Athletics

Why Mike Fiers won't dwell on possible repercussions of Astros scandal

Why Mike Fiers won't dwell on possible repercussions of Astros scandal

MESA, Ariz. – A massive flat-screen television takes up a wall in the Hohokam Stadium clubhouse. It’s almost always tuned to NFL Network.

That removes the possibility that baseball’s biggest story will be brought directly into this A's sanctuary. Frontline starter Mike Fiers is a major player in the ongoing drama of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He exposed it to the world and didn’t request the anonymity given to whistleblowers in other walks of life. He put his name behind it.

That makes Fiers a hero to some, a villain to an illogical and vocal minority.

Both sides are discussed constantly in the press, with perspectives coming in from virtually anyone drawing breath.

It’s regularly on other screens dotting the A’s spring training facility, with Fiers as front and center as other Astros found guilty of cheating.

Try as they might to insulate Fiers from the controversy circling him, the A’s clubhouse is not an Astros-free zone. It infiltrates everything here in Arizona. And, try as he might, it’s something Fiers simply can’t escape.

“It’s the big topic,” Fiers said Thursday in a conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I mean, what are you going to do? It’s going to be around. You have to play baseball. You have to do your job.”

That’s his primary focus these days, but Fiers concedes it’s impossible to maintain tunnel vision. He stays off social media but is often presented with its hateful toxicity. Members of the lunatic fringe have even threatened him with violence, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Athletics and Major League Baseball are aware of that, which is why commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday the league will do whatever is required to keep him safe. That could be an issue in Houston especially, whether or not he pitches during a three-game series beginning April 24 at Minute Maid Park.

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

Fiers isn’t sure what extra protection would do but doesn’t dwell on the issue much these days.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fiers said. “I’m going to protect myself like I always do, but at the same time I have to focus on playing baseball.”

That has brought welcome respite. He has been able to hone in on his craft since reporting to A’s spring training. Focusing less on the fallout of the sign-stealing issues that have rocked baseball and his role in it both as a former member of the Astros and the person who brought this cheating to light.

“Being here in spring training and focused on baseball itself has made it a lot easier,” Fiers said. “I can get back to the game we grew to love as kids, and I can just go out there and have fun instead or worrying about what people are saying.”

[RELATED: Anderson offers hilarious reason A's can't cheat like Astros]

Fiers has eased up on his no-comment policy regarding sign stealing and has come to accept the fact that the Astros controversy isn’t going away anytime soon. He also understands that he has a job to do as a pitcher and team leader, and those responsibilities deserve his undivided attention.

“It’s going to be around, but the more I focus on baseball the better off I’m going to be,” Fiers said. “I’m not trying to dwell on it or think about repercussions or retaliation or whatever it is. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. You just have to deal with it and move on.”

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.”

Why Matt Olson's walk-off in A's 2019 win vs. Brewers was so impressive

Why Matt Olson's walk-off in A's 2019 win vs. Brewers was so impressive

Programming note: Watch the re-air of Matt Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

Milwaukee Brewers All-Star closer Josh Hader has been almost unhittable when facing left-handed batters during his three-year MLB career.

But A's first baseman Matt Olson didn't care about the numbers on July 30, 2019.

With the A's and Brewers tied in the bottom of the 10th inning, Olson hit a moonshot solo home run on the first pitch he saw from Hader to send the Oakland Coliseum into a frenzy.

A's fans will get a chance to relive Olson's heroics from the 3-2 win Friday night as NBC Sports California re-airs the game at 8 p.m.

In a Twitter fan poll, Olson's walk-off beat out Marcus Semien's walk-off from March 29, 2018.

Left-handed hitters are hitting just .120 off Hader in 209 at-bats. He has allowed just 25 hits and six homers to lefties, so Olson beat the odds in order to send the A's home winners on that night.

[RELATED: Stewart addresses beating coronavirus]

Olson would finish the 2019 season with a career-high 36 homers, with 11 coming off left-handed pitchers.

He will have to wait an undetermined amount of time before he can hit his next walk-off as the MLB season has been delayed due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.