Atlanta Braves announcer Joe Simpson found himself in hot water for the second time this season when he questioned the legitimacy of Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto’s age. The comments caused a flurry of reaction, including a column from Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan.
Passan’s column Monday tore into Simpson, who on Aug. 7 questioned on air whether the Dominican Republic-born Soto was actually 19 years old. Passan’s column, titled, “How the latest in bigotry reminds us that baseball is indeed a white man’s game,” tied in Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones’ comments from two years ago into Simpson’s statement.
“This is not just about the dog-whistling of a 66-year-old white man who found it perfectly appropriate to imply on a live broadcast that this kid from the Dominican Republic might be lying about his age,” Passan wrote in part. “Because, you see, other Dominican players have lied about their age, so obviously Soto, who’s really good, and who, Simpson would go on to say, has ‘man growth,’ must be doing it, too.
“No, this is about a sport that gives someone like Joe Simpson a platform to say this. A sport that teems with players whose old tweets are filled with racist and bigoted thoughts and language. A sport that day after day, revelation after revelation, exposes itself as a place that subtly and not-so-subtly lets people of color know exactly what the ruling class of the game thinks of them.”
Simpson’s comments during the game immediately drew the ire of Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. Rather than apologize, The 66-year-old Simpson brought the subject back up during the broadcast.
“He’s a bona-fide 19, and he is a full-grown man,” Simpson said. “He is strong, and he is one heck of a player. You might as well just write his name in on the Rookie of the Year award right now.”
Simpson’s comments also drew a reaction from the Dominican Prospect League, which released a two-page letter defending Soto.
The Soto controversy is the second time this summer that Simpson, who has broadcasted Braves games since 1992, has received negative attention. During a Braves series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the former Dodgers player Simpson called out Los Angeles for what he deemed “unprofessional” attire during pre-game batting practice.