We know MLB likes to stick its head in the sand whenever something bad happens and hope it just all goes away. It will probably have to do the same right as the postseason starts in October. That’s when former Angels communications director Eric Kay will go on trial for the fatal overdose of former Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Over the weekend, prosecutors in the case filed a 19-page outline of the evidence they will be using against Kay, which includes testimony from five unnamed players who say Kay provided them with oxycodone. The trial will outline the operation Kay allegedly had for obtaining and distributing oxy, allegedly to provide himself with the drug.
Kay has pleaded not guilty to these charges.
Skaggs’ death on July 1, 2019 was caused by “mixed ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication ‘’ through counterfeit oxy pills that turned out to be fentanyl or fentanyl-laced, which Kay allegedly obtained for him. It’s been alleged that those drugs were delivered to Kay and Skaggs at Angel Stadium the day Skaggs died.
Prosecutors also say Kay traded Angels memorabilia for drugs from online sources, including offering a Mike Trout signed baseball. Prosecutors also allege Skaggs was the go-between between Kay and the players who were receiving drugs from him, as Kay wouldn’t be ever-present in the clubhouse.
The players haven’t been named as of yet, so we don’t know if they’re still on active rosters or not. The Skaggs family has also filed lawsuits against the Angels, Kay, and Kay’s former boss Tim Mead, the Angels’ former vice president of communications, alleging they should have known of Kay’s history of drug use, as it’s been alleged that Kay overdosed himself prior to Skagg’s death. The Angels deny having any knowledge of drug use among their players, calling the accusations against them “entirely without merit” and “baseless and irresponsible” and that they will “vigorously defend these lawsuits in court.”
Where this could go for the Angels and MLB is hard to get one’s arms around. Skaggs’ widow has said that the Angels clubhouse was a “toxic” atmosphere where she claims players were pushed to play through injury, which would easily be a route to them obtaining painkillers outside of the normal means to deal with pain.
When the lawsuits get to trial, if they get to trial, it’s a sure bet the Angels will look to portray Skaggs as an addict and tear at his life. That will not be a good look for anyone, but the Angels aren’t going to acquiesce to be on the hook for this.
The problem for MLB will spread beyond the Angels. Why? I find it hard to believe that the Angels had no idea what Kay was up to with their players, as Kay was allegedly involved with oxy for years, according to the lawsuit filed by Skaggs’ widow. The Angels have said the team conducted an investigation that “confirmed that the Organization did not know that Tyler was using opioids, nor was anyone in management aware or informed of any employee providing opioids to any player.” But if the allegations turn out to be true that the dealers Kay was buying from were coming to the stadium, and that Kay was using Angels memorabilia to pay for it, how could anyone not have known?
From there, it would also be hard to believe that this kind of thing was restricted to just the Angels. Players move around a lot, and those who are going to testify are very unlikely to be Anaheim lifers. Where did they go, and what did they do when they went there? And what went on in other places? MLB cracked down on amphetamines (greenies) that we know players leaned on heavily to get through a season, and while the league would like to believe that would curtail drug use entirely amongst its players, the 162-game season hasn’t gotten any less grueling. Did players find something worse to get through the schedule? That’s all wild speculation admittedly, but those are the questions that are coming.
It’s also a question why this hasn’t been a bigger story in MLB the past few days, as the entire industry has seemingly tried to put its fingers in its ears to avoid it. A player overdosed on painkillers, and there’s going to be a federal trial over it, and yet it’s going on in the shadows. The trial will start right at the dawn of the Division Series, and maybe MLB hopes the playoffs will keep it somewhat under wraps. But they can’t run from these scary and dark questions forever.