Athletics

A's Tony Kemp claims he didn't take part in Astros' cheating scandal

A's Tony Kemp claims he didn't take part in Astros' cheating scandal

Tony Kemp saw what was going on with the Houston Astros in 2017. He was powerless to stop the sign-stealing scandal that has enveloped the baseball world this offseason, but he did not partake in the crime. 

Kemp, who will compete to be the A's starting second baseman this spring, arrived at camp Friday and answered questions he knew would be slung his way about his old mates' trash-can banging alert system.

The 28-year-old, who the Astros brought up late in the 2017 season, told reporters he refused to be a part of the scheme.

“I was up and down in 2017 and once I got there in September, the system was already in place,” Kemp said, via Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle. “I just tried to keep my head down and play hard and not really concern myself with it.”

The scandal, which was brought to light by A's pitcher Mike Fiers, has taken over the baseball universe. Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired, while Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and incoming New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran mutually agreed to part ways with their clubs. 

Kemp played in 17 total regular-season games for the Astros in 2017, two in April and 15 in September. He wouldn't say which Astros players participated in the scheme, only that he got his hits the old-fashioned way.

“It was kind of out of my hands at that point, just having four months in the big leagues at that point,” Kemp said, via Slusser. “I got asked if I wanted to use the system and I said no. I felt like I was having a pretty good season at the plate in Triple-A so just wanted to continue to do that.”

A's manager Bob Melvin feels good about what he has heard from his new infielder and suggested the A's had watched video to make sure Kemp wasn't a part of the scandal, according to Slusser.

[RELATED: How A's plan to avoid Wild Card Game, improve on 97 wins]

Astros owner Jim Crane and stars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman offered a host of insincere apologies and explanations Thursday, while ace Justin Verlander, who has been vocal about sign stealing in the past, answered some questions and slinked away with his tail between his legs. Only new manager Dusty Baker, who had no involvement in the scandal at all, handled the press conference the right way.

The milquetoast apologies didn't sit well with A's left-hander Sean Manaea, who took the Astros to task Thursday after they an apology similar to a teenager whose only regret is getting caught sneaking out of his bedroom window at 2 a.m.

This story isn't going anywhere. A number of teams, from the A's to the Los Angeles Dodgers, should feel wronged by the Astros brazenly spitting on the integrity of the sport. 

The Astros visit the Coliseum on March 30 for a four-game set.

Stephen Piscotty carrying mother's torch by raising funds, awareness for ALS

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Stephen Piscotty carrying mother's torch by raising funds, awareness for ALS

MESA, Ariz. – Gretchen Piscotty was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in May 2017, with the debilitating disease progressing far faster than doctors expected. ALS has no known cause and no known cure, a neurodegenerative disease that eventually causes the loss of mobility, muscle control and the ability to breathe.

The Piscotty family did not go through this difficult time in private. Gretchen and the Piscotty family opened their doors to share this tragic tale, amplifying it with Stephen Piscotty’s status as a major-league baseball player.

The Pleasanton native was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals when his mother was diagnosed. He requested and was granted a trade to his hometown A’s to be closer to his mom during this time of need, when the Piscotty family and their close friends rallied to help a mother of three and a woman who supported so many for so long.

“My mom, when she was sick, was doing a lot of interviews where people were coming into the home, which was a bit uncomfortable considering the situation,” Stephen Piscotty said on Tuesday. “She did that not because she enjoyed it but to help spread the word in hopes that others wouldn’t have to suffer.”

The Piscotty family has continued that effort since her passing on May 7, 2018 by creating the ALS CURE Project, a charitable organization created to help fight and eventually beat this terrible disease.

“We’re just trying to carry the torch with this charity,” Piscotty said, “and our efforts to raise funds and awareness.”

Stephen’s father Mike spearheads the effort and runs the organization, which is expanding its fundraising efforts.

“He had a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment where he decided what he wanted to do immersed himself in community and terminology,” Piscotty said. “It’s incredible to see how much he has soaked in. My job is to help and promote and use my platform as best I can. We’re doing a good job as a team, and he’s working on the nuts and the bolts and I’m here to champion it whenever possible.”

[RELATED: What makes Matt Chapman is so confident in self, A's for 2020 season]

That time is now, with the first in a series of ALS Cure events coming up Friday at the Brandon Crawford Charity Golf Tournament in Phoenix. The Giants shortstop also grew up in Pleasanton as a star baseball player and, although their paths didn’t cross much back then, they have become friends in recent years. Their fathers know each other, creating a link that prompted the Crawfords to donate proceeds of the event to the ALS Cure Project.

“I’ve gotten to know him quite a bit over the past few years playing against him,” Piscotty said. They’ve been so gracious putting on this tournament for us, really. It has been great.”

The Piscottys will host their inaugural ALS Cure Project golf tournament on May 18 at Orinda Country Club, and the Athletics will host an annual ALS Awareness Day at Oakland Coliseum on May 24 when they host the Angels. Funds raised during that game will benefit the Piscottys’ organization.

“It’s great to see the involvement from so many in and around baseball,” Stephen Piscotty said. “Our story, like so many others, has touched a lot of people without the disease in their family. We’re trying to bring more awareness to a very rare disease.

“We feel like we need to push in that regard because it really is devastating. It feels very underfunded in regard to a research community that could create a drastic impact with the proper resources.”

For more information: alscure.net.
To donate:https://www.gofundme.com/f/piscottyals2019
To sign up for the ALS Cure Project golf tournament:https://alscure.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/ALSCUREProject1stAnnualGolfTournament/SponsorshipsandRegistrations/tabid/1129471/Default.aspx

A's Mike Fiers responds to Rob Manfred's vow to protect him this season

A's Mike Fiers responds to Rob Manfred's vow to protect him this season

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media Tuesday and addressed some additional questions surrounding the Astros' cheating scandal. One topic in particular touched on the safety of Mike Fiers.

The A's pitcher was at the base of bringing the Astros' sign-stealing to surface by going on the record in a November interview with The Athletic.

After exposing Houston, Fiers received scrutiny, mainly from Astros fans. Manfred, who appeared to be aware of what the pitcher had been enduring, wanted to make sure he was working toward a plan for his safety.

But Fiers isn't sure how they would be able to protect him, he told The Athletic's Alex Coffey on Wednesday.

“I’m not asking for extra security," Fiers said in the interview. "I’m here to play baseball and I can defend myself, if anything. We do have National League games, and I’m going to have to get into the box (to hit) just like everybody else. It’s part of the game. If they decide to throw at me, then they throw at me. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”

The A's will host the Astros during their second series of the season at the Coliseum in Oakland, beginning on March 30.

It'll be tense.

The A's will head to Houston not soon after that at the end of April and then another time in May and in July. All eyes will be on Fiers, whether he's on the bump at Minute Maid Park or not.

He knows the attention will be on him. 

"Listen … everyone’s mad at (the Astros)," he said. "There are teams that are mad. It doesn’t matter what it is, extra protection, I mean, what are you going to do? There’s not much you can do.”

He's doing his best to concentrate on doing his job as a pitcher in a highly-anticipated season for the A's, but it's not that easy. Teammates have shown him what's being said on social media, which surely makes him uncomfortable. Since he addressed the media at the end of January during media day, he stressed the fact he didn't want to distract his teammates.

[RELATED: Fiers feels 'ahead of schedule' despite distractions]

Those teammates, and manager Bob Melvin, stood right by him as more and more information spilled out on the scandal.

He knows there will be repercussions, we all do. But those shouldn't start, or end, with him.