Mets' Mejia handed permanent suspension

February 12th, 2016

NEW YORK -- Former Mets closer Jenrry Mejia became the first player in Major League Baseball history on Friday to earn a lifetime suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. MLB issued a lifetime ban to Mejia following his third positive test for a PED, linking him with Pete Rose as the only people actively serving the league's harshest punishment.

Mejia, 26, tested positive for Boldenone, while in the midst of a 162-game suspension for using both Boldenone and Stanozolol. The pitcher's second and third positive tests occurred while he was serving earlier suspensions.

Mejia's agency offered no comment on his behalf, but the Mets issued the following statement regarding his suspension: "We were deeply disappointed to hear that Jenrry has again violated Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support MLB's policy toward eliminating performance enhancing substances from the sport. As per the Joint Drug Program, we will have no further comment on this suspension."

When the Mets' clubhouse officially opens for business at that time, the same brand of shock and disappointment that rippled forth from Mejia's previous two suspensions will be present. Once a top prospect who broke into the big leagues at age 20, Mejia battled injuries for years before becoming a reliable late-inning reliever in 2014. He entered 2015 as the team's closer, but another injury forced him to the disabled list after Opening Day. It was while sidelined that Mejia first tested positive for Stanozolol, saying at the time that "I can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system."

Mejia's season ended three months later following a second suspension, and his career now closes with a 3.68 ERA and 28 saves in 113 appearances. Though the Mets considered non-tendering Mejia this winter, they offered him a contract knowing he would be eligible to return in late July; had Mejia made the team at that time, he would have been entitled to just south of $1 million through arbitration.

Most recently, he was pitching for Licey of the Dominican Winter League, which is not among a group of affiliated professional sports leagues in Japan, Korea and elsewhere that honor MLB suspensions. Mejia will no longer be eligible to pitch in such leagues, but at age 26, remains young enough to build a career in any domestic or foreign independent leagues that choose to employ him. Though Mejia can apply to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement, he must first sit out a minimum of two years.

It is a type of ban that is nearly unprecedented. Only on the rarest of occasions has the league banned players for life: most famously eight members of the 1919 White Sox, for fixing games; several others in the fallout of that scandal; Rose, in 1989, for gambling; and now Mejia. Others, such as team owners George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott, received lifetime bans that the league later overturned, while baseball's pre-modern era included many examples of permanent bans, typically for gambling-related offenses.

Mejia's previous 162-game suspension at the time matched Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the longest PED ban in league history, but Rodriguez served his suspension and later returned.

Barring reinstatement, Mejia no longer has that option. In their former pitcher's absence, the Mets will continue to rely on Jeurys Familia, who developed into one of the game's top closers after taking over from his suspended friend and teammate last April. The team also signed left-handers Antonio Bastardo and Jerry Blevins this winter to supplement Familia and Addison Reed late in games.