The Nats are hosting the Braves for a series this week, and Atlanta announcer Joe Simpson must have figured he was past due for another “old man yells at cloud” comment.
As many opposing announcers do when facing the Nationals, Simpson spent some time raving about Juan Soto, who hit his 14th home run of the season tonight. What makes this number so incredible is Soto’s age, which is 19.
It’s one of the most impressive seasons by a teenager in history, only Joe Simpson isn’t so sure we’re actually talking about a teenager.
During Game 1 of today’s doubleheader, Soto was at the plate. Here’s what Simpson had to say (h/t @DCBarno/Twitter for the audio).
“He is...If he’s 19, he has certainly got his man growth. He is...big and strong.”
First of all, “he has certainly got his man growth” is a really weird way of saying Soto is a muscular, well-built guy.
But, let’s go ahead and highlight the most important three words: “if he’s 19.” I’m not sure if this is a case of bitterness that the Nats’ young phenom is better than Acuna, the Braves’ 20-year old star (it probably is), or if it’s just prejudice (it almost definitely is) or if it’s a little bit of both.
Latin American countries and their players have long dealt with rumors and accusations of age fraud. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan points out, however, this line of thinking is outdated.
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.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 8, 2018
Juan Soto is 19. Period. Full stop. And he’s doing things the game never has seen before. https://t.co/V5iWMkkleF
I won’t give them the dignity of linking to their tweets, but some fans responded to Passan on Twitter saying without a birth certificate we don’t have proof. Good to know some people think it’s worth spending their time asking the tough questions and getting #MadOnline.
Simpson probably didn’t intend to come across as prejudiced, but it’s hard to imagine him making a similar comment about a white player from America.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic got the reaction of Nats GM Mike Rizzo, who apparently spoke with Simpson in between today's games. Here's a tweet with the link, if you're a subscriber ($).
It's unclear if Simpson has made an apology directly to Soto, but after his conversation with Rizzo, Simpson walked back his comments on-air during Game 2. According to the transcription, as seen in The Athletic, Simpson made the following comments.
"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. 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 a gesture Simpson needed to make, though it is a little hard to take his comments completely seriously. Simpson has done a lot to earn his reputation as a stereotypical angry old fan who has fallen behind today’s game. Less than two weeks ago, during a Braves-Dodgers game, Simpson took issue with the Dodgers’ unprofessional look during their own batting practice. According to him, Dodgers fans should be “embarrassed."
Not only is this patently ridiculous, but it’s also hypocritical. The Dodgers certainly aren’t the only team to warm up in something other than their full uniforms. Plus, the t-shirts they were wearing that he had such a problem with? Many of them read “K Cancer.”
Again, I doubt Simpson meant to imply anything against the idea of fighting cancer, but this coupled with his offensive comments on Juan Soto, are not a great look for him.
Hopefully, Simpson will find a way to move beyond his outdated, crude stereotypes. That would be a “man growth” I think we’d all like to see.
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