When it comes to baseball, organic rivalries are hard to come by in the modern era of the sport. A game steeped in tradition and historical narratives, decades-long rivalries rule the landscape over newly minted hatred between two teams.
Rivalries formed throughout the history of MLB such as Red Sox-Yankees, Cubs-Cardinals, and Dodgers-Giants dominate discussion after being cultivated over several decades. New, organically grown rivalry is a rarity.
With only four teams making the playoffs each season – save for the one-game Wild Card round – non-regional rivalries and the hatred between two teams and fan bases usually is forged by a long narrative rather than an instant tipping point. The Red Sox-Yankees and Dodgers-Giants rivalries certainly amp up when both teams are in contention, or when a controversial moment like Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek coming to blows adds fuel to the fire.
However, it is somewhat accepted that it is difficult for the league to build up enough hate to develop a true rivalry out of a blank canvas.
That is where the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers step in. A rivalry fostered off a dramatic 2015 ALDS, a regular-season blow followed by yet another ALDS meeting in 2016, the Blue Jays and Rangers have developed a feud in the last three season that is now must-watch.
The petulance of Jose Bautista and a Blue Jays team that is perceived as just a bit too cocky by the Rangers dugout provided the perfect mix of components to push two non-traditional opponents into what is arguably the hottest rivalry in baseball at the present moment.
The Jays-Rangers rivalry is especially good when the venue is in Arlington, a place where the Blue Jays possess the type of heel heat that Vince McMahon dreams of booking. Jose Bautista is public enemy No. 1 for his legendary ALDS bat flip, his role in fighting Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, and most importantly, his penchant for crushing the dreams of Rangers fans time after time.
You could feel the hatred for Bautista in Texas after his fourth inning home run off of Austin Bibens-Dirxx to put Toronto ahead 2-1. Boos rang out and poured on Bautista as he rounded the bases. Bautista had the last laugh with yet another home run over the Rangers, but the crowd at Globe Life Park let him know exactly how he is perceived in the minds of the fanbase.
— Andrew Hockridge (@drewhockridge) June 20, 2017
Beyond the hatred the Rangers possess for Bautista, what has kept this rivalry alive is the frequency of great games between the two ball clubs to keep things interesting.
Everyone remembers Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS, but the Jays and Rangers continuously play classics in both the postseason and their two regular-season series a year — most notably last year’s walkoff win at the Rogers Centre, where two late-inning home runs from Justin Smoak gave the Blue Jays the last laugh yet again over the Rangers to further agitate the situation between the two teams.
Monday night was no exception to the expected madness between the two teams with yet another late inning finish ending with a Blue Jays win over the Rangers. After the Blue Jays blew a 5-1 lead thanks to a five-run bottom of the fourth from the Rangers, the top of the ninth produced a painful reminder of past defeats for the hometown fans. A Ryan Goins leadoff double and slide to beat out a tag from Odor, followed by a Josh Donaldson single, tied the game up for the Blue Jays.
After a steal from Donaldson and a clutch walk from Bautista against Rangers closer Matt Bush, Kendrys Morales contributed his own chapter to the rivalry with a RBI double that gave the Jays the 6-5 win in yet another instant classic between the two teams.
The Jays come from behind win also provided another heartbreak for Rangers fans, who have watched Toronto amass a 28-11 record between the two organizations in the last five seasons, which includes two ALDS defeats. With so many near-misses coming at the hands of a team that is already hated by much of the league for a perceived cocky style of baseball, it’s no wonder the Rangers harbor bad blood some 1,500 miles away.
The hatred between the Jays and Rangers could soon become a thing of the past, with both teams Playoff hopes decidedly murky this season. 2017 could be the end of the peak era in this naturally built rivalry.
Inevitably, what makes rivalries so difficult to form in baseball with the lack of frequent playoff matchups is likely what will kill this budding feud. Bautista, the key figure in all of this animosity, is 36 and on a one-year deal with the Blue Jays.
With just three games left in the regular season between these two teams, this possible final act in the most captivating series of the last three years becomes appointment viewing. Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays are in for at least three more days of hate in Arlington, Texas. You owe it to yourself to watch what could be the last hurrah for a truly organic rivalry.