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Whether real or manufactured, Toronto is a team that thrives on conflict. Its stars love going on at length about all the people who doubted them, though by the end of the year, nobody did. They are quick to take offence, and why shouldn't they be? Being offended works for the Blue Jays, as it did after they fell two games behind in the division series against Texas.

This is a team powered by animus. As such, the rest of the playoffs are shaping up nicely.

After Wednesday night's outlandish, series-clinching takedown of Texas, we know what the Jays are going to be the rest of the way – heroes north of the border, villains south of it. They're in Kansas City to face a Royals team that America already loves, as well as one that already hates the Jays.

By Thursday morning, U.S. media outlets anticipating the American League Championship Series were drawing the lens back to the Rogers Centre crowd pelting the field (and each other) with debris on Wednesday, and Jose Bautista's bat flip. Those are story lines Americans can invest in without recognizing anyone on the team or caring about the city. Everybody understands the bad guy – arrogant, boorish and, in this particular case, Canadian. It's so counterintuitive, it's perfect.

Even the media people supporting Mr. Bautista – and that's most of them – are working an inside-out angle. By telling viewers, listeners and readers that, "Hey, Bautista isn't a bad guy," they're planting the 'Hey, is Bautista a bad guy?' question in people's minds. It's a brilliant bait-and-switch, even when it's meant sincerely.

We knew Toronto was for real when the Jays took three of four from the Royals in August. That was a remarkable series, made more so by the level of fractiousness.

In the final game, starter Edinson Volquez hit Josh Donaldson. Then he tried to hit him again. Then he hit Troy Tulowitzki. Mr. Volquez was allowed to remain in the game. Toronto reliever Aaron Sanchez was later ejected for retaliation.

Afterward, Mr. Donaldson said there was no grudge between the teams. Mr. Volquez was not interested in being reasonable. "[Donaldson] is a little baby," he said. "He was crying like a baby … If somebody hits you, you've got to take it, because you're pimping everything you do."

Royals manager Ned Yost continued to pour hot sauce in the broth by publicly siding with umpire Jim Wolf. And a cunning old soldier like Mr. Yost doesn't do anything just to do it. He has a plan.

For whatever reason – I generally suspect general cultural hysteria … for everything – baseball has entered a paranoid moment involving respect. Everyone and everything must be respected.

Take Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson on Mr. Bautista after Wednesday's loss: "Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more." Whatever that means.

Or take Mr. Bautista on Mr. Yost back in August, via Twitter: "Just heard #NedYost comments about the game. Lost a lot of respect for that man today."

The whole concept of respect in baseball is getting a lot like The Code in hockey – it's so malleable and opaque, it has no meaning. It's anything that bothers or offends you or your idea of the unwritten rules. It's a catch-all to cover up your irritation or embarrassment.

More importantly, respect has become a fighting word. In baseball, I can call you all sorts of things and we'll agree to disagree. But once I invoke "respect" and your lack of it, it's on. You have no choice but to come at me.

In many respects, the Royals are the Jays through a glass darkly – a talented but thin rotation; a lockdown playoff bullpen; a not entirely veteran roster, but a disciplined, fearless one. The Jays are better hitters. The Royals are better defenders.

On paper, it's a bit of a wash.

But the key similarity will be the main battleground – both teams want to unsettle you. Both use strategic arrogance as a lever to manage it.

The Royals are more practised at it, but they've had a couple of good years to master their persona – plucky outsiders fond of rabbit punches and brush-back pitches.

The Jays are still trying to figure out how they advertise themselves to opponents. Over the next few days, the American media and fans will be doing their best to help with that: The Jays are show-offs; they have naughty fans; they are arrivistes and interlopers; and, at best, they're to be patted on the head for trying.

This doesn't mean there's a conspiracy against them. A conspiracy is hidden. America is learning to dislike Toronto in a very public way.

This is a good thing. It's a harmless bit of narrative oomph that heightens the already high emotions of the postseason. And it gives the Jays a windmill to tilt at.

The ALCS will not need two games to find its nasty groove. From the off, it will be a series decided by which team can impose its will on the other. It should be good baseball. I'll guarantee you it'll be great theatre.