The Future for Athletics' Mike Fiers: Heralded or Hassled?
Mike Fiers isn’t talking much about the Astros sign-stealing scandal in the first week of spring training, but one would guess the original whistleblower might be wondering how he’ll be received by players through the spring and into the regular season.
It was after Fiers went public in November to theathletic.com with details of the Astros’ system of electronic sign stealing in their 2017 run-up to the World Series title that Major League Baseball finally looked into the problem.
Ultimately, the commissioner’s office handed out one-year suspensions to GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom were subsequently fired by the Astros. Houston was fined $5 million and were stripped of first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
In the aftermath, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran were also dismissed for their roles in helping mastermind the scheme; Cora was the bench coach and Beltran the designated hitter in Houston in 2017. as the Astros’ bench coach and designated hitter, respectively.
The Astros likely will give Fiers grief – Carlos Correa has already called for Fiers to “tell the truth” and to apologize to his former club. The Astros’ first road series of the season starts in Oakland on March 30.
Retired stars Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz have come down hard on Fiers, Ortiz calling him "a snitch."
The rest of baseball, however, seems likely to take a different view.
Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Trevor Bauer is one of those speaking out for the man who spoke out about the cheating in the Astros’ run to the 2017 World Series title.
"If Mike Fiers doesn’t come out and say something, nothing gets done,” Bauer told TheAthletic.com. “Nothing – even though all the players know this shit is going on it’s the worst kept secret in baseball. If no one says anything, then nothing gets done – no one says anything publicly because reports have been given to the league for multiple years.”
And then there is Vince Velasquez, the Phillies pitcher who played with Fiers for the final two months of the Astros’ season in 2015 when Velasquez was just a rookie.
“That’s a big-[guts] move right there, man,” Velasquez told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Velasquez wasn’t in on the scheme during his time with the Astros, and he said he couldn’t say if he would have been able to do the same.
"Some people make their own decisions,” Velasquez said. “I’m not saying he was a bad person for doing what he did. I don’t know how to approach it, because I’m just glad I’m not part of it.”
Former A’s closer Blake Treinen, now with the Dodgers, is another who has Fiers’ back. The two were teammates in Oakland in 2018-19.
“I respect Mike a lot and I think there’s this idea that that’s kind of normal across the league, what’s happened over in Houston, and it’s not normal,” Treinen told The Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think people really have the true idea of what normal is in the league. I respect him for what he said. I mean, what’s worse: him knowing about it and not saying anything to his teammates and going out there with an unfair advantage or saying something so that we really know that’s true?”
Bauer concluded by saying what Fiers did “was good for baseball.”
“Ultimately on a wider scale, the players as a whole, we need more strength and leadership at the top,” Bauer went on. “I think that’s the position that he took, which is important.”
One can only hope the A’s starter doesn’t pay a high price for his honesty. Some, including Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, have come down hard on Fiers. Whether many current players take that view is something that will underscore the entire 2020 season.