IN DEFENSE OF FIERS

Ken Hoffman jumps to the defense of Astros whistleblower

Mike Fiers (right) poses with his Houston Astros teammates (left to right) Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick, and George Springer, in 2017. Photo Courtesy of Say.

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

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' fan base 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.

Continue on CultureMap to read why Ken Hoffman believes whistleblowers should be honored.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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