Former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers was the whistleblower that sparked Major League Baseball’s investigation into the team.
Sources – including Mike Fiers – confirm that the Astros were stealing signs in 2017 using an outfield camera, a monitor in the tunnel and banging on a trash can to convey pitches.@Ken_Rosenthal & @EvanDrellich on an issue that permeates the league: https://t.co/1uDvm4hNBK pic.twitter.com/BCSmlOzejt
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) November 12, 2019
This was surrounding their reported sign stealing during the 2017 season.
During this year, the team went 101-61 and won the AL West division.
They were loaded with a strong roster, punctuated by one of the strongest lineups in the MLB.
This was all en route to a World Series run where they faced the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ultimately, in seven games, the Astros came out on top over the Dodgers taking the series 4-3.
However, just after the end of the 2019 season, news broke of the team’s use of sign stealing techniques.
Fiers Calls Out Astros
Fiers, who was part of that Astros team, decided to speak out about the team’s cheating.
“That’s not playing the game the right way,” Fiers said. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”
He was one of three members of the organization who came together for a report in The Athletic highlighting the Astros system.
They attested that the team coordinated the relay of opposing team’s signs during the game.
This was done using the video replay room that most teams use to challenge calls on the field.
However, the Astros set up a camera in centerfield which gave a direct feed to the team’s dugout.
Here, players would run back and forth telling players on the bench what the signs were, where they were then given to the batter.
The team eventually moved a monitor into the room right next to their dugout, where they banged on trashcans to relay the pitch to the batter.
Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/rncm6qzXxw
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 12, 2019
This reportedly continued through the playoffs.
Why Did Fiers Speak Out?
It may seem weird that Fiers opted to speak out about the team’s actions when he was a member of the team.
When he came out with the report, he had moved on and become a member of the Athletics.
Many fans of the Astros went after Fiers for speaking out about this.
He even received death threats.
Some former MLB players, including David Ortiz, expressed anger towards Fiers.
When asked why he did it, Fiers kept it clear.
“[I want] the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said.
He was also a member of the pitching staff who did not benefit from the system.
For a pitcher, it was likely conflicting knowing that other players in the league were at a disadvantage due to the Astros’ actions.
Either way you look at it, Fiers did an honorable and courageous thing.
This was a story that had to be heard.
The Astros blatantly cheated and messed with the sport’s odds, leaving their mark on all aspects of the 2017 season.
The Impact of Cheating
Due to their cheating, the Astros changed the entire structure of the season.
Altuve, who won the MVP award that season, instantly had an asterisk placed next to his name.
MVP runner-up Aaron Judge even retracted his congratulatory messages towards Altuve on social media.
Also, there is an issue with the Astros winning the World Series.
This still doesn’t sit well with Dodger players and fans, who were robbed of a championship that season.
A plane with a banner that said "Houston Cheats Bang Bang" flew over Dodger Stadium before the Dodgers-Astros game today. pic.twitter.com/Om8SelCPR8
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 13, 2020
However, an address of these were noticeably absent in MLB’s punishment.
While some coaching staff was suspended and the franchise was hit heavily with different sanctions, this didn’t go far enough.
Many pushed for Commissioner Rob Manfred to revoke the team’s World Series victory.
This decision was avoided, though.
The impetus for these investigations all started with Fiers.
Of all members of that Astros team, he was the first to speak up on the issue.
He aimed to protect the integrity of the game and call to question the actions of his teammates, something that was commendable across the league.