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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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 13, Orioles 8: Leonys Martin hit a grand slam out of the leadoff spot and the two-slot hitter, Jeimer Candelario, drove in three via a two-run homer and an RBI single. They play for the Tigers, by the way. Figure a lot of you were not aware of that. Heck, outside of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos, figure most of us don’t know most of the guys on the Tigers anymore. You do know that Manny Machado plays for the Orioles. Know that he hit two homers in a losing cause. Know that, given how the Orioles are doing these days, he won’t be with the Orioles too much longer, I reckon.

Cubs 8, Cardinals 5: Chicago built an early 6-1 lead on a bunch of singles and sac flies and stuff and Jason Heyward capped the Cubs scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth. Jon Lester allowed only an unearned run over six. Every Cubs starter had at least one hit. Anthony Rizzo had three. Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez had two a piece. After the game Joe Maddon said:

“This is so much fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Seeing inside the ball, using the whole field. With that you’ll see better situational hitting, better batting average. That’s just good hitting.”

Without looking, I’m going to guess that the Cubs’ eight-run outburst was, at least in part, a function of good launch angles and exit velocities. Not that Maddon would be the first person to engage in the fallacy of assuming mutual exclusivity where it does not exist.

Astros 9, Mariners 2: Charlie Morton tossed seven shutout innings, dropping his ERA down to 0.72 in his three wins. He has also struck out 33 guys in 25 innings and has walked only six. At this rate he’s going to be in a three-way race with two of his teammates — Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander — for the Cy Young. Seattle dropped three of four in the series and, as a team, went 15-for-100 against Dallas KeuchelLance McCullers Jr., Cole and Morton.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: Aaron Judge homered and, while the Jays threatened late when David Robertson couldn’t find the strike zone and loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, but he got out of the jam with only one run scoring. Judge — who a lot of you wise acres thought would struggle this year now that everyone is ready for him — is hitting .339/.481/.629 and is on a 48-homer, 152-walk pace. So, yeah.

Phillies 7, Pirates 0: OK, I think Jake Arrieta has finally finished his late spring training. Here he tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit and striking out ten. Rhys Hoskins homered, Odubel Herrera singled in runs in the second and the fifth, J.P. Crawford and Cesar Hernandez knocked in runs on singles as well. More importantly, look at the photo on the top of this post and acknowledge how spiffy Philly looked in these blues. Their only fault is that teams that do this should, like the White Sox the other day, wear the blues on the road as originally intended.

Braves 12, Mets 4: Matt Wisler was called up from Triple-A to make a spot start. Guessing he’s going to get a bit more than that after allowing only two hits in seven innings. Matt Harvey, meanwhile, allowed six runs in six innings and after the game Mickey Calloway would not commit to him making his next scheduled start. He’s just not the guy he used to be. Preston Tucker drove in five with a bases loaded double and a two-run double. Kurt Suzuki had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run homer. The Braves offense leads the NL in runs scored. We were all expecting that heading into the season, yes?

Brewers 12, Marlins 3: It was close until the sixth, when Milwaukee put up a seven-spot. Lorenzo Cain homered, doubled twice and scored four times and Ryan Braun hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer. Those three runs gave him 1,000 RBI on his career. Lewis Brinson — who came over to the Marlins from the Brewers in the offseason trade for Christian Yelich — hit his first two career homers.

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1: Zack Greinke held the punchless Giants to one run over seven innings, with a Brandon Belt homer being his only blemish. The Snakes got homers from Ketel Marte and A.J. Pollock. The Giants have scored only 51 runs in 18 games. That’s the lowest run total in baseball, tied with the Royals, who have only played 16 games. It ain’t 2014 anymore, is it?

Red Sox 8, Angels 2: And the Red Sox never lost again. Homers from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi. Eight runs on 14 hits against six pitchers. A fine outing from Eduardo Rodriguez. Seven wins in a row and, heck, even though it covers the whole season, 16 of 18 for Boston.