The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Former Astros Pitcher Mike Fiers: Hero or Tattletale?

The results of Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros’ illegal use of technology to steal signs during the 2017 season reverberated throughout the baseball community last week.  Most people were surprised by the harsh penalties levied on the Astros organization by MLB.  The end-result was the dismissal of GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A. J. Hinch by the Astros, after they had been suspended by MLB.  Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran were released by mutual agreement with their respective teams.  Cora had been employed as a coach by the Astros during 2017, while Beltran was a player on the team; they were both named in the investigation report as being ringleaders of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme.


The stunning impact of the investigation is being compared to the 2007 Mitchell Report in which 89 major-league players were alleged to have used steroids or other PEDs.  Arguably, it also rivals the fallout of the 1920 investigation surrounding the Black Sox Scandal.


While most of the spotlight has rightfully been on the accountability of Luhnow, Hinch, Cora, and Beltran in breaking MLB’s rules related to the use of technology to steal signs, the role of former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers is also worth noting.  As a pitcher, he didn’t have any involvement in the wrongdoing. Instead, he likely provided the trigger for MLB to launch its full investigation into the Astros organization.


Fiers, now a pitcher with the Oakland A’s, revealed to the press in November that the Astros’ routinely employed a practice of using video feeds to the dugout to aid in stealing signs from opposing teams during the 2017 season.  After he left the Astros following their World Series season, Fiers said he alerted his teams (Detroit Tigers and A’s) of the Astros’ stealth practices so his teammates could take measures to prevent any advantage for Astros hitters.


MLB didn’t initiate its investigation until they decided Fiers’ story warranted additional review.  It’s possible there wouldn’t have been an investigation had Fiers stayed silent on the subject when probed by a reporter back in November.  The question now is whether Fiers should be hailed as a hero for standing up for the integrity of the game or viewed as an outcast for snitching on his former teammates and employer.


There is a fraternity among players that discourages publicly divulging their team’s inner workings that might be viewed as taking unfair advantage of opponents.  Examples include excessive use of pine tar by batters, use of illegal substances by pitchers, and pitchers intentionally targeting hitters with brushback pitches.  Players (especially the younger, less-established ones) refrain from exposing their teams and teammates in these situations because they don’t want to rock the boat.  They “look the other way” for fear of being blackballed as a tattletale.


Many believe Fiers crossed the line by publicly exposing the Astros’ sign-stealing methods.  The immediate reaction was that he was a snitch, someone who betrayed his former teammates.  It remains to be seen, but he could be ostracized by some players and teams, including prospective employers, because he stood up and admitted to what was happening behind the scenes with Astros.


Fiers’ detractors point to the fact he didn’t speak out during the 2017 season when he was personally benefitting from the Astros’ sign-stealing since he was part of a World Series championship team and collected a nice post-season check.


However, Fiers, a 34-year-old veteran pitcher, apparently wasn’t intimated by the prospect of being blackballed.  He felt the integrity of the game has been compromised.  In fact, he was standing up for the fraternity of pitchers, many of whom took his side in exposing the Astros’ tactics.  That’s because pitchers naturally see illegal sign-stealing as detrimental to their success on the mound and can potentially affect their livelihood.


Fiers had the guts to speak up, when other players who also disagreed with the Astros’ tactics chose silence.  In that regard he should ultimately be applauded for causing Major League Baseball to address a serious problem, which many believe has been pervasive throughout all 30 big league teams.  It points out that MLB should have a process for players to anonymously report illegal activities, including PED use.


The entire situation has left a huge black mark on Major League Baseball with respect to the integrity of its competition on the field.  The careers of well-respected men in the game have been tainted.  With the investigation of the Boston Red Sox still underway, it’s possible there will be more negative fallout, especially if specific players are called out and punished.  (Astros players were exempted from punishment in the investigation of their organization in exchange for their cooperation.)


After the dust settles on the scandal, it will be interesting to see how Fiers is viewed.  Although he has pitched two no-hitters in his career, he will most likely be remembered, good or bad, for his role in “Astrogate.”

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