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MLB Playoffs 2016: for and against the Blue Jays

The playoff hopes of an entire nation rest on the Blue Jays for the second year in a row. Our writers lay out the case for and against the Canadians.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes your favorite team doesn’t make the playoffs, and if you’re in that unenviable position this year, we at Beyond the Box Score want to help you decide who you’re going to root for (or against) this postseason. We’ll be publishing ten articles, one for each playoff team, with writers laying out the case in favor of and opposed to each team. In this one, we turn to the only MLB team that represents an entire nation: the Toronto Blue Jays.

Root for the Blue Jays

Steven Martano

Baseball, at its core, is about having fun, and there is no more fun team in the American League than the Toronto Blue Jays. The fans are rowdy, the players have a flair for the dramatic, and the team is a throwback to that classic, action-packed, long-ball baseball of the late-90s/early-00s. They have some serious sluggers in the middle of their lineup – six players in this lineup had 20 or more home runs – including a number of household names.

While we keep expecting Edwin Encarnacion’s age to catch up with him, it didn’t in 2016, as he posted a 134 wRC+ via 42 home runs and a .357 OBP. His penchant for "walking the parrot" in the postseason is something we can all enjoy, even if you live south of the border. Josh Donaldson has been one of the best players in baseball for four straight years and yet still seems to reside in the shadow of Mike Trout for name recognition outside of Toronto and Oakland (if there are any fans left in Oakland). With Trout watching the playoffs from his couch (annual sad-trombone), Donaldson is the single best position player still taking the field. He’s a perennial MVP candidate, and as the best hitter on this team, rooting for the Blue Jays is rooting for more baseball played by the most excellent player remaining.

Making this team even more fun is the fact that, despite their high-octane offense, they aren’t a one-dimensional team that relies solely on out-slugging their opponents. Toronto’s pitching has been great in 2016, and the talent is shared among some exciting young pitchers. Aaron Sanchez is only 24 years old and Marcus Stroman is only 25, yet the two took huge leaps forward in the last couple years. Behind them are R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ, seemingly afterthoughts even though one is a former Cy Young winner and the other is a legitimate candidate for this year’s award. Dickey is incredibly likable and popular, and a deep playoff run would be a fitting feather in his cap. (Plus, imagine him coming out of the ‘pen in game 7 of the World Series and throwing knuckleballs after opposing hitters had seen only mid-90s heat.)

But the statistics and on-field aspects of the Blue Jays don’t fully capture their appeal. Toronto is... feisty, to put it nicely. They got into a brawl with the Yankees last week after Josh Donaldson took a pitch off the elbow guard, which is one of the best places to be hit. Do you want to hang out with this team? Not necessarily. Do you want to see them rip and roar their way through the playoffs, leaving carnage in their wake? Heck yes.

Nick Turchiaro – USA TODAY Sports

And finally, there’s Jose Bautista. The outspoken slugger is yet another outsized character on a team full of them, and the owner of the iconic moment of last year’s postseason. His three-run home run (and accompanying bat flip) against the Rangers was a burst of intense raw emotion, psychological violence, and fun. It’s what the playoffs should be all about. And, incidentally, should the Blue Jays win their Wild Card match against the Orioles? They’ll face the Rangers in the American League Divisional Series. The choice should be obvious.

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Root against the Blue Jays

Stacey Gotsulias

Think about the abstract concept of baseball. What comes to mind? Crisp fall afternoons! Ken Burns's dulcet tones! Magical Iowan cornfields! America! Baseball is America's game, and that's the first and most obvious reason why you shouldn’t root for the Toronto Blue Jays: they’re not even from America! While only two of their players are actually Canadian, the team plays their home games in Canada and, most importantly, their fans are from Canada. That's right, the land of universal healthcare and politeness, two of the least American values imaginable. That alone should be reason enough for you to root against them in the playoffs.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

But if that’s somehow, impossibly, not enough of a reason for you to root against the Blue Jays, here’s another one:

Courtesy of Blue Jay Hunter

Josh Donaldson’s stupid hair. Blue Jays fans looooove his hair. They’ve had long conversations about it on Twitter. "It’s so cool! It’s so different! He’s so quirky!" Nope, it’s stupid. Can someone tell Josh that he’s not a Viking even though he played one on television? Thanks. Donaldson is extremely tough, but opposing pitchers need to be very careful when throwing anywhere near him because if you happen to graze his elbow guard, he may run out of the dugout a few innings later during a brouhaha, then cower when your team’s biggest player heads his way. He’s all bark, no bite.

Still on the fence and can’t make up your mind? I really can’t emphasize the "Canadian" thing enough. One: they sell milk in bags. What on earth? Milk is supposed to be sold in cartons or plastic containers! Milk bags look like breast implants and that’s just creepy to me. Two: the Red Green show. This is the peak of Canadian culture. Don’t watch too long, or any sense of humor you ever had will atrophy completely. Three: the accents. If you don’t know what I’m talking aboot, you’re part of the problem.

You know what? I probably should have started this whole thing with Drake. Just by himself, he’s a big enough reason not to root for the Blue Jays. Just the "dancing" in "Hotline Bling" alone is reason to steer clear of our northern neighbor altogether. I’m not even sure if Drake likes baseball, but he’s from Toronto, and he’s shown himself to be a total bandwagon fan, so better safe than sorry. Also, the original Degrassi was so much better than your version. Sorry.

In sum: milk doesn't belong in bags, Drake is bad, baseball is America’s pastime, and Josh Donaldson is an all-talk, no-action punk with dumb hair. The Toronto Blue Jays don't belong in the playoffs, but since they’re here, the least you can do is root against them.