There would have been no MLB investigation into electronic sign-stealing involving the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox had it not been for Mike Fiers.
If not for Fiers’ confession to The Athletic that the 2017 Astros were up to no good, the game would have likely swept the suspicions and complaints from other teams under the rug in hopes they would eventually go away.
But Fiers felt compelled to tell his story and now the righthander’s name will always be linked to the biggest scandal MLB has faced in a century.
While the ramifications of the investigation have played out in Houston – suspensions, fines, a loss of draft picks and the acrimony of opposing players and managers – Fiers career continues with the Oakland A’s.
The only question is, will he ever be the same.
Fiers has been telling reporters in spring training he desperately wants to stay under the radar. He doesn’t want the attention. He doesn’t want to be a distraction to his teammates. He wants to get on with life. You can understand that.
“I’m going to focus on my job,” Fiers said in January. “Be ready for my team out on the field. That’s my job — playing baseball, pitching for this team and leading them the right way.”
What we don’t know yet is how his actions will be received by other Major League players and the fans. Will Fiers be regarded as a hero for telling the truth about the cheating he saw when he played for the 2017 Astros? Or will be considered a snitch or pariah for breaking the code of silence that exists in clubhouses?
In January, ESPN analyst Jessica Mendoza issued a possible preview.
“Going public, yeah. I mean, I get it. If you’re with the Oakland A’s and you’re on another team, I mean heck yeah, you better be telling your teammates, “Look, hey, heads up. If you hear some noises when you’re pitching, this is what’s going on.” For sure. But to go public, yeah. It didn’t sit well with me,” Mendoza said.
“And honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that’s how this all got found out. This wasn’t something that MLB naturally investigated or that even other teams complained about because they naturally heard about, and then investigations happen. But it came from within. It was a player that was a part of it, that benefited from it during the regular season when he was a part of that team. When I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.”
Last week, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was asked what he thought of Fiers.
“Did you see the smile that he had when he got that ring at Minute Maid?,” Correa said. “Did you see when he was celebrating when we won the championship? He was part of the team. He didn’t say anything about it back then. He definitely should apologize as well.”
You would expect that type of offensive reaction from an Astros player. Of course, they would blame the messenger for what happened to them instead of just apologizing to the sport and its fans for having the audacity to cheat.
Who cares what Mendoza and Correa think? Their opinions are irrelevant. It just shows their immaturity and ignorance.
But MLB seems to be worried about Fiers safety, that someone within the game – or on the outside – might seek revenge.
“We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday. “I want to be really clear about this. Mike, who I do not know at all, did the industry a service. I do believe that we will be a better institution when we emerge at the end of this episode, and without a Mike Fiers, we probably would’ve had a very difficult time cleaning this up. It would’ve taken longer. I think we would’ve done it eventually, but it would’ve taken a lot longer. And I have a real problem with anyone who suggests that Mike did anything other than the right thing.”
Since Fiers is a pitcher, he won’t hit in the American League. So he wouldn’t be subjected to bean balls. If anything, the ones who likely need protection are the Astros hitters who might be targets of opposing teams would felt cheated by them.
If the Astros have a problem with Fiers we will find out very quickly. The A’s play the Astros in a three-game series in Oakland March 30-April 1. Fiers could get a start in one of those games.
“I don’t know how they (MLB) would (provide extra protection), ” Fiers told The Athletic on Wednesday. “I’m not asking for extra security. I’m here to play baseball and I can defend myself, if anything. We do have National League games and I’m going to have to get into the box (to hit) just like everybody else. It’s part of the game. If they decide to throw at me, then they throw at me. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”
“I’ve dealt with a lot in my life. I’ve dealt with people hating me before. I’ve dealt with a lot of life problems. It is what it is. And if someone’s going to retaliate then by hitting me with a pitch, it’s not a big deal.”
Fiers was asked if he was concerned about what could happen when the A’s play in Houston.
“No. Everyone’s crazy — everyone can get crazy at a certain point if they don’t like something that you do,” Fiers said. “Listen … everyone’s mad at (the Astros). There are teams that are mad. It doesn’t matter what it is, extra protection, I mean, what are you going to do? There’s not much you can do.”
Manfred is right. Fiers did baseball a favor by saying what he did. And he shouldn’t have to be worried about his safety because of it.