I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that the major league baseball community isn't exactly fond of the Toronto Blue Jays.
And I'm not sure I blame them.
I mean, look at this team. They're young. They're brash. They're Canadian, kinda.
Jose Bautista seethes with entitled contempt every time he takes a borderline pitch that doesn't go his way. Brett Lawrie has the temerity to run out -- or, more accurately, gallop out -- routine ground balls. Yunel Escobar plays the game with an air of casual indifference. Same goes for Colby Rasmus.
Based on purely superficial observation, this is not a particularly likeable group.
This increasingly ubiquitous distaste for the Blue Jays seemed to culminate last year when ESPN released a story -- propelled by the testimony of four anonymous major leaguers -- that accused the Jays of stealing opposing teams' signs, a nefarious scheme made possible by the efforts of a deviant known only as the Man in White.
Of course, none of the accusers could produce anything amounting to definitive evidence, and the story was essentially a smear piece with a credible masthead.
But the initial outrage that pervaded the Jays community soon subsided, and the story quickly morphed into a running gag that was lampooned by everyone from local sportscasters to the Toronto bullpen.
So when Baltimore starter Jason Hammel reignited the flames lit by that article after a poor outing against the Bluebirds on Wednesday night -- 6.2 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 2 BB -- on one hand, it affirmed this notion that the Jays aren't well liked, and, on the other hand, reeked of a desperate attempt by a mediocre pitcher to deflect attention away from himself as his hot start continues to dissipate.
At the crux of Hammel's accusations was Toronto's aggressiveness on breaking pitches. The disgruntled hurler insisted that "you can't take swings like that, not knowing they're coming."
But what's curious is that it wasn't the off-speed stuff that tickled the Jays' fancy tonight. All four homeruns surrendered by Hammel came on fastballs.
How 'bout that, Tonto?
Below are the Pitch F/X strikezone plots for the quartet of dingers Hammel served up tonight.
As you can see in this first table, it was an elevated fastball, middle-in, that Edwin Encarnacion smacked over the left-field fence in the second inning.
An inning later, Rajai Davis took Hammel yard, also on an inside fastball. Hmmm...
Are we noticing a pattern yet? Anyone? Lawrie? Bueller?
And finally, the straw that broke the Hammel's back. In all fairness, this fastball that Colby Rasmus yanked out of the ballpark was not middle-in. It was just middle.
So, Jason Hammel, it's safe to say that your accusations are as transparent as your fastballs are ineffective. I appreciate that this Toronto bunch can rub you the wrong way. Hell, if I rooted for any other team, I'd probably hate them, too. But to invoke this completely ludicrous rumour, knowing full well the gravity of those accusations, is simply unfair. It's unprofessional. It's juvenile. And it's probably part of the reason why your teamed has earned a moniker as unflattering as the Baltimore OrioLOLes.
Don't hate the player. Hate the game.