Getty Images

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #24: Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman sue Al Jazeera

1 Comment

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.

In December 2015, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals and multiple other athletes, most notably Peyton Manning, were linked to performance enhancing drug use in a documentary that aired on the Al Jazeera America network. Their primary accuser was a pharmacist named Charlie Sly who worked for an Indiana-based anti-aging clinic in 2011 and was caught on hidden camera bragging about his alleged client list, which he claimed included these athletes.

For years, ballplayers who were alleged to have taken PEDs were asked why, if they truly were clean, they didn’t sue their accusers. In January, Howard and Zimmerman preempted that question. They sued the network and their accuser:

“Today I authorized my attorneys to file suit against Al Jazeera and its reporters,” Howard said in a statement. “Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies. I will have no further comment, as the filing itself contains all I need to say.”

“All of these statements concerning Mr. Zimmerman are categorically untrue,” the lawsuit said. “Mr. Zimmerman has never taken Delta 2, human growth hormone, or any other steroid or other performance-enhancing substance banned by the MLB.”

Major League Baseball, as it was required to, conducted an investigation. In August, it cleared the sluggers unequivocally. It’s official statement:

The Office of the Commissioner has completed its investigation into the statements made by Charlie Sly concerning players Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies and Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals in the Al Jazeera documentary “The Dark Side.” This thorough investigation did not find any violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by either Howard or Zimmerman.

Both Howard and Zimmerman fully cooperated with the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation. Mr. Sly did not agree to speak with the Commissioner’s Office or provide requested information.

Sly was shown to be a liar or, at the very least a braggart, and the Ryans were vindicated. Not everyone got out unscathed, however. in April, former big league catcher Taylor Teagarden, who was also in the Al Jazeera report, was suspended 80 games for PEDs. The case against him was a lot easier, however, as he was caught on camera talking about his drug regimen. Which, well, that wasn’t really wise, even if his big league career was basically over before that anyway.

Ryan Howard’s time in Philly ended in 2016, and he’s still looking for a job for next year. Zimmerman is still with the Nationals, of course, but he struggled with his health and production in 2016. Both of them, however, got a big win as a result of this whole Al Jazeera business.

As for Al Jazeera America: it ceased operation in April, taking the bench before either Howard or Zimmerman did.

Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord

David Maxwell/Getty Images
6 Comments

John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press reports that current free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord for damage to the rented property as well as missing artwork. The landlord is asking for $80,000 after having kept Rodriguez’s $15,000 security deposit.

The lawsuit says that Rodriguez damaged a bedroom TV, a crystal floor lamp, glass shelves in the bar, glass tiles in the master bath, and a Moroccan mirror in the powder room. Additionally, the suit claims that the bedding is stained and paint has chipped, as well as other damages. And the piece of art that is allegedly missing, which depicts a tiger, is valued at more than $10,000.

Rodriguez has not yet been served with the suit, but the landlord has been speaking to his managers.

The Nationals released Rodriguez, 35, two weeks ago after having signed him to a minor league contract in late June. He started the season with the Tigers, but struggled to a 7.82 ERA over 25 1/3 innings before being released.

Report: Rays acquire Lucas Duda from the Mets

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
13 Comments

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.

Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.