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

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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.

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.

Freddie Freeman’s X-rays come back negative

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The Braves got a scare last night after first baseman Freddie Freeman was hit on the left wrist by a Hoby Milner fastball in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was doubly scary given that, less than a year ago, the same wrist was fractured when Aaron Loup plunked him last year, causing Freeman to miss over a month and a half.

Good news, though: the Braves just announced that Freeman’s X-rays are negative and that he’s day-to-day.

On the season, Freeman is batting .288/.468/.492 with two home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored in 79 plate appearances.