Baseball's "unwritten rules" police were out in full force when Juan Soto stared down Braves reliever Will Smith after blasting a mammoth home run off him Monday night, and you may think that was the beginning of the players' shared beef.
Well, think again.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo joined The Sports Junkies Wednesday and described what happened before Soto's ninth-inning at-bat in Atlanta.
"The thing with Will Smith and Juan Soto, who is one of the nicest and most respected young players that I've ever been around, was predicated the inning before by Will Smith saying something to Juan Soto as [Smith] was warming up to face Adam Eaton," Rizzo said.
Smith entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning to face Eaton, a lefty-on-lefty matchup the Braves turned to in order to keep the deficit at 5-3. With Soto on deck, Smith said something to him as Rizzo mentioned, so whatever that was, Soto carried with him into the ninth and made sure to let Smith know it when he hit an absolute tank shot to the opposite field.
The rest goes on as we know it. Smith yells at Soto as he begins his home run trot, Soto doesn't really pay him much attention and the Braves end up with the last laugh thanks to two ninth-inning home runs off Daniel Hudson. In the end, Rizzo liked what he saw out of his young superstar.
"So that's where that traces back to. [Smith] said something to Juan Soto, [Soto] took him about 430 [feet] the opposite way and I thought he did absolutely nothing wrong," Rizzo said. "He was very, very respectful and impressive in the way he handled that, considering what happened the inning before."
Even if Soto didn't have the reason Rizzo explained for celebrating his home run, Smith really didn't have much of an excuse for yelling at the lefty. After the game, Davey Martinez put it as simple as possible.
"[Soto's] job is to hit so just be quiet and get on the mound," Martinez said. "You threw the pitch, make a better pitch.”
Who else can't wait for these two to face each other again?