Sal Licata WFAN Screen grab: WFAN

All things considered, Juan Soto has gotten off to a strong start with the New York Yankees.

Through his first 16 games in pinstripes, the 25-year-old outfielder has hit for a .344 average (1.009 OPS), three home runs and 15 RBIs while posting a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.2. In fact, Soto has been one of the biggest reasons why the Yankees have jumped out to a 12-4 start to open the 2024 campaign.

Not everybody, however, has been happy with Soto’s two-week start with the Bronx Bombers.

Following New York’s 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Miami Marlins last Wednesday — the Yankees’ third loss of the season — WFAN’s Sal Licata took aim at Soto’s performance. In particular, Licata took issue with the three-time All-Star prioritizing his plate patience in the bottom of the ninth inning when New York was down by three runs.

“A walk is not as good as a hit,” Licata said. “And when you have [Aaron Judge] struggling, you got the pitcher on the ropes, you got first and second and a spot right there where you need to do damage. You’re Juan Soto, you need to do damage, not draw a walk, and Juan Soto’s looing for a walk. Swing the bat, bro! You want to get paid? Swing the bat. I don’t care if he’s a Yankee, I don’t care if he’s a Met. I cannot accept a walk from Juan Soto in that spot. That does not get the job done. Passing the baton is not what I’m looking for from Juan Soto. I’m looking for him to do some damage.”

“That spot” Licata was referring to came in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on first and second with two outs and the Yankees trailing 5-2. While a hit would have been preferable, Marlins reliever Tanner Scott was struggling with his accuracy and after working the count to 3-2, Soto took ball four in the dirt before Judge popped out to end the game one batter later.

It’s also worth noting that Soto’s patience at the plate has been one of his calling cards, as he has led the Major Leagues in walks — which sometimes are as valuable as a hit — three times in his career, including just last season. While there are certainly situations where it pays to be aggressive at the plate, Licata might as well get used to the 2020 National League batting champion’s patience — especially if he winds up on his beloved Mets next offseason.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.