Jenrry Mejia’s Exit

Three strikes and you are out is baseball 101. Apparently, Jenrry Mejia only understands this when he is on the mound. Mejia is the first player permanently banned due to failed PED testing. He has now failed three different PED tests since April 2015. Three failed tests in ten months is a quick way to find yourself out of baseball. Everyone makes mistakes, but Mejia seems to be unable to understand his mistakes and correct them.

Jenrry Mejia floated between the minor leagues and the Mets between 2010 and 2013. He appeared in 43 Major league games between 2010 and 2013. In 2014, he finally established himself as a legitimate closer, finishing 49 games with 28 saves for the Mets. Mejia had 98 SO and 41 BB in 93.2 innings in 2014. The Mets looked to have found their closer of the future. Then the 2015 season arrived and just as quickly as Mejia’s star rose in 2014, it fell.

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Jenrry Mejia could have been the Mets closer of the future, but now it is all gone. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

On April 11, MLB announced Mejia had tested positive for stanozolol and was suspended for 80 games. Stanozolol is a synthetic steroid, made famous by Canadian Sprinter Ben Johnson who tested positive for stanozolol at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and subsequently stripped of his Gold Medal. Mejia served his 80 games and returned to the Mets on July 12. He pitched in seven games before MLB announced on July 28 that Mejia had again failed a PED test. Mejia was now suspended for 162 games having tested positive for two different drugs, stanozolol and boldenone. Boldenone is a veterinarian steroid, not meant for human use, that builds muscle and endurance when used in humans. It is bad enough to be suspended twice for failed PED tests, but Mejia failed the test twice for stanozolol. When you fail a test the first time, whether the failed test was due to a mistake or an attempt to use PEDs, it would make sense to alter what is going into your body to prevent another failed test for the same substance. Instead, Mejia doubled down on the same drug and added another drug for good measure. Coming so soon after his rise, the Mets and the rest of professional baseball must wonder if Mejia’s performance was real or if it was chemically enhanced.

Mejia managed to make it through the rest of 2015 without failing another PED test. He would serve the remaining 99 games of his suspension in 2016 and then rejoin the Mets for what, the fans in Queens are hoping, will be another trip to the World Series. Instead, on February 12, MLB announced Mejia had failed a PED test again, the third time, for boldenone. While he finally stopped using stanozolol, Mejia failed a second test for boldenone. This third failed test means Mejia is now permanently banned from MLB.

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Jenrry Mejia’s only hope now may only come from above. (www.remezcla.com)

There are many reasons a player would want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pete Rose, but joining Rose as the only other living member of the permanently ineligible list is not among them. Mejia’s stupidity has cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially millions. His banishment from baseball reaches beyond MLB. Mejia cannot simply sign with a team in a league in Japan, Korea, or elsewhere as international leagues usually respect MLB suspensions and refuse to sign those players. Mejia finds himself on the outside of baseball looking in. He could potentially sign with a team during Winter Ball, but the paychecks and length of the season are much smaller. There is some good news for Mejia. He can apply for reinstatement after one year. If granted, Mejia would have to sit out an additional season, meaning he would miss two complete seasons before he could return to the diamond. Mejia is only 26, so it is feasible for him to return to the mound. Although time is somewhat on his side, I am not sure how forgiving MLB will be with someone who has failed three tests within 10 months.

In some ways, MLB may use Jenrry Mejia to set an example. Mejia may not be a superstar like Andrew McCutchen or Bryce Harper, but he is far from a player who barely made it to the majors. Mejia was looking at a long and successful career with the Mets. They believed in him enough to resign him even after two failed tests. The reality is the number of chances a player gets depends on their skill and Mejia’s skills on the mound made him a risk worth taking. Now the failed PED tests change everything. A player failing a test when they are barely hanging on in the low minor leagues can kiss their career goodbye. A superstar,like Ryan Braun, can continue his career without worrying about job security. It will be a tarnished career though and shows that MLB’s drug testing is accomplishing its intended goal. It will never catch every drug cheat, but catching Mejia three times shows it is not giving players a free pass.

Any time news comes that a player has failed a drug test, there is usually a quote from the athlete saying something like, “I do not know how this substance got into my body. I never knowingly took this substance.” People then roll their eyes or believe in the statement, but the player remains forever marked as a drug cheat. Personally, players who fail drug tests make me sad, sometimes angry. It’s hard to believe a banned substance accidentally entered their body. I’m sad when I believe they made a mistake and angry when the player appears arrogant with their bluster exploding after their failed test. Players like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez are the public face of those players who no longer get the benefit of the doubt, and it is all due to their own egos and how they handled the media fallout from their failed tests.

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After multiple failed tests, Ryan Braun seems surprised no one believes he did not cheat. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Jenrry Mejia failed three different tests with two different drugs. While it may sound a bit odd, I would be more willing to believe any plea he might offer of innocence if he had failed the tests for a different drug each time. The counter-argument there is that he may have been changing drugs in an attempt to avoid detection, plausible and likely true. However, it would have been equally likely that he stopped using the source of the drug to avoid another failed test, but as bad luck would have it, he was negligent again of knowing exactly he was taking. I readily admit that failing three different tests on accident is extremely unlikely, though still possible. Mejia, however, seems to have believed that he could beat the test. He failed spectacularly three different times. You fail the first test, whether you are dirty or clear you will reexamine and adjust what is going into your body. Instead, Mejia continued as he was doing and added another layer of drugs. Not surprisingly, he failed another test. Again, you would think he would change what was going into his body. Instead, he only stopped using the stanozolol while continuing to use boldenone. Coming as a surprise to no one, Mejia failed his third test. Why would you continue to take the same drug you failed a test for before when you know the next failed test could end your career?

Jenrry Mejia was stupid, either willingly or through neglect. Either he is the worst drug cheat in baseball or he is extremely unlucky. Regardless, he has failed three separate PED tests. Ultimately, it does not matter how Mejia has found himself banned from baseball, he now finds himself on the outside looking in. The argument about whether gambling or PEDs are the bigger threat to the game is moot; both sides have a legitimate case but are both being equally addressed. While Mejia hopefully collects himself and cleans up, baseball is left to savor a bittersweet victory. The MLB Drug Policy is working. It is not catching every player using PEDs, but it is catching some. Once they are caught they are serving their punishments, which in the case of many are career altering and in the case of Jenrry Mejia the punishment can be career ending.

DJ

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