Braves announcer implies Nationals rookie phenom Juan Soto isn't actually 19 years old
Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is having a whale of a rookie season.
Soto blasted a three-run home run on the very first MLB pitch he saw when he was called up in May and hasn’t looked back.
19 years old. Second career at-bat. First career home run.
Unbelievable, Juan Soto! pic.twitter.com/eqSbfiCuyz
— MLB (@MLB) May 21, 2018
Through 66 games, Soto is hitting .310 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI while posting a .980 OPS. Not bad for a 19-year-old.
Joe Simpson not convinced Juan Soto is 19
He’s doing so well, in fact, that Atlanta Braves announcer Joe Simpson had the temerity to question whether Soto is indeed 19 years old during the broadcast of Washington’s 8-3 win on Tuesday. Soto was in the midst of a game where he went 2-for-2 with a run, an RBI and three walks.
“If he’s 19, he has certainly got his man growth,” Simpson said. “He is big and strong.”
The implication is obvious, that Soto, a native of the Dominican Republic, has fudged his age for favorable status as a younger player.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan was quick to denounce Simpson’s implication, noting that age fraud is not a part of the modern game in Latin America.
Age fraud hasn’t been a thing in Latin America in nearly a decade. But then again Joe Simpson is stuck in the past, so it’s not a surprise that he proffers this sort of garbage. Ignore it.
Juan Soto is 19. Period. Full stop. And he’s doing things the game never has seen before. https://t.co/V5iWMkkleF
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 8, 2018
The statement drew the ire of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who told The Athletic that he had a word with Simpson after the game.
“I had a definite reaction,” Rizzo said. “I handled it face to face, privately with him. I believe he understood my stance on his comments.”
Simpson addresses comment
The comment came during Game 1 of a doubleheader. In the first inning of Game 2, Soto went yard again – and offered Simpson an opportunity to clarify his earlier words.
“If you were with us in Game 1, you might have heard me make a comment off the top of my head about if he’s 19,” Simpson said on the broadcast. “Well, he is. He’s bona fide 19. And he is a full-grown man. He is strong. And he is one heck of a player. You might well just write his name in on the Rookie of the Year award right now.”
It’s … kind of a clarification? Maybe? It’s definitely not an apology.
Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the original comment. But Simpson is no stranger to controversy.
Simpson’s second recent brush with controversy
Just two weeks ago, Simpson was under fire for a bizarre minute-long rant during a Braves game with the Los Angeles Dodgers criticizing L.A. players for wearing T-shirts during batting practice. He called out Chase Utley specifically.
Simpson, from July 28:
“I want you to look at some things that were going on today in batting practice here with the Dodgers. What do you see? T-shirts. You see Chase Utley with no socks and pants up over his knees. This was prevalent with their whole team. And I think about fans that come to SunTrust Park who are Dodgers fans and want to see their players. They had no idea who any of them were.”
Beyond the absurdity of getting worked up over batting practice attire, it turns out that Utley was wearing a shirt raising awareness and money for cancer prevention as part of a collection designed for all 30 MLB teams.
Simpson has been manning Braves’ broadcasts since 1992. He should probably stick to calling games for a while.
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