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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #19: Jenrry Mejia permanently suspended for a third positive PED test

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On April 11, 2015 Mets reliever Jenrry Mejía was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for use of stanozolol. It was his first ever positive drug test. He didn’t wait to long before his second positive test. In fact, he was still serving his suspension for his first offense when, on July 28, 2015, it was announced that Mejia had failed a test for stanozolol and boldenone to boot, giving him a 162-game suspension. The two suspensions, if fully served, would’ve made him ineligible until 100 games into the 2016 season. A season, by the way, in which the Mets figured Mejia would pitch. If not, they would not have agreed to a $2.47 million deal, prorated for the suspension, in January of this year.

There would be no 2016 in baseball for Mejia, however. Or 2017. And there likely will be no more baseball for Mejia again. That’s because two weeks after he signed his 2016 contract, Major League Baseball announced that Mejia had tested positive for boldenone once again. With his third positive test came a mandatory permanent ban under the Joint Drug Agreement. Mejia can apply for reinstatement at some point, but he will have to serve at least two years of a ban, making him ineligible until at least 2018 and possibly beyond. Given how long it will have been since he pitched by then, it’s not unreasonable to think that his career is over.

Mejia did not take the ban well. Instead, he lawyered up, claiming he was set up by Major League Baseball as part of a “witch hunt.” He claimed that the league fabricated his second and third positive drug tests and that the MLBPA did not sufficiently defend him. His lawyer further claimed that Major League Baseball works with third-party contractors to hack players’ social media accounts and uses the information it finds in PED investigations. Mejia vowed to fight his ban in court. To date Mejia has not filed any lawsuits. Nor has he claimed why, of all players, MLB would single him out in the way he claims they did.

Only one other player has tested positive for drugs three times in his career. That was Neifi Perez, who had three positive amphetamine tests. Those occurred several years ago before the penalties were as severe as they are now. As a result, Mejia is something of a trailblazer, becoming the first ever player to be permanently banned from baseball for performance enhancing drug use.

Mejia pitched 113 games in parts of five seasons and was never really that notable a player. He’ll certainly be remembered now.

Dodgers, Cubs could be interested in Justin Verlander

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network said yesterday that the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs have been engaged in trade talks involving starting pitcher Justin Verlander and catcher Alex Avila. Morosi also noted that the Los Angeles Dodgers have shown interest in Verlander as well. Whether this is idyl chitchatting of serious dispute is unclear, of course. Everything is unclear in the leadup to the deadline.

The veteran right-hander is carrying a 4.50 with a 120/57 K/BB ratio over 124 innings. Verlander impressed last year, finishing second in AL Cy Young Award balloting, but he has fallen back to Earth in 2017. His velocity remains high, however, and it’s not hard to imagine him going on a solid run in a way that could help a contender. He is owed $56 million over the next two seasons, however, and has a $22 million option that could vest for 2020, so negotiations for him could be tough. If the Tigers want talent back, they’ll have to eat salary.

Verlander got an ovation from a Detroit crowd last night which seemed to sense that, yes, it’s possible he pitched his last game for the Tigers. Given that he has 10/5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade, that decision is ultimately up to him. It’s not hard to imagine him accepting a trade to a contender, however.

We wait see.

A 30-year-old rookie won his major league debut

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The Dodgers beat the Twins last night thanks to a Cody Bellinger three-run homer. But Bellinger was not the only Dodgers rookie who had a notable game. A far more unconventional one is worth mentioning as well.

That rookie is reliever Edward Paredes, who made his big league debut last night. What makes him unconventional: he’s 30. Turns 31 in September, actually. Paredes pitched professionally for 12 years before making it to The Show. Most of that time was in the affiliated minors in the Mariners, Indians, Angels and Dodgers organizations. He spent time in the independent Atlantic League in 2013-15 as well.

Paredes did not do anything heroic last night. It was more of a right place/right time kind of appearance, retiring the side in order with a fly out, line out and a ground out and remaining the pitcher of record while Bellinger hit that three-run homer. That’s enough for a W, though. A W that Paredes waited a lot longer for than most pitchers who notch one in the bigs.