Mike Fiers didn’t hide in anonymity. He stepped up and forced dark deeds into the light, something baseball players and fans alike should applaud.
Mike Fiers isn’t a saint. But he’s courageous as hell.
Oftentimes we confuse courage with heroism, because the two so often intersect. In this case, Fiers is no hero. In 2017, he won the World Series with the Houston Astros. The following spring, as a member of the Detroit Tigers, he was beaming when given his ring.
Fiers knew what he did. What they did. He knew he was every bit the cheat his Houston teammates were and accepted the postseason money and World Series bonuses all the same. He didn’t stop the sign-stealing absurdity in the moment. He waited two years.
So how can Fiers, a 34-year-old starting pitcher on his fourth team, be classified as courageous?
Because unlike every other coward on the Astros’ 2017 squad, Fiers eventually came forward. He admitted the whole thing. He put his name to his words, something seldom done in the public sphere when furious denials and allegations are surely coming back in kind.
Yes, it’s easier for Fiers to do now. He’s on the Oakland A’s, the Astros’ chief rival in the American League West. He’s also a pitcher, and therefore his statistics weren’t directly impacted by the nonsense.
Still, so many others could have stepped up. It was Fiers who chose to. Instead of allowing the cheating to go unchecked, the hurler of two no-hitters put the onus on Major League Baseball after myriad allegations from multiple teams to the commissioner’s office went nowhere in regards to Houston’s potential nefarious methods.
Incredibly, some are angry at Fiers for blowing the proverbial whistle to The Athletic this winter. Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez believes he should have kept quiet. ESPN personality Jessica Mendoza essentially said the same.
With due respect to both, those opinions are lunacy. Blaming Fiers for the mess engulfing America’s national pastime is missing the point entirely. Fiers undoubtedly lost friendships, endured threats and could face alienation within his workplace. All for coming forward about Houston’s electronic sign-stealing.
Houston’s cheating may have cost young men their lucrative careers. It might have cost some players incentives and bonuses. It may have changed who won the World Series.
At the least, it defrauded and deceived the public — both betting and otherwise — all while gleefully winning home games with the help of a center-field camera, a video screen, a baseball bat and a damn garbage can.
Fiers was right to expose the corruptness. He was right to put his name to the story. He was right to force commissioner Rob Manfred into a tough position, even if Manfred bungled it to the umpteenth degree.
Fiers deserves to long be remembered as someone strong enough to make the tough choice. There’s inherit pressure in sports to operate by a code of silence outside of the locker room or clubhouse. Things stay in the building.
If Fiers doesn’t come out with his truth, this brand of cheating would have continued on, both in Houston and, eventually, elsewhere. If you believe the sign-stealing was confined to a single season, I have a bridge to sell you.
Sure, Fiers waited too long. He should have spoke up in the moment. That’s true of everybody involved, and certainly true of then-Houston manager A.J. Hinch, who was reportedly angry enough to break the video monitor a few times but not mad enough to actually stop the cheating.
Fiers is no saint. But he’s no coward either.
Far more than we can say about anybody else wearing an Astros ring or jersey these days.