Juan Soto's Dominican league releases blistering statement demanding Braves announcer Joe Simpson be suspended

Yahoo Sports Contributor
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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/10626/" data-ylk="slk:Juan Soto">Juan Soto</a>’s old league held nothing back in its criticism of <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/atl" data-ylk="slk:Braves">Braves</a> announcer Joe Simpson. (AP Photo)
Juan Soto’s old league held nothing back in its criticism of Braves announcer Joe Simpson. (AP Photo)

Joe Simpson’s quick speculation on Juan Soto’s age lasted seconds, but it appears to have a lasting effect in the eyes of where the Washington Nationals phenom used to play in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Prospect League, where Soto played before signing with the Nationals, released a lengthy statement Thursday accusing Braves announcer Joe Simpson of racism for implying the 19-year-old Soto might have lied about his age and demanded Simpson recuse himself from at least one game as punishment.

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What Joe Simpson said about Juan Soto

Simpson really didn’t dwell on Soto’s age for too long, and definitely not as long as he did with Chase Utley, but his baseless use of the word “if” was enough to signal that he wasn’t convinced by the baseball world saying that Soto is 19.

“If he’s 19, he has certainly got his man growth,” Simpson said. “He is big and strong.”

Simpson would later renounce the comment in the second game of the Braves’ doubleheader against the Nats, saying it was “off the top of my head” and firmly stated he’s a “bona fide 19.” He also praised Soto, who is currently hitting a jaw-dropping .305/.423/.551 as a teenager, as the clear front runner for Rookie of the Year.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough.

Dominican league calls Joe Simpson racist for Juan Soto comment

You can check out the DPL’s full statement here:

There is plenty to unpack in this two-page statement, starting with the league demanding that Simpson sit out a game, or be suspended by the Braves or MLB. There has so far been no indication that Simpson will face punishment for his statement.

The DPL goes on to openly question if Simpson had ever speculated on the age of teenage phenoms like Bryce Harper in 2012 or Robin Yount in 1975 and implied the fact the he didn’t was due to Harper and Yount being white and Soto being Dominican. If Simpson isn’t punished for his “off the top of my head” statement, the DPL said it believes similar speculation devaluing the talent of young Dominican players would be seen as acceptable in the future.

“Moreover, we refuse to believe that an Oklahoman man of your age and from your generation is naive enough to not understand how such questioning of Mr. Soto’s age, based on his origin, is a subtle yet powerful of form of denigration. We refuse to believe that a man with your years of experience in the industry does not understand the power of the platform you have and consider the impact of your words have, not only on your subject but on your subject’s family and the class of people your subject represents.”

After that, well, the DPL got personal. The league then asked how Simpson would feel if his children’s accomplishments and qualifications were questioned, specifically using the names of Simpson’s children and their schools, to ostensibly prove a point about how Simpson doesn’t have enough personal question to Soto to understand the pain of his words.

The statement also goes through all the hoops Soto had to jump through over the course of his career, from playing as a little league All-Star in Puerto Rico as a nine-year-old to MLB’s age and identity investigation before he signed with the Nationals in 2015.

Those facts echoed a statement from Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan the day of Simpson’s comments, in which Passan noted that age fraud hasn’t been prevalent in Latin America for nearly a decade.

The statement ends by noting that Simpson’s apology was both too little and might have not even come had Nationals GM Mike Rizzo not reportedly confronted Simpson between games. It was signed by DPL vice president Ulises Cabrera.

How the Nationals responded to Joe Simpson

It didn’t take long for Rizzo to hear about Simpson’s comment, and it also didn’t take long for Rizzo to find Simpson and talk it out.

From The Washington Post:

“Our PR people, when they see these tweets out there and that type of thing, I get alerted to it,” Rizzo said during his weekly appearance Wednesday with the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. “Because I have nothing to do with social media. They alert me when things come up that I need to know about, and they thought I needed to know about this. Then I handled it. It took all of about 10 minutes.”

Very little reaction came out from the Nationals clubhouse and Soto, who all probably just wanted to move on after a statement that none of them heard live. This isn’t the first time that Simpson played it loose with the truth about the Nationals players though, as he also provided a misleading description of the verbal confrontation between star pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

While neither player came within a foot of each other, Simpson still described the confrontation as “chest-to-chest, nose-to-nose” and speculated that Strasburg was hiding a black eye after a theoretical fist fight, according The Washington Post.

It might just be time for Simpson to find a fill-in for when the Braves visit Washington.

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