Athletics

Rob Manfred working to protect A's pitcher Mike Fiers from retaliation

Rob Manfred working to protect A's pitcher Mike Fiers from retaliation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A’s starting pitcher Mike Fiers played a huge role in exposing the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He provided firsthand knowledge and evidence of wrongdoing by the Astros and put his name behind it.

Some believe his actions as a whistleblower were just and appropriate helping clean up major league baseball.

Others disagree. Fiers has received heavy flak for his role shedding light on cheating in baseball, from those in the industry and fans watching this scandal unfold. That’s especially true among the Astros fanbase, which has made him a public enemy for bringing this to light.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked in a Tuesday press conference about the criticism and flak pointed his way, and said the league will make sure he is safe and protected whenever he is pitching and when the A’s are on the road playing in an environment hostile to Fiers.

“We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he is playing,” Manfred said, “whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else.”

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Manfred continued his comments, offering unprompted praise for Fiers’ role as a whistleblower.

“I want to be really clear about this,” Manfred said. “Mike, who I do not know, did the industry a service. I do believe that we will be a better institution when we emerge at the end of this episode, without a Mike Fiers, we would probably have a very difficult time cleaning this up. It would’ve taken longer. We would’ve done it eventually, but it would’ve taken a lot longer. I have a real problem with anyone who says Mike did anything other than the right thing.”

A's legend Dave Stewart describes coronavirus scare, testing process

A's legend Dave Stewart describes coronavirus scare, testing process

Dave Stewart is down 15 pounds, and feeling “about eighty percent” healthy.

All of this part of an illness, which two weeks ago, the former pitcher-turned NBC Sports California A's analyst feared was coronavirus.

“I was very, very much afraid,” Stewart said, who also suffers from asthma.

The 63-year old’s symptoms began while on a baseball business trip in Monclova, Mexico. The return flight to California is when he knew something was wrong, and testing for COVID-19 was imminent.

“Went straight from the airport, to the testing place,” Stewart said. “They didn’t even give me two minutes, rushed me into the tent, put a mask on me. And started the testing.”

That testing, as you might well already know about, is invasive through the nasal cavities.

“Two swabs, up these big tunnels of mine,” Stewart said about the testing process. “They put those things up there, I felt like they were in my brain. One for the flu, the other for the virus.”

Stewart’s breathing and blood pressure were also observed, in addition to an X-ray of his chest region. 

Eight painstaking days later, he received good news: Everything was negative.

But that didn’t stop Stewart from self-quarantining the moment he got home. And for good reason: He has a 93-year old mother and 102-year old step-father.

“If I’m carrying it, and I don’t know it, then I’m responsible for two very elderly people,” Stewart said.

“The people that I could touch, and possibly give this to, and possibly endanger their lives.”

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The 1989 World Series MVP is set to resume his role on "A’s Pre and Postgame Live" once baseball resumes. Stewart also was set to have his jersey retired with the A’s on May 23. But that is now inevitably better suited for a later date.

“This is certainly something I can live with, that’s for sure,” Stewart said.

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

We're currently in the midst of unprecedented times due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

But sports have faced major setbacks, with postponements and cancellations affecting leagues worldwide. MLB has not played a regular-season game, and the date of Opening Day still is undetermined. And yet, the Houston Astros, who were scheduled to face the A’s this week, might get a small break due to the delay.

Former Houston manager AJ Hinch and ex-general manager Jeff Luhnow’s one-year suspensions would be served this year, whether an MLB season is played or not. 

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Thursday, citing a source, that MLB will view both Hinch and Luhnow serving their discipline this year in 2020 because the suspensions were tied to the end of the upcoming postseason.

The league also announced the Astros would lose their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft as part of the disciplinary actions, and they also were fined $5 million. 

Astros owner Jim Crane then took an additional step and fired the two. 

With the A’s originally set to face the reigning AL champions this week in Oakland, it would have created many storylines centered around Mike Fiers.

Fiers was the whistleblower who exposed the Astros of their cheating ways during their 2017 World Series run. This subjected him to much scrutiny from fans, but Fiers also was dubbed a hero to those around the game.

For now, the earliest the season could start is around mid-May. That’s in addition to agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association that states the season cannot begin until there are no bans on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions and medical experts have determined games will not post a risk to the health of teams and fans.

The Astros-A’s series could have been the series that set the tone for the rest of the season across the league

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It appears that the tone is different now. Not because baseball hasn’t started yet, but Hinch and Luhnow would be getting a free pass in a way. None of us are playing baseball right now. 

That has Hinch and Luhnow waiting around, just like the rest of us.