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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘Yeah, that happened’: A Giants player is slapped over fantasy football

Joc Pederson played in Friday’s game despite having been slapped by a Cincinnati Reds player before the game.

By Benjamin Hoffman

When fights occur in professional sports, it can sometimes take years for the facts to come out. Rumors will swirl, tidbits will be attributed to anonymous sources and, years later, the people involved will finally explain what happened.

In the case of last Friday’s slap heard around baseball, though, fans just had to wait for Joc Pederson to get to the clubhouse after the San Francisco Giants’ 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Pederson, an outfielder for the Giants, confirmed what The Athletic had reported and social media had been buzzing about: Tommy Pham, an outfielder for the Reds, had slapped him before the game over a fantasy football transaction that Pederson says he made more than a year ago. No, really.

“Yeah, that happened,” Pederson said when asked directly about the slap.

On Saturday, MLB responded to the incident by suspending Pham for three games, retroactive to Friday. Pham told reporters in Cincinnati, including The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosencrans, that he will accept the suspension. Pham said Pederson was cheating and, moreover, had made “disrespectful” comments about the San Diego Padres, Pham’s former team.

Pederson confirmed as much Saturday, sharing details of the group chat with reporters, including a meme that was mocking the Padres for underperforming.

“It is true, I did send a GIF making fun of the Padres,” Pederson said. “If I hurt anybody’s feelings I apologize for that.”

The slap was part of an unusual series of events for the Giants. Earlier in the day, manager Gabe Kapler wrote a blog post about gun violence and then announced he would not come to the field for the national anthem until further notice.

The slap occurred in left field just before the game, and led to a disagreement between the teams over whether Pham should be allowed to play. And in the eighth inning, there was further confusion when Kapler called on reliever Jake McGee, only to be informed that McGee had mistakenly been left off that day’s lineup card, thus making him ineligible to play.

The violence between Pham and Pederson is not unheard of in sports. Charles Oakley, a bruising NBA player for several teams, has confirmed over the years that he struck a whole host of players, including Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen — Pippen was Oakley’s teammate at the time — and he once attacked Tyrone Hill during shootaround over a gambling debt.

But Friday’s incident distinguished itself simply by the level of detail Pederson was willing to offer in its aftermath.

Asked what happened, Pederson said he and Pham participate in a fantasy football league together. More than a year ago, Pederson said there was a disagreement about a transaction he had made in which he moved a player who was listed as out to injured reserve. He said a text message sent to a group chat for the league accused him of cheating for “stashing” players on his bench. He did not say directly that Pham had sent the message.

“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 them on the IR, and that’s all I was doing,” Pederson said.

Pederson expressed confusion that Pham was upset about the move; he said Pham had executed a similar transaction with his own roster, going as far as to offer who the player in question was with Pham’s team.

“It just so happened that he had a player, Jeff Wilson, who was out, and he had him on the IR,” Pederson said. “I said, ‘You literally have the same thing on your bench.’”

Pederson said Friday’s incident did not have much lead-up. Pham approached him and asked if he remembered the issue, and Pederson confirmed he did and Pham slapped him across the cheek.

Pederson said he chose not to retaliate.

“I didn’t get emotional, and I don’t think violence is the answer,” he said. “So I kind of left the situation.”

Pham, who received an undisclosed fine in addition to the suspension, will be eligible to return for Cincinnati’s two-game series against the Boston Red Sox, which begins Tuesday.

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