Dodgers fans cheer Mike Fiers, who blew the whistle on the Astros’ sign stealing
As their own team’s lineup was introduced over the Hohokam Stadium public-address system Thursday, traveling Dodgers fans politely applauded ahead of an exhibition against the Oakland Athletics.
Then Mike Fiers’ name was announced.
The smattering of blue-clad spectators responded with a suddenly impassioned welcome.
To many L.A. fans, at least, Fiers is something of a hero, the first player who blew the whistle on the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal that some believe cheated the Dodgers of the 2017 World Series title.
But the reputation of the 34-year-old right-hander isn’t as cut and dried to everyone else in baseball. His decision to go public with the Astros’ cheating was complicated; a question not of right or wrong, but whether his revelations came in a timely enough manner.
Relief pitcher Ken Giles says he knew nothing about the sign-stealing scheme that took place during at least part of his stint with the Houston Astros.
“A lot of fans are happy with what he did, a lot of fans are frustrated with what he did, and then there’s the middle group, who are happy with what he did and wondering why he waited so long,” said A’s pitcher Liam Hendriks, a teammate of Fiers’ the last two years. “You can’t please everybody.”
Added Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: “There are a lot of layers.”
Fiers is one of the people most responsible for shedding light on the scandal, when the 2017 Astros used a system of live video feeds and codebreakers to steal signs from opposing pitchers and signal batters by banging on trash cans.
Fiers was a pitcher on that 2017 squad, but left the club the following offseason as a free agent. In the two seasons since, he privately warned his new teammates with the Detroit Tigers and A’s — who traded for Fiers in August 2018 — of the Astros’ scheme. Then, Fiers went public last November, the only player to offer on-the-record quotes in The Athletic article that originally broke the story.
“For Mike to say that, it takes a lot of courage,” said Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen, who spent the last three seasons in Oakland. “People can get ticked off and say, ‘Well, he did it after he got his ring. He did it after he left.’ Well, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that right is right and wrong is wrong.”
Not everyone feels the same. Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said Fiers was a snitch. ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza questioned why his accusations surfaced in the media, not through the league. Others wondered why he didn’t come forward sooner. Last month, he told the San Francisco Chronicle he had received death threats.
“We need to make sure he’s taken care of,” Hendriks said. “If that needs to be a private security firm that gets hired by MLB while we’re in Houston so that everything runs smoothly, then so be it.”
Roberts understands the pressure Fiers has felt this winter and wants to put the scandal in the past, the pitcher’s role in unveiling the controversy included.
“He’s had to deal with a lot,” Roberts said. “That’s unfair to him and his family. But I like to think we’re continuing to move forward and let him go on with his career.”
Still, when asked whether the criticism of Fiers and other former Astros players who didn’t come forward sooner was fair, Roberts answered yes.
“I don’t know what went into the delay,” Roberts said, “as far as when you’re mired in it and you see what’s going on and not speak up, whether it’s a benefit to your ball club.”
Roberts summed up his opinion with an adage: “Better late than never.”
Months after Fiers’ original comments were published though, plenty of people around baseball still aren’t quite sure how to feel about the scandal, about the Astros, and about the whistleblower.
“He stood his ground,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. “He’s gotten a lot of blow-back on whether he should have said it, whether he should have said it sooner or not, but the bottom line is he came out and said what he had to say. You’ve got to appreciate him for that.”
New Angels catcher Jason Castro played for the Astros when they lost 106 or more games three years in a row. He left Houston a year before they cheated in 2017.
Fiers, who said no Dodgers players reached out to him over the winter, has stayed relatively quiet this spring, deflecting most questions about the scandal.
After his start Thursday, in which the nine-year veteran allowed one hit and struck four Dodgers across four scoreless innings, Fiers said he was simply happy to be close to the start of the season and, despite the sign-stealing sub-plot, felt ahead of schedule compared with offseasons past.
“He’s not looking to get attention for himself,” Hendriks said. “He wasn’t throwing this out there to say, ‘Hey, look at me.’ He was trying to do it quietly for as long as he could. Finally, he came to the realization that unless I attach my name to this, nothing is gonna happen.
“So he finally did that, and that’s when it all started to come out. He knew the onus would be on him for throwing his name out there, and I think he’s fully prepared for what’s going to happen this season.”
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
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