MLB announced on Friday afternoon that former New York Mets GM Billy Eppler has been placed on the Ineligible List through the 2024 World Series — effectively barring him from getting another job in baseball for the upcoming season — due to a “pattern of conduct” in violation of MLB’s rules regarding the injured list. Among the specific allegations included in the official release are “improper use of Injured List placements” and, perhaps most damningly, “the deliberate fabrication of injuries.”
Former New York Mets GM Billy Eppler has been disciplined after violating league rules, MLB announced: pic.twitter.com/fM2Ux5zsjZ— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@KleinschmidtJD) February 9, 2024
MLB first announced that Eppler was under investigation last September, just weeks before he resigned from the Mets — though, considering that New York had already brushed him aside to hire David Stearns as president of baseball operations, he likely wouldn’t have been long for New York anyway. It was unclear whether Eppler would land another front-office role for 2024, but now that option is very clearly off the table.
The findings of the league’s investigation are certainly damning, suggesting that Eppler not only put players on the IL under less-than-honest circumstances — fairly common practice throughout the league, if reporting is to be believed — but supporting those stints by fabricating documents sent to the league office. And at least in one particular case, that deception had some very serious consequences: Eppler placed outfielder Tim Locastro on the IL last April with back spasms, only for him to tear a ligament in his right thumb while on a rehab assignment and miss multiple months.
If there’s a lingering question here, it’s why MLB chose to bring the hammer down on Eppler in particular. To be sure, this is a serious matter that can have serious consequences on the health and future earning potential of Major League players. It’s also widely regarded as a game all 30 teams are engaged in to various extents, as executives look to park guys on the IL to free up an active roster spot while avoiding sending them down to the Minors or putting them on waivers. (MLB recently adjusted its rules to require that pitchers complete a 15-day stay on the IL rather than 10 specifically to avoid those sorts of roster machinations.)
Maybe Eppler’s abuse of the rules was simply beyond the pale, finally forcing the league to step in. Maybe someone with an axe to grind ratted on Eppler and forced Manfred’s hand. Maybe Manfred wanted to foster the appearance of taking this issue seriously, and so found a scapegoat who was unlikely to land a prominent job this season anyway. It’s hard to know from here, just as it’s hard to know whether this punishment will serve as much of a deterrent to the rest of the league. Until we see more systemic enforcement, though, it’s hard to seriously think that this represents a substantive shift in policy.