When David Bell declared Kyle Farmer the starting shortstop before the season began, insisting that José Barrero was going to have to “force the issue” and take the job away from Farmer, everyone knew what this was about. Farmer’s reputation of being a clubhouse leader—Scott Rolen-lite, if you will—has been repeated in quote after quote, story after story.
“We’ve been forced a little bit to stay together, and Farm is a huge part of that,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Even when things aren’t going well for him, he finds a way to make it good for everyone else around him.” India said it simply: “He’s the heart and soul of this team.”
“He’s a big part of our team, and he makes us better in ways you can’t quantify,” manager David Bell said.
This is not the first time the organization has put its finger on the scale in favor of clubhouse bonhomie when deciding who plays and who sits. Every manager the Reds have hired the past few years has valued a tight knit clubhouse the way Ron Washington loved to [bleeping] bunt.
Which is why one has to wonder if Tommy Pham has outlived his usefulness in Cincinnati.
Just like you don’t have to be Carl Sagan to find the moon at night, you didn’t have to be Nostradamus to surmise that maybe Pham wasn’t going to be the best teammate.
“I’m playing to get some numbers, I don’t care about anything else,” Pham said. “I got to look out for me. At the end of the day baseball is going to move on without me. I got to get mine right now.”
How all occasions do inform against me
And spur my dull revenge.
Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honor’s at the stake.
Athletes are famous for wearing the petty on their sleeves. They channel their inner Hamlet, searching their souls for so much as a morsel of perceived disrespect, the smallest scrap of disparagement in their opponent’s behavior to fuel the puffery of their ambitions.
“The Slap” was another childish playground confrontation that ballplayers are famous for, with a twist. It had nothing to do with events on the field. It wasn’t about bat flips and disrespect. It wasn’t about pitches thrown up-and-in or trotting around the bases in too much of a laggardly, unmannerly fashion. This was a fantasy football beef.
The end result? The Reds play without Pham for three games because the player can’t control himself emotionally over something that had nothing to do with his job between the white lines; then misses an additional game with “injury.”
Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an article titled “How intangibles helped the Cincinnati Reds turn a corner this season.” In it, Kyle Farmer was quoted:
“When you learn about a player off the field, you respect what he has been through,” Farmer said. “Then when he gets on the field, you know his tendencies, what he can and can’t do well, and maybe you can make up for that. You get to know people as a player, as a person, and figure out what their lifestyle is. You can find similarities. That grows team camaraderie.”
What did Farmer and the rest of his teammates just learn about Tommy Pham off the field? Are there others in the clubhouse that find similarities in their own lifestyles that would lend to a sense of camaraderie with the ex-Padre? And what must they think of his continued Twitter-buffoonery:
They really played themselves bcuz now All I have to do is release the IR rules in the league and the text how I told Joc I was gonna pimp slap him for cheating
— Tommy Pham (@TphamLV) June 14, 2022
From the outside, it’s impossible to know how other players feel about this incident. Maybe a clubhouse can collectively slip easily into that tried and true “it’s us against the world” trope that athletes routinely fall back on to supercharge their already competitive natures.
But missing games and promoting distraction doesn’t feel like one of the building blocks to a productive season. With all the young players the Reds are bringing into their clubhouse, is this the example they want to set for their future? Everyone talks about the maturity of Hunter Greene. Pham’s is polar opposite.
Whatever one thinks of David Bell, you have to give him his due when it comes to how he’s managed to keep this clubhouse together throughout this tempest-tossed season of injuries, popular players sent off downriver on a barge, with hand-me-down replacements in their stead. In the infamous words of former manager Bryan Price, “How is that good for the Reds?”
Pham told the media “the hand is good” the other day. Cute. The hand he’s dealt the Reds now is not so good. And now they have to decide if Tommy Pham is a distraction they can continue to afford, if that 1.3 WAR and the occasional home run are worth the pursuit of his dull revenge tour.
The Reds not only need to talk to the hand, they need to tell the hand and the player attached to it to find another dugout to ply his tiresome trade.