Athletics

Rob Manfred says Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers did MLB 'a service'

Rob Manfred says Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers did MLB 'a service'

Rob Manfred didn't love Trevor Bauer calling him "a clown," but the MLB commissioner and the Extremely Online Cincinnati Reds pitcher agree on one thing. 

A's pitcher Mike Fiers was right to lift the lid on the Houston Astros' trash-can-and-video-camera-powered cheating scandal. 

“Mike Fiers, in my view, did the industry a service,” Manfred told ESPN's Karl Ravech in a sit-down interview released Sunday (H/T New York Post). “He opened the door here. Without that opening of the door, we would not have been able to conduct the effective investigation that we did. We would not have been able to impose the disciplines that were imposed. We would not have been able to probably take the prophylactic measures that we’re gonna take with respect to 2020, and it’s important -- painful, but important -- that we clean all that up.”

Fiers told The Athletic in November that the Astros used a camera in center field to record and steal opposing catchers' signs en route to Houston's 2017 World Series title. Those signs would then be relayed to an Astros batter when his teammates or team employees banged on a garbage can. 

The Astros acquired Fiers in a midseason trade that year, and he signed with the Detroit Tigers the following offseason. Fiers told the Tigers about the scheme and later told the A's following a 2018 trade to Oakland. 

Fiers faced criticism from some in baseball, including television analysts Jessica Mendoza and Pedro Martinez, for whistleblowing and breaking what Manfred referred to as the "cone of silence" coming from the clubhouse. Carlos Correa, Fiers' former Astros teammate, said the pitcher should be "man enough" to clear Jose Altuve of the spreading insinuation his 2017 AL MVP was tainted by Houston's cheating. 

The pitcher didn't say that Altuve was when he first revealed the scheme to The Athletic back in November, and he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser on Sunday that the Astros "cheated as a team" in 2017. 

[RELATED: Manfred explains why Astros players haven't been punished]

Fiers will see his former teammates for the first time since going public when the Astros visit the A's in Oakland on March 30. The A's, then, will first play in Houston on April 24.

Don't bet on the fans at Minute Maid Park being as understanding as their Coliseum counterparts or the commissioner. 

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”