Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers says he has been receiving death threats as a consequence of blowing the whistle on Houston’s sign-stealing scheme that has recently tarnished that club’s 2017 World Series title.
‘Whatever, I don’t care,’ Fiers, now a member of the Oakland Athletics, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. ‘I’ve dealt with a lot of death threats before. It’s just another thing on my plate.
‘If I’m worried about any retaliation,’ he added, ‘I’m not going to be ready for the season.’
Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers says he has received death threats as a consequence of blowing the whistle on Houston’s sign-stealing scheme that has recently tarnished that club’s 2017 World Series title. Fiers was a member of the Astros that season and witnessed the cheating
Fiers’s safety – both on and off the field – has been a topic of conversation during spring training after the 34-year-old righty divulged details about the Astros’ sign-stealing system that utilized a center field camera to intercept opposing catchers’ signals to pitchers.
His comments to The Athletic last November led to sanctions against his former club, while Fiers’s critics have attacked him for violating the ‘unwritten rules’ of baseball.
An MLB investigation also found the team improperly stole signs again in 2018
While many players have focused their anger on the Astros, Fiers is expected to face some backlash himself for divulging clubhouse secrets to the media.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that ‘we will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else.’
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘STEAL SIGNS’?
In baseball, catchers indicate the type of pitch the pitcher should throw by using their throwing hand to flash a series of signs between their knees while crouched behind the plate.
One of those signs will be an indicator that typically precedes the specific pitch call. Traditionally one finger means ‘fastball,’ while two fingers mean ‘breaking ball,’ but modern teams have more complex hand signals.
Sign stealing is a legal and time-honored part of baseball as long as it is done with the naked eye – say, by a baserunner standing on second. Using technology is prohibited, and that is what the 2017 and 2018 Astros as well as the 2018 Red Sox are accused of doing.
Theoretically, a hitter who knows the upcoming pitch would have a tremendous advantage.
Fiers, however, does not think that will be necessary.
‘I’m not asking for extra security,’ Fiers told The Athletic. ‘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.’ (Oakland plays in the American League, which uses a designated hitter in place of pitchers, so Fiers can only be targeted by opposing hurlers during inter-league play, when the Athletics face National League opponents)
Players all around the majors are criticizing the Astros’ sign-steal scheme, with some saying their 2017 World Series crown should be vacated.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch was fired in the fallout of the scandal, and it also led to the Red Sox parting ways with manager Alex Cora (Houston’s bench coach at the time) and the New York Mets moving on from recently hired manager Carlos Beltran (a Houston player at the time). Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow also was dismissed.
Luhnow and Hinch were suspended by MLB, which also fined the franchise $5 million and stripped the team of its draft picks in the first and second rounds over the next two seasons.
Mike Fiers celebrates with his Houston teammates in the clubhouse after the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dogdgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium
The 2018 Red Sox, who were managed by Cora, are also being investigated for a sign-stealing scheme. MLB’s findings are expected to be announced next week.
Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who retired in 2016, accused Fiers of being a ‘snitch’ on Thursday.
‘I’m mad at this guy, the pitcher who came out talking about it,’ said Ortiz, who now serves as an assistant to Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran. ‘And let me tell you why.’
Mike Fiers celebrates after tossing a no-hitter en route to the Astros defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0 at Minute Maid Park on August 21, 2015 in Houston, Texas
According to Ortiz, the issue is that Fiers waited until after he reaped the rewards from the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme before coming clean.
‘After you make your money, after you get your ring you decide to talk about it,’ Ortiz continued, addressing reporters at Boston’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida. ‘Why don’t you talk about it during the season when it was going on? Why didn’t you say, ‘I don’t want to be no part of it?’
‘So you look you like a snitch. Why you gotta talk about it after? That’s my problem.’
And it’s not just Fiers’s inaction that bothered Ortiz, who openly wondered why every player remained silent while the scheme was being implemented.
‘The Houston Astros, I know they put themselves in a situation and I just still don’t know how come nobody was like, ‘That is wrong.’ I just don’t know how no one say something about it – during, not after,’ said Ortiz, who retired after the 2016 season. ‘I was in the clubhouse for a long time and never anything like that comes up.’
Fiers has since pitched for the Detroit Tigers and the Athletics, with whom he compiled a career-best 15-4 record in 33 starts last season. He pitched his second career no-hitter and finished with a 3.90 ERA.
Ortiz was addressing Red Sox players eight months after the shooting in his native Dominican Republic that nearly killed him.
Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who retired in 2016, accused Fiers of being a ‘snitch’