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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #23: A.J. Preller suspended for hiding medical information

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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 July 14, the Padres traded pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for a good prospect: pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Pomeranz was worth it, though. He had gone 8-7 for a poor Padres squad while posting an excellent 2.47 ERA and making the All-Star team. After acquiring Pomeranz, however, the Sox discovered that he was taking a medication that was not mentioned in the medical reports the Padres shared with Boston.

Later in the month the Padres traded pitchers Colin Rea, Andrew Cashner and Tayron Guerrero to the Marlins for Carter Capps and Jarred Cosart, along with minor leaguers Luis Castillo and Josh Naylor. The very next day, Rea left his first start with the Marlins in the fourth inning with elbow pain which ended up resulting in Tommy John surgery. The Marlins were livid, believing they were traded damaged goods. The Padres denied it.

Major League Baseball investigated the complaints of the Red Sox and Marlins. The Rea trade was partially undone, with Rea being sent back to San Diego and the Padres returning Castillo to Miami with no finding that the Padres did the Marlins dirty. The Pomeranz trade, however, resulted in Padres General Manager A.J. Preller being suspended for 30 games.

The reason for the suspension: MLB found that the Padres maintained two sets of medical records: one which they reported to the league’s central database upon which teams rely when making transactions, and a second, more detailed set for their own purposes. Preller was basically defrauding his trade partners, withholding information which was critical to any team’s decision making in an effort to give San Diego an unfair advantage.

This was not the first time Preller had been accused of and punished for transaction shenanigans. In 2010, when Preller was an assistant GM with the Rangers, MLB suspended him for three months and fined the Rangers for improper negotiations with pitcher Rafael De Paula, an amateur from the Dominican Republic. Preller’s 2010 suspension was reduced to one month without pay. De Paula, coincidentally, was acquired by the Padres before Preller became their GM and now pitches in their system.

The 2016 suspension cost Preller a bit of money and the club was fined as well. Beyond that, however, the discipline was not very severe. The time month in which he served the suspension– late September to late October — is the least-busy month of any team for transaction purposes. Preller was likewise not fined or disciplined by the club itself. For the previous year he had been embarking on a rebuilding process and, as far as the acquisition of minor league talent goes, it has been successful. Preller served his time, came back and continues on as the Padres’ GM to this day. Ethics are important, but baseball teams are in the business of acquiring the best players, and Preller has been pretty good at that.

The only additional fallout: at the November general manager meetings a proposal was made for a formal standard about what must be disclosed regarding a player’s health. At the time the new rule was reported, Preller himself gave quotes about how on-board he was with all of it and how critically important disclosure is.

There’s no enthusiasm like the enthusiasm of a new convert.

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.