Joe Simpson has been calling Braves games, first for TBS, then for Fox Sports South, for decades. As a Braves fan I have been watching the opposing team’s broadcast as much as possible ever since the technology for doing so became available. This is not a coincidence.
Oh, there are worse broadcasters than Simpson. He’s generally easy to listen to and/or ignore. He doesn’t have some annoying cadence or some in-your-face approach. His longtime broadcast parter, Chip Caray, has his own set of issues too, and in some weird way that makes you forget about Simpson’s most of the time, but Simpson himself can still be as annoying as all get-out. Why?
He’s an old, humorless and joyless fart.
This is not a comment on his age, either. Simpson is 66 now, but he began broadcasting for the Braves when he was 41 — four years younger than I am now — and he was an old fart then, too. While more polite about it than most old fart broadcasters — and Simpson is generally amiable — the attitude is the same. No one plays the game now the way they used to back in his day. Anything fun, unique or whimsical is to be criticized. He likes “blue collar” players and hates showboats like Bryce Harper and would rather see a guy make an inside-out swing to weakly send the ball the other way to advance a runner than see someone turn on a pitch and jack it into the third deck because, you know, fundamentals. It’s a tired act and was tired when he began trotting it out back in 1992.
Last night, during the Dodgers-Braves game, however, Simpson took his old fartdom to new lows. What set him off? The Dodgers’ batting practice attire:
In case you can’t watch the video, here’s the transcript:
Simpson: You know that I grew up in the Dodger organization and certainly was taught how to play professional baseball and do things the right way. I want you to look at some things that were going on today in batting practice here with the Dodgers. What do you see? T-shirts. You see Chase Utley with no socks and pants up over his knees. This was prevalent with their whole team. And I think about fans that come to SunTrust Park who are Dodgers fans and want to see their players. They had no idea who any of them were. Nobody had any kind of uniform or batting practice shirt with their name on their jersey. They look very unprofessional. I think I can say this because I know what the Dodger organization was all about-
CARAY: There’s the bunt, it is perfect.
SIMPSON: But if I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be embarrassed. And I don’t know how Major League Baseball allows such attire when the gates are open and the fans are watching. Chase Utley, I have nothing but respect for him, his whole career, thinking he’s a great player and I thought he always played the game the right way. That was an embarrassment what he had on today during practice.
CARAY: You think of all the merchandise Major League Baseball does with their batting practice uniforms and the batting practice jerseys, I’m with you. It’s called a uniform for a reason.
OF COURSE there was a perfect bunt to break that up. Fundamentals, man.
As Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts notes, this was not just some random, off-the-cuff comment from Simpson. It was accompanied by footage of the Dodgers during batting practice, which means that Simpson — or a producer — saw this, got pissed off about it and then made a decision during a pregame production meeting to dedicate some time to it during a game. The Dodgers wearing some t-shirts and some other random clothing instead of dress grays or tuxedos or whatever was worth this time and bile.
You will not be surprised to hear that the Dodgers did not think too much of this:
And a current Brave but former Dodger thought this was ridiculous too. Here’s Brandon McCarthy last night after Simpson’s parter, Chip Caray, defended Simpson:
That’s the other thing. The primary “offender” here was Chase Utley. CHASE UTLEY. If he did have a uniform on and it had his name on it, it’d be just as likely to say “Chase Respect The Game Utley” on it than just his actual name. The whole thing is simply bizarre, but aiming it at the Dodgers, largely seen to be a well-run and professional organization and certainly having that reputation in its franchise history — and at Utley who, some Mets fans notwithstanding, is more or less universally respected — makes it even more ridiculous.
Of course part of this was probably motivated by Simpson’s own history. As he mentioned, he came up in the Dodgers organization, making his MLB debut under Walter Alston and playing a handful of games over four seasons under him and Tommy Lasorda. He was no doubt a devotee of Lasorda’s “I bleed Dodger Blue” mentality and the stuff he and the organization of that era sold about the Dodgers being a cut above everyone else when it came to class. Like anything else Simpson comments on, his comments on the Dodgers are colored by his past or, at the very least, what he believes about his past.
And I will give Simpson this much credit: he always looked supremely professional in Dodger Blue. Check him out.
Of course he also hit .188/.224/.203 (OPS+ 20) as a fine-looking Los Angeles Dodger so maybe there was more to baseball, even back in his day, than what a player wears during batting practice.
UPDATE: Oh my god: