A few years back, former New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia was suspended three times for performance-enhancing drugs in the span of 10 months. He was suspended on April 11, 2015, then again on July 28, 2015, and yet again on Feb. 12, 2016. I'd be impressed if it weren't so disappointing.
The third PED test triggered a lifetime ban under the league's joint drug agreement. Lifetime does not necessarily mean forever though. The joint drug agreement allows players to apply for reinstatement after two years, which Mejia did. Last July, commissioner Rob Manfred indeed reinstated Mejia, thus allowing him to play.
"Under the terms of our collectively bargained Joint Drug Program, a permanently suspended player like Mr. Mejia has the right to apply to me for discretionary reinstatement after serving a minimum of two years," Manfred said in a statement following Mejia's reinstatement. "Upon receiving Mr. Mejia's application for reinstatement last year, I invited him to New York to meet with me. During our meeting, Mr. Mejia expressed regret for poor choices he made in the past and assured me that, if reinstated, he would adhere to the terms of the Program going forward. In light of Mr. Mejia's contrition, his commitment to comply with the Program in the future, and the fact that he will have already spent almost four consecutive years suspended without pay, I have decided to grant Mr. Mejia a final chance to resume his professional career."
Mejia, who is still only 29, made two minor-league appearances with the Mets following his reinstatement, striking out 10 in seven scoreless innings. New York released him in November and Mejia headed to the Dominican Winter League, where he stuck out 19 and pitched to a 2.54 ERA in eight starts and 28 1/3 innings. Earlier this week, the Boston Red Sox signed him to a minor-league contract.
Jenrry Mejia signs minors deal with Red Sox— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 29, 2019
The Boston Globe's Alex Speier says the Red Sox liked what they saw from Mejia in winter ball, and given their luxury tax situation, the Red Sox are looking high and low for cheap bullpen options. Mejia could be one. Also, Mejia and manager Alex Cora were teammates with the Mets in 2010, so the Red Sox had some firsthand insight into Mejia as a person and teammate.
The commissioner has the power to reinstate players from lifetime bans and Manfred used that power to give Mejia a second chance. In MLB's eyes, Mejia is a player in good standing, so the Red Sox signed him. The rules have been followed. That doesn't mean other MLB players have to like it though. Soon after the deal was reported, several big leaguers took to Twitter to express their anger over Mejia getting signed.
What’s the point??? Smh— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) January 29, 2019
Peter Moylan, by the way, had a 3.66 ERA with the ninth-highest ground ball rate in baseball over the last four seasons, and he had to sign a minor-league contract in three of those four seasons. Mejia hasn't appeared in a big-league game since 2015, and, in his final full season (2014), he had a 3.65 ERA. I don't blame Moylan -- or any player, for that matter -- for being upset Mejia got a contract before he did.
It's worth noting Mejia's minor-league contract with the Red Sox does not include an invitation to major-league spring training. He'll be in minor-league camp with basically zero chance of making the Opening Day roster. That said, the Red Sox could call him up at some point during the season if he shows enough in the minors. If that happens, I reckon we'll see even more players take to Twitter to express their anger over a three-time PED cheat getting another chance.