Joe Simpson, a former major league outfielder and the longtime analyst on the Atlanta Braves television broadcast team, has spoken with Chase Utley over remarks he made about the Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman’s batting practice attire during a broadcast on Saturday night.
According to Orange County Register reporter Bill Plunkett, Simpson visited the Dodgers’ clubhouse Sunday morning to speak with Utley as the team celebrated “Shirtless Sunday” in the weight room. It’s unclear if Simpson offered an apology for his comments. Utley declined to speak with reporters about the incident, and the Braves have not responded to a request for comment.
Utley was a longtime star for the Philadelphia Phillies before getting traded to the Dodgers.
The commotion was created during Saturday night’s broadcast. Simpson and play-by-play announcer Chip Caray cut away from the game briefly to show footage of Dodgers batting practice earlier in the day, which focused on Utley donning a T-shirt instead of his normal uniform.
“What do you see? You see T-shirts, you see Chase Utley with no socks, pants up over his knees, a T-shirt. This was prevalent with their whole team,” Caray lamented.
Simpson followed with a rant about Utley that included calling the 16-year veteran “unprofessional” and slamming his choice of attire as “an embarrassment” that amounted to an insult to fans in the stands.
“I think about fans that come to Sun Trust Park who were Dodgers fans and want to see their players. They had no idea who any of them were,” Simpson said. “Chase Utley, I’ve had nothing but respect for his whole career, I think he’s a great player, I thought he always played the game the right way. That was an embarrassment, what he had on during batting practice.”
“That’s a complete lack of respect for the fans and the game,” Simpson continued.
Simpson added that “Walter Alston would roll over in his grave if he saw that,” referring to the Dodgers Hall of Fame manager who retired in 1976, before a single member of the team was actually born.
It’s worth pointing out that batting practice takes place several hours before the start of the game, and the league doesn’t have any rules mandating what type of attire players must wear during practice.
While Simpson’s criticism was cringe-inducing in real time, it somehow got worse when Daniel Brim, a contributor to The Athletic, pointed out on Twitter Utley was actually wearing a “strike out cancer” shirt, with the proceeds going to the research of pediatric cancer.
“You’re talking about Chase Utley who is a consummate professional not only on the field but off the field, wearing a ‘Strikeout Cancer’ shirt, a cause that is dear to his heart,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I think, for us, it’s water under the bridge. If he talked to Chase and Chase is good with it, that’s good by me.”
Prior to deactivating his Twitter account, Caray attempted to defend the comments to critics on social media by writing, “I’m not the guy taking BP in Capri-mimicking pants, no socks, and no ‘uniform.’” Caray’s account remained deactivated Monday morning.
According to data released last year by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Magna Globa, the average age of a baseball viewer last year was 57, the oldest in professional sports. Only 7 percent of baseball’s television audience is below 18 years old.
“Baseball’s biggest problem isn’t strikeouts or analytics or pace of play,” SportsRadio 94.1 WIP host Joe Giglio said of Simpson’s comments. “It’s curmudgeonly broadcasters that (dump) on the current game and players. You know what’s a bad way to sell a product to young fans? Screaming ‘get off my lawn!’ every night.”