Nationals phenom Juan Soto ejected before first pitch of at-bat by grumpy umpire

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Washington Nationals phenom Juan Soto has gotten several notable firsts out of the way since debuting on May 20. He added another during Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves, earning his first career ejection before he even saw one pitch in his third at-bat.

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Soto was coming to the plate in the sixth inning when he continued to question home plate umpire Greg Gibson over a borderline called strike three in his previous at-bat. The conversation was initially lost in the aftermath of a Bryce Harper home run. It got everyone’s attention though when a grumpy Gibson ripped off his mask and seemingly dared Soto to say another word.

Soto clearly did. Then he got tossed. Then the Nationals dugout erupted.

Manager Davey Martinez managed to stay in the game despite his anger. Hitting coach Kevin Long not so much. He was the loudest voice coming from within the Nationals dugout, which led to his ejection.

Why was Juan Soto upset?

Soto was one of several Nationals to question Gibson’s strike zone during the game. In his previous at-bat, Soto was called out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch that was borderline.


Honestly, the pitch was too close to take. But hitters like consistency too from an umpire, and the Nationals clearly felt Gibson’s zone was anything but consistent.

Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton also had words for Gibson on called strikes that were further off the plate. Gibson gave both veterans some leeway, but was done listening once Soto brought his beef back to the plate.

Was Greg Gibson justified in ejecting Juan Soto?

That could be answered with another question: Do fans pay to see the umpires?

Sure, one could argue that players and managers are not supposed to argue balls and strikes period. But those “rules” haven’t been strictly enforced in too long to even matter in 2018.

One could also argue that Soto wasn’t subtle enough with his disagreement. Umpires will sometimes engage in debate over a call when players disguise it as casual conversation. That’s one thing the 19-year-old Soto clearly hasn’t learned yet. Once we were paying attention to the confrontation, there was no doubt Soto was questioning the previous call.

But Gibson wasn’t exactly subtle here either. Maybe he was tired of hearing chirping from the Nationals dugout. Maybe he simply didn’t want to hear any feedback from a rookie.

Crew chief Jerry Layne failed to shed any more light on the matter after the game.

Based on Soto’s account, there wasn’t much to be added anyway.

Clearly, Gibson didn’t want any help.

Soto’s ejection has temporarily put the never-ending debate over the lengths umpires should go in demanding respect without overshadowing the game back into the spotlight. In this case, Gibson’s decision managed to overshadow the game, and for four critical innings cost Washington one of its biggest bats.

The 19-year-old Soto entered hitting .315 with a teenage record 14 home runs. He’s a player the Nationals need to have on the field. More importantly, he’s a player baseball fans want to see on the field.

Nationals rookie Juan Soto is restrained after being ejected by umpire Greg Gibson. (Getty Images)

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