Angry Birds? Why the Blue Jays make everyone mad

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays have bad blood with a third of the teams in the AL. Toronto's attitude: "If you don't like it, beat us." Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Toronto Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons has his feet up on his desk and he is leaning back in his chair in the visiting manager's office at Yankee Stadium when he is asked why the last-place Blue Jays get in more fights than Floyd Mayweather.

Per usual, Gibbons has a big smile and a good-natured attitude, talking with a Texas drawl that makes him one of the most affable people in the game. His team, however, is not as popular.

“To be honest, I don’t think we are well perceived around the game by other teams,” Gibbons told ESPN.com. “Would you agree with that?”

Well, yeah, the Blue Jays have had their brawls, most notably with the Texas Rangers -- in which Jose Bautista recently took a Rougned Odor right to the face -- and the Kansas City Royals, as well as beefs with the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Twins over the past year-and-a-half. That’s bad blood with more than a third of their opposing American League clubs.

“We have some big personalities, some of the better players in the league,” Gibbons said. “I think they irritate people. I think there is some envy on the other side, too. We have some guys who wear their emotions on their sleeves. I’m trying to be politically correct.”

The Blue Jays may be the most confident last-place team in baseball history. To a man, they don’t think any perception of them as angry birds is accurate. Rather, they play a style -- led by reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson and "Joey Bats" Bautista -- that one player in their clubhouse described this way: “If you don’t like it, beat us.”

“I don’t look at it as us being angry,” Donaldson said. “We are competitive. We have a lot of guys with a competitive nature. We are not out there trying to cause problems. ... The fact of the matter is we have a lot of guys in this clubhouse who are household names.”

This attitude -- famous bat flips, staredowns and moments of just plain bravado -- gives the Blue Jays their edge, which leads to scrapes. The Blue Jays like to celebrate their success and won’t back down when others don’t like it.

“It is an old-school approach in a new school way,” said Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen, who joined the club this year.

All of the altercations have made Gibbons rather augmentative. The 53-year-old has been suspended and thrown out so much it is almost as if he has a part-time job. Gibbons has been ejected four times -- including three times last week -- and has been suspended for three games. In seven out of 48 games, he has missed the ending, which may not be the worst thing, since the defending AL East champs are 23-25.

While shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- the most professional player Gibbons says he has ever been around -- and catcher Russell Martin bring a calmer approach to leadership, it is Donaldson and Bautista who get under other teams’ skin by watching homers and just, well, being themselves.

Even on groundouts, Donaldson can grind at opponents, according to backup catcher Josh Thole.

“I’m sitting on the bench and I’ve seen guys when J.D. puts his head down and jogs and guys from the other bench, you can see their reaction, 'Nice hustle.' 'Way to go.' 'Nice job,'" Thole said, before defending his teammate. “That’s the MVP last year.”

When the Blue Jays discuss their altercations, they sound a little like brothers trying to explain a fight to their mom -- Hey, he started it!

“I can’t remember firing the first shot,” Gibbons said. “To be honest with you, I don’t think we have ever been involved with anything where we’ve done that.”

Jays players swear they aren’t trying to start anything. Donaldson, Bautista, Martin, Edwin Encarnacion and others will enjoy a home run when they can. It is not to offend, in their eyes, just a matter of being true to themselves.

“It is never about the team that we are playing,” Martin said. “It is about what we do and what we like to do.”

Other teams respect the raw talent in the Jays’ clubhouse, even if they don’t totally love how much the Jays revel in their own success.

“They are a good team, and they know it,” Yankees setup man Andrew Miller said. “Everybody is different. Not everybody is the Yankees. Not everybody is the Blue Jays. It works for them. Hey, they won last year. They got within striking distance of winning it all. They are doing something right. It fits their personalities over there.”

Their season is just 48 games old, which means the Blue Jays have plenty of time to be as good as they think they are. Last year, they were 50-51 before they went on their playoff run. They plan to swagger their way back to the top, which understandably could rub some the wrong way. But as ace Marcus Stroman puts it, they are unworried about outside opinions.

"If you don't like it, beat us." Blue Jays player, describing his team's attitude

“We are not exactly where we want to be right now, but I have a very strong feeling by the end of the year we’ll be exactly where we want to be,” Stroman said.

He is not alone in his confidence, in part because this club genuinely seems to like each other, even if not every locker room does. In a scene you would never see in the corporate clubhouse down the Yankee Stadium hall, Bautista was multitasking before Tuesday’s game, stretching on a foam roller, while talking trash. His target was his teammate, first baseman Justin Smoak, whom Bautista, the five-time All-Star, told, “I’ll slap the South Carolina right out of you.”

Smoak fired back with, “You are barking up the wrong tree.”

It was some playful locker room give-and-take that would likely never happen in the home team's clubhouse, at least never in front of reporters. The Blue Jays are always in your face, and they don't care who is watching.

“Everybody is fair game at any time,” Smoak said.

He was talking about the clubhouse zingers, but he could have been speaking about Blue Jays' opponents.