Tommy Pham suspended after slapping Joc Pederson over fantasy football argument

For a while, it was hard to figure out what exactly happened before Friday's game between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.

We knew a confrontation in the outfield escalated to the point two people had to be separated. We knew it didn't reach any kind of brawl status, even though the Reds bullpen cleared. We knew Reds outfielder Tommy Pham was scratched from the lineup with no explanation right before a rain delay ended. And that was about it.

Even photos and videos on social media were unhelpful.

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Then, the facts came out.

According to The Athletic, Pham slapped Giants outfielder Joc Pederson over a disagreement with their fantasy football league. Specifically, Pham reportedly slapped Pederson "Will Smith-style," and we take that to mean the actor and not the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher or Atlanta Braves reliever, both of whom have been teammates with Pederson.

Pham told reporters Pederson was the instigator, according to The Mercury News. The two were apparently reheating an argument they had in a group text in a league involving players from several other teams. Pham and Pederson have never played together, though they did spend an abbreviated season as division rivals in 2020 when Pham was with the Padres and Pederson the Dodgers.

Video of the actual slap emerged on Saturday.

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Pham stood by his story the same day, claiming Pederson said some "disrespectful s***" about the Padres, and that Pederson "f***ed with my money."

The Reds announced during the game MLB was investigating the incident. The Giants reportedly requested Pham be removed from the lineup before the game, which the Reds resisted until Pham agreed not to play pending the results of the investigation, leading to Albert Almora Jr. being inserted into the lineup.

MLB eventually suspended Pham three games for his actions, with the first game of the suspension being served Friday.

Pederson was apparently unbothered enough by the slap to stay in the lineup as the cleanup hitter and left-fielder, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and HBP in a 5-1 Reds win.

Cincinnati Reds' Tommy Pham runs the bases during a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Cincinnati, Monday, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Tommy Pham is under MLB investigation for The Slap. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Important questions remained, however.

Namely, how on earth do two MLB players get physical over a fantasy football league during the NFL offseason? Slapping someone over fantasy football is obviously a ridiculous thing for an adult millionaire to do, but the public deserved a clearer picture on what happened this fateful evening.

Joc Pederson explains The Slap

Pederson fortunately shed some light on the situation after the game Friday, confirming to reporters Pham had indeed slapped him across the cheek.

Pederson's explanation of the dispute that led to the slap, via NBC Sports Bay Area:

'We were in a fantasy league together. I put somebody, a player, on the injured reserve when they were listed as out and added another player. There was a text message in the group saying that I was cheating because I was stashing players on my bench. I looked up the rules and sent a screenshot of the rules, how it says when a player is ruled out, you're allowed to put him on the IR. That's all I was doing.

"It just so happened that he had a player, Jeff Wilson, that was out, and he had him on IR. I said, 'you literally have the same thing on your team, on your bench.' I guess he was in two leagues and in one of them [Wilson] was on the IR and in one of them, he wasn't, so maybe that was a confusion. In the ESPN league we were in, it was listed as out. It feels very similar to what I did. That was basically all of it, there's not much more to it."

Even more details came the next day, when Pederson showed reporters the group chat in question.

Apparently, drama began when Pederson posted a gif of three weightlifters with logos of the Dodgers, Giants and Padres superimposed on them. The Padres weightlifter collapses (this would have been when Pham's Padres were about to miss the playoffs after some massive preseason hype.

The subsequent exchange:

Pham: "Joc I don't know you well enough to make any jokes like this."

Pederson: "It was meant to be all fun and games. No hard feelings. Sorry if you took it that way."

Two weeks later, Pham reportedly left the big-money fantasy league. Seven months later, Pham slapped Pederson.

If that's how it went down, it's pretty hard to see what Pham was thinking. Pederson claimed the slap wasn't even preceded by a real argument; Pham allegedly just walked up to him and asked if he remembered the argument.

Pederson declined to say if he believed Pham should be suspended, but he did say he does not expect to play fantasy football with Pham again.