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Nats GM Mike Rizzo calls Joe Simpson's comments on Juan Soto 'uninformed' and 'not in touch'

Nats GM Mike Rizzo calls Joe Simpson's comments on Juan Soto 'uninformed' and 'not in touch'

If you insult one of Mike Rizzo's players, you're going to have a problem.

If you insult one of his players while under his roof, you're really going to have a problem.

And that's exactly what happened when Atlanta Braves announcer Joe Simpson questioned whether or not the Nationals' 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto was actually a teenager during Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader. 

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

His questioning behind whether or not Soto is 19 generates interest because players from Latin American countries have long dealt with rumors and accusations of lying about their age.

However, age fraud hasn't been a thing in almost a decade. 

Simpson's quote started to make its way around the Twitter-sphere and eventually to Rizzo's ears. And as you would expect, the GM made his way to the broadcast booth at Nats Park to have a word with the broadcasting veteran. 

" There was not much to it. It was just an uninformed and unfortunate comment by Joe," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington. "He's been in the game too long. He's a player, been an announcer for a long, long time. Uniformed, not in touch and he made a mistake."

"Like we handle most of the problems in Nationals land, we went up to the booth and we had a man-to-man discussion about it," Rizzo added. "And he apologized for it and I'd much rather be talking about the 19-year-old that's tearing up the league and one of the best players, not only on the Nationals team, but in the whole league.

"The stuff this guy's doing is remarkable. He's truly one of the great players currently in the league right now and it's unbelievable that we're talking about an age thing when we should be talking about a performance thing." 

Soto is having one of the most impressive seasons by a teenager in MLB history.

Since May 20, he's hit .315 with 14 home runs and 39 RBI. During Tuesday's doubleheader, he hit his 14th home run and got on base five times.


(Nationals phenom Juan Soto/ USA Today Sports Images)

But this isn't the first time in recent memory that Simpson has made a questionable remark during a broadcast.

Prior to the Braves' matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Simpson took issue with the team sporting "K Cancer" shirts during batting practice, calling it an unprofessional look and that Dodgers fans should be "embarrassed." Anything involving fighting cancer should not be looked at as "embarrassing," no matter how long one has been been around the game. 

Rizzo said the discussion took "all of about 10 minutes," but what it really comes down to is Rizzo not wanting the 19-year-old to have to answer silly questions regarding his age. 

"The worst thing about this is that the poor kid may have to answer questions about it when it's so unfair and just out of touch and just not accurate," he lamented.

"That's the unfortunate part of it. You know how we handle things and you've discussed things with me before. It's very black and white, there's no gray area. I told him that I had a problem with it, he said that he apologized for it and he said he will make it right in Game 2 and I believe he did that also." 

Once Game 2 got underway, Simpson made an on-air apology saying, "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."

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Michael A. Taylor played winter ball to work on his hitting. Here's why the Nats are hoping it makes a difference

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Michael A. Taylor played winter ball to work on his hitting. Here's why the Nats are hoping it makes a difference

Michael A. Taylor went on an unusual hunt this offseason. He traded the serenity of fishing in Colorado or Florida, among his favorite pastimes, for the noise of the Dominican Winter League.

Taylor joined Gigantes del Cibao, a rare move for a player entering his age-28 season who has played the last four years in the major leagues. The visit to the Dominican Republic did not go well. Taylor hit .143, struck out nine times and walked once in 29 plate appearances. A small sample size, but also an indicator more work is necessary.

Everyone involved with trying to unmask Taylor’s clear talent knew change was necessary. Taylor is quiet, supremely athletic and has delivered eye-popping glimpses of what he can do on the baseball field. Whether that is running down a fly ball in the gap or driving an opposite field postseason home run in a chilled Wrigley Field, he has performed at a level which displays a high ceiling. Taylor has also regularly entered disturbing droughts where he looks overmatched and uncorrectable. Fixing him at the plate, to any degree, gives the Nationals options. They could deploy him or find a future trade partner.

Initially, he was reluctant to go to the Winter League. He previously planned to work with hitting coach Kevin Long in Florida. All parties knew that would happen. The idea to fly south took further development and convincing. Eventually, Taylor agreed. Among the driving forces for the visit -- from the team’s perspective -- was Taylor’s truncated playing time in the second half of the 2018 season.

“Because of the lack of at-bats he had toward the end of the season, it’s always important to see live pitching,” President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo said in December. “We thought it was important to get him one-on-one work with Kevin and really break down his swing and kind of give Michael a fresh start going into spring training.”

Reworking Taylor’s swing began when his appearances on the field all but stopped. Juan Soto’s emergence paired with Adam Eaton’s healthy return to jettison Taylor to the bench. The timing was difficult. Taylor hit poorly in April and May when Eaton was out and an opportunity was available. His .626 OPS and 65 strikeouts in 210 plate appearances showed what happens when things are dismal for him at the plate. His .864 OPS -- despite 15 more strikeouts in just 68 plate appearances -- in June was yet another pop of what could be. Taylor stole 10 bases in 10 tries during the month, meaning he stole a base 39 percent of the time he reached safely.

Then his playing time shriveled: 48 plate appearances, 43 plate appearances, 16 plate appearances in the final three months. His OPS declined each month, too. Taylor quietly walked around the Nationals clubhouse as the season dissolved.

Long started working with him once he was off the field. They tried to shorten everything Taylor did at the plate. The priority is contact. If Rizzo is to be believed, and Taylor’s past performances have shown this to be true to an extent, Taylor is a modest dose of consistency from being a versatile weapon in the major leagues.

“I believe, seeing him as much as I have, you’re talking about a dynamic player,” Rizzo said. “With adjustments, he could be a special type of big-league player. Gold Glove-caliber defender. He’s got a plus-plus arm that’s accurate. He throws a lot of guys out. He’s a terrific base runner, he’s a great base stealer, he’s got big power. If he figures out the contact portion of it a little bit better, you’re talking about a guy who could have five tools. He’s had flashes of it in the past and he just needs to be more consistent in his approach at the plate.”

Where he fits now is unclear. Taylor, presumably, is the fourth outfielder to be deployed as a base stealing and defensive replacement late in games. Perhaps he splits time with Victor Robles in center field. If Bryce Harper returns, Taylor’s future becomes even more clouded.

What he does have is another chance and big backer in manager Davey Martinez. The Nationals made an around-the-calendar investment in Taylor in pursuit of unlocking what they believe still has a chance to exist.

What Taylor doesn’t have is much more time. He’s entering his age-28 season, fifth full year in the major leagues and closing in on the end of low-cost team control. A warm winter trip doesn’t change those facts.

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Philadelphia and DC are both likely to get a dose of Harper - the winter storm - this weekend

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Philadelphia and DC are both likely to get a dose of Harper - the winter storm - this weekend

At least one Harper is on its way to Philly. 

But despite the hopes of Phillies fans, it's not the baseball player - at least yet.

For the second time in less than two weeks, parts of the Midwest and the Northeast is set to get hit with a major winter storm - which thanks to someone with a great sense of humor or baseball knowledge or just pure coincidence - is named Winter Storm Harper.

While this storm is no way related to Bryce Harper' s free agency (officially, at least), it does have some impeccable timing. And, it is set to hit a few of the places he's reportedly considering - including Philadelphia and DC (though it may just miss Chicago according to forecasts).

On Twitter, fans - and even Harper himself - took note:

 

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