BOSTON — As Tommy Pham walked toward the dugout at the conclusion of batting practice Tuesday, the Reds outfielder signed autographs for some fans on the left-field line at Fenway Park. When he finished, he continued on towards the dugout. There, a fan yelled out “Joc deserved it!”
Pham stopped and signed an autograph for the fan.
Days after Pham’s slap of Giants outfielder Joc Pederson over a fantasy football dispute, the incident — in which the nine-year veteran received a three-game suspension and an undisclosed fine — is still top of mind, now even drawing the best player in baseball into the controversy.
To this point, Pederson and Pham have both shared their versions of the story, and have not really contradicted each other on the basic facts; it is the interpretation of the rules of the league and the extent of the perceived disrespect shown by Pederson towards Pham that seem to be in contention. Still, Pham felt that his side of the dispute has not been fully aired.
“Joc gave out half the story, I don’t like that,” Pham said shortly before the Reds’ Tuesday game at Fenway Park.
But Pham added that regardless of how the situation has unfolded, the fantasy league’s commissioner could’ve put a stop to everything, early on, shifting part of the blame to the biggest-named commissioner in all of sports, fantasy or otherwise: Mike Trout.
“Trout did a terrible job, man,” Pham said, with the hint of a smile. “Trout’s the worst commissioner in fantasy sports. Because he allowed a lot of shit to go on and he could’ve solved it all.”
Pham did appear somewhat sympathetic to Trout, however, recognizing at least that he didn’t want the job in the first place.
“Nobody wanted to be commissioner, I didn’t want to be the fucking commissioner. I’ve got other shit to do. He didn’t want to do it; we put it on him. It was kind of our fault too, because we made him commissioner,” Pham said.
Trout declined to comment on being commissioner of the league to The Athletic Tuesday afternoon, before Pham’s statements about his role.
Part of the reason the incident resonated over the weekend despite the often short-attention span of public discourse was the incredibly in-depth arguments put forth by Pederson in defending his roster moves and use of the league’s injured list. According to Pederson, Pham accused Pederson of cheating because he was “stashing players on my bench.” Pederson said he looked up the rules the league used and believed he was in the right, and that Pham was doing the same thing with a player on his own team, 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. Disagreements ensued on a group text for the league, which, sources said, includes MLB players from several teams including Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and had an initial buy-in of $10,000.
Joc shares details of what happened in his fantasy football league that started his altercation with Tommy Pham today pic.twitter.com/d9NBTwPVoG
Pham also said that Pederson said some “disrespectful shit” about his former team, the Padres, in a text message. After the final game of the Giants-Reds series, Pederson showed reporters a GIF he had sent to the league’s text chain mocking Pham’s former team, the Padres.
Pham said Tuesday that in fact, Pederson had sent “A few. There was more than one, and I got screenshots to prove it. He sent more than a few texts or jokes aimed at me or the Padres. That was only one. There were four or five.” Pham said several members of the fantasy league reached out to him in support: “They know what’s up,” he said.
He also stood by his interpretation of the league’s IR rules.
“We had rules to the IR, you know?” Pham said. “I know the ESPN app rules, we had our own individual rules.”
In addition to jokes that Pham didn’t appreciate, he also noted that the money involved was a major issue. Not only was there the initial $10,000 buy-in, but the last-place finisher in the 12-team league was forced to pay another $10,000. Pham dropped out of the league in the middle of the season, noting he was in second place when he left the league.
“I looked at it like he was fucking with my money along with the disrespect,” Pham said Saturday morning after his three-game suspension was announced.
A former teammate said Pham, a Las Vegas native, is serious about his fantasy football. He also didn’t appreciate the way Pederson acted in the league.
“Tommy talked about it so much I thought Joc was a teammate,” joked the player, who said he enjoyed having Pham as a teammate.
At one point last year, Pham wrote in the text chain that the next time he saw Pederson he would give him a “pimp slap.”
Pham was good to his word. In left field at Great American Ball Park during Reds batting practice Friday, he approached a shoeless Pederson.
“I said, ‘I didn’t forget about that shit,’” Pham said. “And I walked up to him and slapped him.”
Players ran out of the dugouts and bullpens immediately. One Giants pitcher had to be restrained. Pham, who challenged the Padres’ Luke Voit to a fight earlier this season after Voit gave the Reds catcher a concussion, stood ready to take on anyone who wanted to fight.
Major League Baseball contacted the Reds almost immediately, sources say. The Giants were also quickly in touch with the league office.
San Francisco requested the Reds pull Pham from the lineup. The Reds did not initially agree, infuriating Giants officials and those at the Major League Baseball office, according to multiple sources.
If Pham were to sit out on Friday, the Reds wanted that game to count as part of his eventual suspension. Major League Baseball did not offer that initially, ordering the Reds to pull Pham from the lineup with no guarantees.
The game was originally slated to start at 6:40 p.m., but it was delayed by more than two hours by rain. About a half-hour before the game eventually started, following a call from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to Pham, the Reds outfielder agreed not to play that night. He was ultimately suspended three games, with Friday’s game included in the total.
The Giants were unaware that Pham had bowed out until about 10 minutes before the start of the game. Each manager initially sent out a coach to do the exchange of lineup cards, but home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt requested both managers to come and exchange cards. Oddly enough, it was during that exchange that Reds manager David Bell, noticed the Giants hadn’t placed left-handed reliever Jake McGee on the card, making him ineligible to play in the game; McGee had been activated off the Injured List before the game. When the Giants called McGee in to pitch the eighth, Bell pointed out McGee’s absence from the lineup card exchanged before the game, requiring the Giants to call in José Álvarez instead with the Reds leading 3-1. Álvarez gave up two runs, and the Reds won 5-1.
The next day, Pham’s suspension was announced and Pham spoke to the media about what happened.
“Yesterday, I slapped Joc,” Pham said in his usual matter-of-fact tone. “He did some shit I don’t condone. So I had to address it.”
Pham spoke for several minutes that morning, explaining his issues with Pederson, talking about the fantasy football league and expressing his appreciation for the team’s support.
After holding court, Pham went to take some batting practice. As he walked out of the clubhouse to the batting cage, he walked by Moustakas’s locker and said, “go sweep these motherfuckers!’
The Reds won that day, but blew a late lead the next day, narrowly missing out on the sweep without Pham, who has batted third in every game he’s started this season.
Pham was initially back in the lineup on Tuesday for the Reds’ 2-1 win over the Red Sox, but felt tightness in his left calf during early batting practice. He was eventually scratched. Pham said it was more of a proactive move to avoid any further missed time.
Other than that, he said, he felt good.
“My body’s good. I’m great,” he said before holding up the body part that has been the subject of so much attention. “Hand is good.”
(Top photo of Pham: Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY)
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