The American League Championship Series to be played between the Royals and Blue Jays could hardly be any worse for Orioles fans. On the basis of events over the past calendar year, there's no two teams more likely to be unpopular in Baltimore. There are plenty of good reasons not to care for either one, and in a very real way, no matter which one of these teams wins their way into the World Series, we lose.
In the long years of Orioles irrelevance, there wasn't much reason to dislike any teams other than the Yankees or the Red Sox. The Orioles were not good, so individual games did not matter. When the O's lost, you were more mad at them than at the other team. Of course, the Yankees and Red Sox came to represent everything that was holding down the Orioles - rampant, free-spending, entitled jerks beating up the smaller market O's.
Things were not helped much by the wave of fans of those teams who tended to wash over Camden Yards like a biblical plague, stereotypes and caricatures with funny accents crawling out of whatever murky swamps hatch them in large numbers. It wasn't even about the teams. It was about them invading our turf and us being powerless to do anything about it.
There were and are specific reasons to dislike those teams, but with a couple of big exceptions, like the Jeffrey Maier play, the great injustice of my youth that cost the Orioles a chance at the 1996 World Series, it all blends in after a while. Over a long enough time, sports enemies become as familiar and comfortable as an old sweater. You know them. You know what to expect from them. The old grudges are still there. The specifics of exactly how it all came to be that way just don't matter as much as the fact that you've never liked them, never will like them, and they'll always be there for you to dislike.
It helps that after such a long time, the Orioles finally got to a point where they could strike back. The Red Sox stopped seeming like some unconquerable nemesis when, on a fateful September night, Robert Andino and friends did it. They beat the Red Sox, two runs, bottom of the ninth inning. The Yankees became mortal on another fateful September night, when Adam Jones let the baseball world know that the Orioles had arrived. They rode into the wild card on a wave of dingers.
The O's lost to the Yankees in the ALDS that year, but there was no doubt that they belonged there and were on the level of the Evil Empire. That was reinforced last year when the Orioles were able to steamroll through the American League East to a double-digit division crown, their first since 1997.
Merely four years ago, I could not have imagined harboring such dislike towards teams like the Jays and Royals. Why would there be any reason to care about them? The Orioles were not good - and even once the O's were, those other teams weren't.
That has changed now, and wounds dealt to the O's by those teams are fresh and remain unanswered. The joke of rooting for Team Meteor is not limited to Yankees-Red Sox postseason series any longer. If any series was made for it, surely a Royals-Blue Jays ALCS in 2015 was. It wasn't like that in the old days, but, well, the thing about the old days... they the old days. (NSFW)
The case against the Blue Jays
They beat the Why Not? Orioles two of the last three games in 1989 to end that run. Cito Gaston didn't put Mike Mussina into the All-Star Game at Camden Yards even though he was in the bullpen warming up. Their 1993 World Series title is actually the most recent of the last four playoff teams.
More Blue Jays fans have been banned from Camden Chat than fans of any other team. They are like a swarm of mosquitos in that if you say a negative word about them they will find you and irritate you, although at least they probably won't give you the West Nile virus. One of their fans threw the beer can that almost hit a baby and dozens of them chucked beers every which way, causing a playoff baseball game to be delayed for 20 minutes to clean trash up off of the field.
Jose Bautista is a jerk who thinks he can throw runners out at first base on ground ball singles. He is a preening peacock without the benefit of a pretty face or plumage. Edwin Encarnacion runs around the bases after home runs with an invisible parrot on his arm. The whole team feuds at the drop of a hat, including a feud with the Orioles that seems to have a genesis in that they believe Caleb Joseph intentionally stepped on someone.
They used to have the man in the white shirt. They probably still have that man's spiritual successor, given that the league runs multiple signs with the bases empty. They play baseball on carpet in the 21st century. Their previous mayor definitely committed more crimes that we know about than our previous mayor.
The case against the Royals
The clearly inferior 2014 Royals fluked and broken-bat-blooped their way into a sweep over the magical 2014 O's and everybody acted like it was some dominant performance. They did not even have the grace to stop the Giants from winning the World Series after beating the Orioles. People again act like their team is some kind of dominant machine even though they really just had the good fortune of being in a division where their top perennial competition in the Tigers effectively ceased to exist as a threat.
They spent the year feuding with basically the entire league because they like to purposefully throw baseballs at people, a tendency displayed in their most recent series against the O's as four batters were hit.
Their fans, we have learned over the last year, are basically just like their stately neighbor Cardinals fans, cloaking themselves in self-professed expressions of being "classy" and "Midwestern nice" while saying all manner of things; theirs are the second-most banned other team fans on Camden Chat.
They appear to be incapable of fathoming why a neutral observer would not immediately glom onto their team, and perhaps even worse, utterly unable to comprehend why their team inspires such specific and continuing grudges to the point that almost nobody still likes the Royals after basically the entire non-Orioles baseball world was on their side last October.
They are here in spite of their starting rotation being terrible and their big deadline acquisition being a bust. I have not forgotten the "These O's Ain't Royal" shirts. Jarrod Dyson remains on their team. Joba Chamberlain was briefly on the team. Ned Yost hits on 20 and draws an ace, every freaking time.
Who would YOU rather win?
One of them will win no matter how much we don't like it. If forced to pick, how do you decide which of these teams sticks in your craw less? For each of us, it must be on our own conscience.
Left with no other choice but to choose, I would prefer it be a Jays victory. One big reason is that they are not the team that beat the Orioles in the playoffs last year. Another is that I have a dear friend who's a Jays fan. We have been part of the same gaming group for years. She sent me a text when the Jays beat the Rangers to say: "That was exciting!" Her only other sports team is the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are 2-13 this season. If the Jays beat the Royals, I'd be glad for her to get to enjoy that victory.
But, even for that, I'll be rooting for the National League champion in the World Series. Cito still sucks.