PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia took his place in infamy Friday when he became the first player banned for life under baseball’s three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Mejia’s third positive PED test — this time for the anabolic steroid Boldenone — automatically triggered his permanent ban. He joins the likes of Pete Rose, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and other players implicated in the Black Sox scandal on a list of those who have been banned for life.
“We were deeply disappointed to hear that Jenrry has again violated Major League Baseball’s joint drug prevention and treatment program,” the Mets said in a statement. “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.”
“It’s not like they [MLB] say,” Mejia said in Spanish to Hector Gomez, sports director of Z 101 in the Dominican Republic. “I am sure I did not use anything [ster oids].’’ He added: “I will not stand idle. I will take this case to the ultimate consequence.”
Mejia’s agents declined comment, as did the players’ union, which in concert with MLB established the PED regulations in 2005 amid concerns of steroid use in the sport.
Mejia, 26, received his first suspension last April, an 80-game ban after testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. He returned in July, apologized to his teammates and found himself suspended again after only seven appearances, this time for 162 games.
He tested positive for Stanozolol and Boldenone. No player had ever been suspended twice in the same season for using PEDs.
At the time, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson expressed “amazement” at Mejia’s second violation, a sentiment that echoed the reaction in the clubhouse.
The Mets could have cut ties with Mejia after his second ban. Instead, they tendered him a $2.47-million contract this offseason. They intended to welcome him back to the bullpen when his suspension ended in late July. But Mejia still was serving his 162-game ban when MLB announced his third suspension.
Mejia can apply for reinstatement in a year, but even if commissioner Rob Manfred were to grant the request, Mejia wouldn’t be eligible to return for at least two years.
Mejia grew up in poverty in his native Dominican Republic, shining shoes to make a living before he began playing baseball competitively at the age of 15. Two years later, in 2007, the Mets signed him for $16,500, then watched as he made a rapid ascent to the major leagues.
With a booming cut fastball, Mejia broke into the big leagues at 20 in 2010 amid great fanfare. He missed all of 2011 after Tommy John surgery, then spent the next two years dealing with the procedure’s aftereffects.
Not until a role change in 2014 did Mejia recapture his form. Though he had been a starter for much of his career, the Mets moved him into the bullpen, and he eventually thrived as the closer. He posted a 3.65 ERA and saved 28 games in 2014, punctuating most of those saves with a signature stomp that irked opponents.
Mejia made himself into a millionaire, signing a one-year, $2.6-million deal to avoid arbitration, and was expected to reprise his role as the closer in 2015. But with the season barely underway, he received his first suspension, the beginning of a 10-month spiral of doping that cost him his career.
Pete Rose is the most recent, but he is not the only individual to receive a lifetime ban from the commissioner of baseball. Players and coaches given lifetime bans and not later reinstated:
Eight 1919 White Sox players: Pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, first baseman Chick Gandil, shortstop Swede Risberg, third baseman Buck Weaver, outfielders Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch and infielder Fred McMullin. Banned March 12, 1921, by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, for their involvement in allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series.
Gene Paulette, Phillies. Banned March 21, 1921, by Landis, for accepting a loan that was tied to a gambling scheme.
Benny Kauff, New York Giants. Banned April 7, 1921, by Landis, for indictment on charges of auto theft and possession of a stolen car. Kauff was acquitted but never reinstated.
Phil Douglas, New York Giants. Banned Aug. 18, 1922, by Landis, for writing a letter to Cardinals outfielder Leslie Mann in which Douglas asked Mann to throw a game.
Jimmy O’Connell and Cozy Dolan, New York Giants. Banned Oct. 1, 1924, by Landis, for offering a $500 bribe to Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand to throw a game.
William D. Cox, Phillies president. Banned Nov. 23, 1943, by Landis, for “approximately 15 or 25 bets” of “from $25 to $100 per game on Philadelphia to win.”
Pete Rose, Reds. The Cincinnati manager was banned Aug. 23, 1989, by commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, for gambling on Reds games.