Hoffman's Houston
in defense of fiers

Ken Hoffman leaps to the defense of the Houston Astros whistleblower

Ken Hoffman leaps to the defense of the Houston Astros whistleblower

Houston, George Springer All Star Bowling Benefit for Camp Say, June 2017, Houston Astros Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick, George Springer, Mike Fiers
Mike Fiers (right) poses with his Houston Astros teammates (left to right) Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick, and George Springer, in 2017. Courtesy of Say

Former Astros pitcher, Mike Fiers, might not have been the right person — but he did the right thing.

Voices on radio and social media are complaining that the Astros were unfairly singled out by Major League Baseball's lowering the boom and suspending manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow in the sign-stealing scandal, followed by team owner Jim Crane firing both of them, preceded by the owner firing the assistant general manager and demoting the team president.

Assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was dismissed after he made vulgar comments to female reporters. Astros president Reid Ryan was demoted because, well, that’s an owner’s prerogative.

I don’t understand why anybody in the media or Astros’ fanbase is furious at Fiers for squealing on the Astros, or Major League Baseball for punishing the Astros so severely. They’re screaming, “the Astros got screwed!”

No they didn’t.

Don’t be angry at Fiers — be angry at the Astros. They cheated. The Astros broke the rules on their way to winning the 2017 World Series. This was after they, and every other team, were warned not to use technology to steal signs.

The Astros aren’t denying it. Hinch has apologized for it. Former pitcher Dallas Keuchel said “apologies are in order … for everyone on the team.” What’s hard to understand what happened? Fiers doesn’t have clean hands in this saga. He played for the Astros in 2017, didn’t go public about the cheating back then, and took the bonus money and glittery ring for the Astros championship.

None of that changes the facts about the Astros wayward ways. The argument — “everybody does it” — is a weak excuse. Didn’t your mother ask, “If Billy jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?” Agent Scott Boras’ claim – “the players just did what they were told" – is historically inexcusable. I cheer for the Astros, but I am disappointed that they cheated.

The sad part is, they probably didn’t have to. The lineup was loaded with amazing players. I’m also surprised that ESPN announcer Jessica Mendoza and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez believe this entire cheating scandal should have been dealt with in-house by MLB. That’s not how things get accomplished. In-house is how problems get buried. In-house is how problems get fixed with settlements and non-disclosure agreements.

Whistleblowers, generally (I’m not going to get into a current political debate here), should be honored. Whistleblowers are how we drive safer cars and fly in safer airplanes. Whistleblowers are how we clean up corrupt police departments, call out unhealthful workplace conditions and political dirty tricks, and get portrayed by Al Pacino (Serpico), Meryl Streep (Silkwood), Sally Field (Norma Rae), and Hal Holbrook (All the President’s Men) in the movies. Whistleblowers are how Sabre stops making printers that catch fire on The Office.

Whistleblowers are heroes. Generally.

Mike Fiers is a little squirrely, I’ll give you that. He has guts, though. He blew his whistle in public, not anonymously. Baseball will be better for him, and the Astros won’t cheat again, unless the Astros are idiots, and new management will see to it they’re not. Or owner Crane will blow a gasket. Again.

There will be some negative aftershocks from the cheating scandal. Perhaps some holier-than-though sports writers won’t vote Jose Altuve into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Perhaps it would be unwise for Houston supporters to wear Astros jerseys in Yankee Stadium. (Some Yankee fans, well, you know. My advice for Houston fans wearing Astros gear in The Bronx … duck!)

But the final score is, the Astros will be better — eventually — for Mike Fiers going public that they were cheaters back in 2017. But, still, feel free to boo him if he takes the mound in Minute Maid Park.