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


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.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.