Cincinnati Reds outfielder Tommy Pham on Saturday said he agreed to a three-game suspension for slapping San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson on the cheek over a fantasy football dispute prior to Friday’s game.
MLB said Pham was suspended for “inappropriate conduct” and was also fined. The suspension was retroactive to Friday and runs through Sunday, when the Reds’ series with the Giants concludes in Cincinnati.
On Friday, Pham had confronted and smacked Pederson while the Giants warmed up in the outfield. The pair had to be separated.
Pham on Saturday said the dispute stemmed from an old text sent by Pederson to the fantasy league’s group chat in which Pham says Pederson disrespected his teammates on the San Diego Padres, for whom he played last season.
“I slapped Joc,” Pham told reporters Saturday. “He said some s— I don’t condone. I had to address it.
“… It was regarding my former team [Padres]. I didn’t like that and I didn’t like the sketchy s— going on in the fantasy. We had too much money on the line, so I look at it like there’s a code. You’re f—ing with my money, then you’re going to say some disrespectful s—; there’s a code to this.”
Pederson acknowledged to reporters Saturday that “there was a lot of money involved” and said Pham was telling the truth.
A candid Pederson even showed reporters the GIF he sent teasing Padres players who were in the group chat about their struggles on the field down the stretch last season. Pederson was with the Atlanta Braves at the time, and Pham was playing for San Diego.
“In the group chat there was also some — there was more than one Padre, there was four or five that, I’m kind of close with a couple of them,” Pederson said. “It was supposed to be a friendly thing, just making fun of they were playing bad, and just talking back and forth. And yeah, [Pham] did not like that and he responded, ‘Joc, I don’t know you well enough to make any jokes like this.”’
Pederson read from his cellphone to reporters what he wrote back.
“‘It was meant to be all fun and games. No hard feelings. Sorry if you took it that way.’ And then about two weeks later, after like Week 4 or 5, he ended up leaving the league and there’s been no communication since,” Pederson said. “Like I said, it is true I did send a GIF making fun of the Padres and if I hurt anyone’s feelings, I apologize for that.
“Cause they were a really good team. So, it was kind of making fun of how they were not playing well to make the playoffs with a very talented team,” he explained. “I mean, I was teammates with some of them and it was supposed to be lighthearted, and I understand everyone takes jokes differently. So like I said, I apologize for that, and looking to move past this and show up tomorrow with no distractions and try to help this team win a ballgame.”
Reds manager David Bell said he talked to Pham about what happened, but declined to share what he said.
“I just want to make sure we’re ready to play a baseball game today,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Joc has handled it very well. We can always talk about being nonreactionary. He was able to manage everything that happened.”
On Friday, Pederson said he was accused of cheating for placing a player on injured reserve and replacing him with a free agent in a fantasy football league. Pederson said the player he put on IR had been ruled out for that week, which made it a legal move. He said Pham had executed essentially the same maneuver with his own team.
Pederson said he had no advance notice that Pham might confront him during the series in Cincinnati.
“It was a surprise,” Pederson told reporters on Friday. “There was no real argument. He kind of came up and said, ‘Like, I don’t know if you remember from last year.’ And I was like, ‘Fantasy football.’ He was like, ‘Yeah.'”
Pham threatened violence to settle an on-field score with San Diego’s Luke Voit in April, challenging the slugger to a fight after Voit injured Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson with a hard, ugly slide into home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.