The Houston Astros will sadly not get the chance to face Mike Fiers in 2020.
When everyone came to the realization that MLB games in 2020 would be played without fans in attendance, several pundits and many Astros haters lamented the fact that opposing fans would miss the opportunity to boo the Houston players this year. Well, as it turns out, the Astros themselves have lost a great opportunity as well — the chance to face Mike Fiers.
Fiers, of course, is persona non grata in Houston. His decision to go on the record and rat out his former teammates for their sign stealing led to one of the biggest scandals in the sport’s history. The Astros will probably never fully recover from the PR nightmare this has turned into, never mind the fact that they lost their GM and manager and several top draft picks as a result.
Of course, anyone who pays attention knows the illegal sign stealing was a league-wide problem, and other teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees have already been busted for it, and many other teams have been accused. Still, because Fiers went on the record and threw his former team under the bus, there was nowhere for the Astros to hide and no way for the league to avoid it.
Other teams didn’t have that problem and thus were able to be protected by the league, but the Astros were made into the scapegoat. Fans across the sport now see Houston as the team that broke the rules and ruined the game, despite the fact that several other teams were doing the very same thing. Now people routinely wish severe bodily harm on Astros players, and Fiers is the one who set it all in motion.
While some will choose to see Fiers as a principled whistleblower — the Edward Snowden of baseball — the reality is quite different. His beef with the Astros started when they left him off the 2017 playoff roster and then non-tendered him after the season. Pitching to a 5.22 ERA will do that for you.
He bounced back to put up a solid campaign with the Tigers and A’s in 2018 and another with Oakland in 2019, but to say he struggled against Houston would be an understatement. He made five starts against the Astros in 2019 — his most against any opponent — and he was absolutely lit up to the tune of a 9.39 ERA and 12 home runs in 23 innings.
Some might say it’s just a coincidence that he chose to air the Astros’ dirty laundry once that season was over, but it’s no coincidence at all. This was personal for Fiers — his way of getting back at the team that cut him and then made him look like he was throwing batting practice. Even though the Houston hitters made their mark on him last year, they’d savor the opportunity to do it again.
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Unfortunately Fiers has managed to avoid the Astros every time the teams have faced each other this year. Even with the two clubs playing a five-game series in four days, the A’s managed to have Fiers pitch the day before the series with Houston began. You can’t convince me that wasn’t done on purpose.
The Astros players may not be getting booed in person, but the fans who’d be doing the booing don’t care to know the real truth. The truth is that illegal sign stealing was rampant across the league, but MLB covered as much of that up as it could. Better to let the Astros take the fall than make the whole league look corrupt, so I couldn’t care less about the fans who believe Houston was the only guilty team.
The Astros players who’ve been dragged through the mud (especially Jose Altuve, who didn’t even participate in the sign stealing) deserve a shot at Fiers. His personal vendetta is why this team is reviled for doing something that plenty of other clubs were doing. But now that he’s thrown them to the wolves, he’s hiding from them. The A’s are harboring a rat.
So the angry fans, with their hypocritical self-righteousness, will have to wait until next year to let the Astros know how they feel. Likewise, unless the two teams meet in the postseason, the Houston hitters will have to wait to get their revenge on Fiers. But that won’t make it any less sweet when it finally happens.