracing the roll of spoiler to the level that they did.
Player That I Secretly Don’t Really Despise: Manny Machado. He is what I like to picture Xander Bogaerts being upon his arrival to Boston. (You’re welcome for the smile that just appeared on your face.)
Manager: Buck Showalter is the Rex Ryan of baseball. He talks like he’s won something, but he never has. In fact, both the Yankees and the Diamondbacks won the World Series the first year after they let him go. So, at least we know what it will take for the Orioles to get over the hump.
High Point of Hatred: September 2011. My hatred of the Orioles, Andino and Carl Crawford all peaked at the exact same moment in time.
Current Hatred Level: 7
Team: New York Yankees
What Annoys Me The Most: The hoards of fair-weather fans. As someone that lives in New York, I can’t properly explain to you how quiet this baseball season has been. I’m not seeing anything on Facebook, there is next to nothing on Twitter, and Yankee fans that I see on a regular basis are talking about the team less than if they were in the middle of a work stoppage. There are some die-hard Yankee fans that I like and respect who really do know baseball and their team, but they are few and far between. Instead, you find a lot more people who know that they won a lot of World Series when they were younger, and would be hard pressed to name five current starters. 2004 really did a lot to level the playing field for a Red Sox fan in New York. Prior to that, when I would wear a Sox hat people would openly taunt me and/or smirk in my direction. After 2004 I walked around deliberately making eye contact with every single person wearing a Yankees hat. They had just suffered the worst collapse in baseball history, they knew it, I knew it, and we both knew that they did not want to talk about it. Life is just easier here when the Yankees aren’t adding championship trophies to their collection.
Player That I Secretly Don’t Really Despise: Mariano Rivera. I hate facing him, and I always have, but man it is hard to find a negative thing to say about the guy. He’s the Tim Duncan of baseball. You don’t have to be a fan of his, but if you don’t respect him you’re just being ridiculous. Happy retirement, Mariano! I can’t wait to see someone else run out from the pen for the Yankees in the 9th inning (please choose David Robertson, please)!
Manager: Joe Girardi — He is my favorite opposing manager in the American League East, mostly because I think he is an over-managing, micro-manager who frequently hurts his team with questionable moves. In the third inning of the June 1 game in New York he intentionally walked David Ortiz to load the bases for Mike Napoli. Napoli, of course, repaid Girardi for the vote of confidence by hitting a Phil Hughes pitch into the right field bleachers. That’s a classic Girardi move. He tries so hard to be smart and cute and he is very little of either of those things.
High Point of Hatred: 2003 ALCS Game 7. I went back and forth between this and the moment that Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball away from Bronson Arroyo to avoid an inevitable tag in the same way a fourth-grade girl would have avoided being tagged in gym class kickball. Ultimately, though, that terrible moment in 2003 was the peak for me.
Current Hatred Level: 8
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
What Annoys Me The Most: Joe Maddon. He is my least favorite person in all of baseball, and that’s a difficult spot to attain for someone that doesn’t even play in the games. He is a self-righteous, condescending jerk who thinks, acts, and talks like he is better than everyone else. When his players get involved in a bean-ball situation he makes statements like “So he intentionally hit him when he did, there’s no question in my mind that he did, and the sad part is that I’ve always considered Lackey a good teammate, but right there he can get one of his own players hurt.” He pretends like he’s far above exchanging bean-balls as a part of the game, but at the same time says that opposing players are going to get their teammates hurt. So, wait, which is it Joe? Are you above that part of baseball or do you just like to wax poetic from your high horse while at the same time threatening harm to your opponents?
Player That I Secretly Don’t Really Despise: Wil Myers. I was so sad when he was traded from Kansas City to Tampa Bay because that meant I had to spend the next six years hating him, until they let him go to a club that’s actually willing to pay money to players who aren’t under cheap team control.
Manager: The aforementioned Maddon, who is about to be mentioned again.
High Point of Hatred: A weekend series in late May 2012. In the Friday game, both teams hit batters, leading to a bench-clearing incident in the 9th inning. Again, both teams were involved in getting the game to that place. So what does Maddon do? In the clubhouse after the game, he immediately says “We will respond, I can promise you that.” But then he remembers that his schtick is to pretend that he’s above the fray, even though his hands are covered in as much blood as any manager. So he heads to Twitter and proclaims “What occurred in the 9th reeked of intent. Was ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, incompetent, cowardly behavior.” What a baby. I was honestly embarrassed for him. He should have claimed later that he was hacked, drunk, or both. If there was any feasible way to hit a manager in between the shoulder blades with a fastball, I would give anything to see Maddon get it. Two days later, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia took Fernando Rodney deep in the 9th inning for a walk-off win at Fenway, I called Joe Maddon a string of names that I am neither proud of nor willing to repeat.
Current Hatred Level: 9. I realize that it is anathema to admit publicly that I hate the Rays more than the Yankees, but I do. At least until the Yankees fire Girardi and his binder and give Maddon a 5-year, $50 million deal to come to the Bronx.