Tommy Pham was handed a three-game suspension retroactive to Friday after hitting San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson during Friday’s batting practice.
“I hit Joc,” Pham said. “He did something (expletive) that I don’t condone, so I had to address it.”
The dispute stemmed from their fantasy football league last offseason and what Pham described as a “disrespectful” text message from Pederson about his former San Diego Padres teammates.
Pederson read text messages in group chat to San Francisco reporters after Saturday’s game.
“I sent a GIF in the group chat that made fun of the Padres,” Pederson said. “There was more than one Padre in the group chat, there were maybe four or five and I’m quite close to some of them. It should be a friendly thing, just make fun of them playing badly and just back and forth, he didn’t like that.
“He replied, ‘Joc, I don’t know you well enough to joke like that.’ I wrote back, “It was just meant to be fun and games. No uncomfortable feelings. Sorry if you took it that way.” Then about two weeks later, after about week four or five, he left the league and there’s been no communication since.”
The GIF sent by Pederson had three weightlifters with team logos of the Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Padres above each of them. The weightlifter under the Padres logo was hit by the weight and fell over.
“Because they were a really good team, so it was kind of a joke that they didn’t play well to make the playoffs with a very talented team,” Pederson said. “I was teammates with some of them. It should be carefree. I understand that everyone takes jokes differently, so I apologize for that. I’m trying to get over it and show up tomorrow with no distractions.”
In the fantasy football league, Pederson said he was accused of cheating in a group text when he put a player on his injured reserve after the player was listed as eliminated. Pederson said he pointed out that Pham did the same thing to one of his players by running back Jeff Wilson.
During Friday’s batting practice, Pham approached Pederson, told him he hadn’t forgotten what happened in their fantasy league, and punched him in the face.
“We had too much money at stake,” Pham said. “You could look at it as if there was a code. They (play) with my money and will say something disrespectful (expletive), there is a code for that.”
Pham didn’t detail Pederson’s text when speaking to reporters ahead of Saturday’s game, but he noted he immediately told Pederson how he felt about it.
“It was something (stuff) you just don’t say,” Pham said. “I texted him that I wasn’t cool enough to talk to you like that. He should have known immediately.”
The fantasy football league was made up of MLB players from different teams, including Mike Moustakas, Pham said.
“That was last year,” Pham said. “I was in second place when I was eliminated from this league. There was a lot of money on this line. I’m a big dog in Vegas. I’m a high roller at many casinos. You can see my credit limit. We played for big money. I don’t need to go into the details of how much, but I see it as if you have to pay double if you lose. Whoever came in last place had to pay twice. So I looked at it like he was messing around with my money along with the disrespect.
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Pham will lose $111,111 from the three-game suspension and has been fined an undisclosed amount by the league.
Why did Pham hit Pederson knowing the likelihood of a suspension?
“From the text he sent about my previous team and how I felt like there was some flawed (stuff) going on in this league,” Pham said, “that’s why.”
Pham sat out Friday’s series opener against the Giants, a 5-1 win, because he said he felt pressure from MLB. The Reds announced after the game started that Pham had agreed not to play pending MLB’s investigation into the altercation.
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Pederson confirmed that Giants manager Gabe Kapler and general manager Farhan Zaidi were pressuring the Reds to bench Pham. Michael Hill, MLB’s senior vice president of on-field operations, announced that Pham was suspended and fined for “inappropriate conduct.” Pham said he accepted the suspension without appeal because “it sounds like it’s only going to get worse if I appeal.”
“I think anytime a person hits another person, it’s serious,” Kapler told reporters Saturday, “and it’s just something that we all know can’t happen in a workplace.”
Pham said the argument with Pederson ended after he punched him on Friday. He will sit out the remainder of the series against the Giants, but the Reds will travel to San Francisco for a three-game series June 24-26.
“Look, I’m in this game to play baseball,” Pham said. “If he had a problem, he should have addressed it right then and there. There weren’t too many people in the outfield. It was me and (Albert) Almora for a good 20-30 seconds. If you want to do something, you should have done it.”