The Sound and the Fury of Tommy Pham

If you haven’t read Jack Dickey’s article in Sports Illustrated about Tommy Pham, then I highly recommend you click here and check it out.  To some, Pham probably comes across as refreshingly honest, bold, and confident in himself.  To others, he probably comes across as arrogant, foul-mouthed, and brazen.  Two reasonably good debate teams could pick sides and probably end up with a stalemate for half of eternity.

At first blush, I found Pham’s comments to be flagrantly insulting, demeaning, immature, unprofessional, and lacking in perspective.  It’s challenging to find a context in which referring to coworkers as “mother——-” isn’t incredibly offensive to someone.  You simply do not say some of the things he said much like one does not simply walk into Mordor.

It’s not that you cannot do it.  It’s just that you should not do it.

By the end of the article, I could vaguely recall something about “single parent” and “Vegas”, but meandering through a minefield of f-bombs left me unable to focus on the actual narrative.  So I decided to go back and reread the piece, but I first had to set my preconceived notions, half-formed overreactions, and personal biases aside.  Then I scrolled back to the top to browse slowly through the laundry that Pham was evidently intent on airing out.

Short version:  Pham felt he was passed over a lot in favor of better prospects who weren’t as productive as he was.  While waiting for his chance, he entertained ideas like quitting baseball, having his contract sold to a Japanese team, and being traded.  He was a mixed-race kid with a father in prison and a single mom who worked two jobs.  His lack of big league service time means he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after this season.  Even though he’s performed better than a lot of players making a lot more money, he’s doing it for just above the minimum.  He wants everyone to know what he’s done, how hard he’s worked, and what he’s doing now.

Message received.

It’s just unfortunate that the message wasn’t written to the exacting specifications of the official Cardinal Way handbook.  Generally speaking, the bulk of the BFiB expect their “puppy dogs and rainbows” quotes without profanity so that they can enjoy reading while sipping from their half full glasses.  How dare he express any level of confidence in himself without humbling himself before the altar of Cardinal Nation and invoking the name of Kissell.  After all, one mustn’t entertain braggadocio without exceeding its extent with equal parts grace and self-deprecating humor.

I can almost “hear” the largely insufferable (and mostly fake) tweets now.

  • Good think he’s backing up all that smack talk tonight.
  • Dude, you were injured a lot.
  • He better produce another season like 2017, because he’s burned some bridges.
  • He has no respect for the game, the organization, or Qdoba.
  • No, you’re the mother Ph—–.
  • That @gr33nazn guy is pretty darn handsome but not quite Matheny handsome.
  • Piscotty, Adams, Wong, and Grichuk all deserved to play the outfield over Pham.

Indeed, Pham was injured a lot, but he was healthy enough to manage to hit .301/.376/.464 over the course of 240 games for Memphis.  The organization may have cost him some service time by overlooking him, but I’d argue that injuries probably cost him a lot more.

His professional conduct probably hasn’t made him too many friends, and he certainly doesn’t appear a good fit for the manufactured plain vanilla model citizen image the fan base embraces.  However, sheer competence, some big hits, and a few public acts of contrition would probably make it easier to overlook his potential for completing the “7 words you can’t say on television” bingo card.

When healthy and given a chance to play, Pham really did outplay Piscotty, Adams, and Grichuk.  Maybe he could’ve done so all along.  Then again, if Matt Adams is ahead of you on the outfield depth chart, perhaps you are just doing penance for all the f-bombs you’ve dropped.

The only thing I know for certain here is that I don’t understand why anyone thinks that Pham has to back up anything.  All his comments were about the past – his thought process, his state of mind, his reactions, and how he handled everything.  His 6+ WAR season in 2017 proved that he can play in the big leagues and do so over a lengthy period at a high level.  He’s basically backed up everything already and put a down payment on whatever he has to say next.

Personally, I’ll take brutal honesty over prepackaged half-truths and cliched soundbites any day.  That said, I still ended my reread of the piece thinking that Pham came off as “flagrantly insulting, demeaning, immature, unprofessional, and lacking in perspective”.  I also can’t disagree with a lot of what he had to say.  I just take issue with how he said it.  I’m faced with a schism of sorts, and the only solution I’ve found is probably from an old Nike tshirt or something.

If you can’t respect the player, respect the game.





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Last updated: 10/06/2022