Major League Baseball announced that former Mets general manager Billy Eppler has been placed on the ineligible list, beginning immediately and through the conclusion of the 2024 World Series. Per the announcement, Eppler violated rules regarding “improper use of Injured List placements, including the deliberate fabrication of injuries; and the associated submission of documentation for the purposes of securing multiple improper Injured List placements during the 2022 and 2023 seasons.” The league added that the investigation “concluded that the pattern of conduct was at Mr. Eppler’s sole direction and without any involvement of Club ownership or superiors. MLB considers the matter closed and will have no further comment.”
The Mets also released a statement on the matter: “The Mets have been informed of the conclusion of Major League Baseball’s investigation. With Billy Eppler’s resignation on October 5, 2023, and with David Stearns leading the Baseball Operations team, the Mets consider the matter closed and will have no further comment.”
Eppler himself provided comment to Joel Sherman of The New York Post: “I cooperated fully and transparently with MLB’s investigation, and I accept their decision.”
Eppler, 48, was hired to be the general manager of the Mets in November of 2021. The club hired David Stearns to be president of baseball operations in September of 2023, with the plan reportedly being for Eppler to stay on GM, working under Stearns. But on October 5, he resigned and it was reported that same day that the league was investigating him for improper use of the injured list.
It’s still not clear which specific players were involved or what the details of the transgressions were. A “phantom IL” placement has been sort of an open secret in baseball for years. If a player is struggling but cannot be sent to the minors due to being out of options or having more than five years of service time, then a club may place him on the injured list with some sort of nebulous injury such as “neck stiffness” or “back tightness”, then send him on a rehab assignment to get some work in the minors and try to get things back on track.
Deesha Thosar of Fox Sports relays that she spoke to various players about the issue who agreed that “every team does it” and expressed confusion as to why Eppler was being singled out. To this point, it’s unclear if the practice was taken to some unprecedented level or if this is the start of the league planning a bigger crackdown on the practice league-wide.
Per Joel Sherman and Dan Martin of The New York Post, the league was tipped off to the practice with the Mets via an anonymous letter, so it’s possible that the club simply got caught in a way that the league felt had to be addressed. Commissioner Rob Manfred discussed the investigation back in October, saying he wanted the department of investigations to “figure out whether we have a bigger problem” regarding injured list usage.
Time will tell whether this becomes a larger issue or if it goes down as an isolated incident. For now, it seems like no other members of the Mets will receive any punishment. By being on the ineligible list for the remainder of the 2024 season, Eppler won’t be able to get a job with any other MLB club until then.