Why the Reds’ Tommy Pham says Mike Trout bears some responsibility for Joc Pederson’s batting incident


Why the Reds' Tommy Pham says Mike Trout bears some responsibility for Joc Pederson's batting incident

BOSTON — As Tommy Pham walked to the dugout at the end of Tuesday’s batting practice, the Reds outfielder signed autographs for some fans on the left field line at Fenway Park. When he was done, he continued to the dugout. There, a fan shouted: “Joc deserves it!”

Pham stopped and gave the fan an autograph.

Days after Pham slapped Giants outfielder Joc Pederson over a fantasy football dispute, the incident – which saw the nine-year veteran receive a three-game suspension and an undisclosed fine – is still the talk of the town and is now dragging even the best player in baseball to the controversy.

Up to this point, Pederson and Pham have both shared their versions of the story and not really disagreed on the basic facts; It’s the interpretation of the league’s rules and the level of perceived disrespect Pederson shows toward Pham that appear to be in contention. Still, Pham felt his side of the argument wasn’t fully aired.

“Joc gave half the story, I don’t like it,” Pham said just before the Reds’ game at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

But Pham added that no matter how the situation unfolds, the commissioner of the fantasy league could end it all early and shift some of the blame onto the most well-known commissioner in all sports, fantasy, or whatever: Mike Trout.

“Trout did a terrible job, man,” Pham said with a faint smile. “Trout is the worst commissioner in fantasy sports. Because he allowed a lot of shit and could have solved everything.”

Pham seemed somewhat sympathetic to Trout, however, as he at least realized he didn’t want the job at all.

“Nobody wanted to be a commissioner, I didn’t want to be the damn commissioner. I have other shit to do. He didn’t want to do it; we put it on him. It was also kind of our fault for making him commissioner,” Pham said.

Trout declined to comment on being the league’s commissioner the athlete Tuesday afternoon, before Pham’s comments on his role.

Part of the reason the weekend’s incident resonated, despite the often short attention span of public discourse, was the incredibly deep arguments Pederson made in defending his roster moves and using the league’s injured list. According to Pederson, Pham accused Pederson of cheating because he “hid players on my bench.” Pederson said he looked up the league’s rules and believes he’s right, and that Pham is doing the same thing with a player on his own team, the 49ers, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. Disagreements arose over a group text for the league, which sources say includes MLB players from multiple teams, including Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas, and had an initial buy-in of $10,000.

Pham also said that Pederson said “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 sent to the league’s text chain to mock Pham’s former team, the Padres.

Pham said Tuesday that Pederson actually had “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. It was four or five.” Pham said several members of the fantasy league reached out to him for support. “You know what’s going on,” he said.

He also stood by his interpretation of the league’s IR rules.

“We had rules for IR, you know?” Pham said. “I know the ESPN app rules, we had our own individual rules.”

Alongside jokes, which Pham didn’t appreciate, he also noted that the money at stake was a big issue. Not only was there the initial buy-in of $10,000, but the runner-up in the 12-team league had to pay an additional $10,000. Pham retired from the league midway through the season and found himself 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 how Pederson acted in the league.

“Tommy talked about it so much I thought Joc would be 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 he would give Pederson a “pimp slap” the next time he saw him.

Pham kept his word. He approached a shoeless Pederson in left field at Great American Ball Park during the Reds’ batting practice on Friday.

“I said, ‘I haven’t forgotten that shit,'” Pham said. “And I went up to him and hit him.”

The players immediately ran out of the dugouts and bullpens. A Giants pitcher had to be restrained. Pham, who challenged the Padres’ Luke Voit to a fight earlier this season after Voit inflicted a concussion on the Reds’ catcher, was ready to take on anyone who wanted to fight.

Major League Baseball contacted the Reds almost immediately, sources say. The Giants also quickly contacted the league office.

San Francisco urged the Reds to pull Pham from the lineup. The Reds initially disagreed, infuriating officials at the Giants and those at the Major League Baseball bureau, according to multiple sources.

If Pham were to sit out Friday, the Reds wanted that game to count as part of his eventual suspension. Major League Baseball initially did not offer this, ordering the Reds to pull Pham from the lineup with no guarantees.

The game was originally scheduled to start at 6:40 p.m. but was delayed by more than two hours due to rain. About half an hour before the game started, after a call from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to Pham, the Reds outfielder agreed not to play that night. He was eventually suspended for three games, with Friday’s game included in the total.

The Giants were unaware that Pham had said goodbye until about 10 minutes before the game started. Each manager initially sent a coach to exchange lineup cards, but home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt asked both managers to come and exchange cards. Curiously, during that exchange, Reds manager David Bell noted that the Giants had not put left-handed reliever Jake McGee on the card, rendering him ineligible to play. McGee was taken off the injury list before the game. When the Giants called McGee to win the eighth-place finish, Bell pointed out McGee’s absence on the lineup card exchanged before the game and urged the Giants to request 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.

“I slapped Joc yesterday,” 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, discussing the fantasy football league and expressing his appreciation for the team’s support.

After holding court, Pham went to do some punching practice. As he walked out of the clubhouse to the batting cage, he walked past Moustakas’ locker and said, “Go sweep these motherfuckers!”

The Reds won that day but blew away a late lead the next day, just missing out on the win without Pham, who has batted third in every game he’s started this season.

Pham was initially back in the lineup for the Reds’ 2-1 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday but felt a tightness in his left calf during early batting practice. He eventually got scratched. Pham said it was more of a proactive step to avoid further missed time.

Otherwise he feels good, he said.

“My body is fine. I’m doing great,” he said before holding up the part of the body that had attracted so much attention. “Hand is good.”

(Top photo by Pham: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY)

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