The tragic passing of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs cast a pall over much of the 2019 MLB season, as fans, teammates, and team employees struggled to make sense of the promising player’s untimely end. Unfortunately, today’s report from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn indicates that the federal investigation into Skaggs’ death is foreshadowing troubling new developments (link).
According to Quinn’s report, an Angels public relations employee named Eric Kay allegedly told federal investigators that he provided Skaggs with oxycodone for several years. Apparently, Kay admitted that two Angels officials were made aware of Skaggs’ drug use “long before his death”, and provided Drug Enforcement Administration agents with the names of five other players who he believed were using opiates while they were Angels. Quinn cites “two sources familiar with the investigation” as the basis for this report.
Kay is accused of also telling investigators that his provision of drugs to Skaggs was part of a longstanding arrangement between the two men, in which Kay would acquire drugs for both he and Skaggs, with Skaggs covering the costs involved. Kay’s attorney, a man named Michael Molfetta, confirmed to Quinn the details of Kay’s statements, which were given in separate meetings with DEA agents in Dallas and Los Angeles in late September.
Unfortunately, this report seems to ally with allegations made by Tyler Skaggs’ family in the immediate aftermath of his death. In late August, the family issued a statement that read: “We were shocked to learn that [Skaggs’s death] may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels. We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them.”
If the details of Quinn’s report are verified over time, then the family’s statement may have been the first missive in a saga that could have far-reaching implications. We have already heard that Major League Baseball and the player’s union are considering new wrinkles in the league’s drug policy, including efforts to prevent opioid-related tragedies like Skaggs’ passing. It remains to be seen what consequences the Los Angeles organization could face if, as alleged in Quinn’s report, team officials were aware of Skaggs’ illicit drug use. Back in late August, an MLB spokesperson indicated to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times that the league planned to look into the family’s allegations of team involvement.
Kay is said to have worked as the Director of Communications for the Angels for several years; he is currently in outpatient treatment for substance abuse and has been placed on paid leave from the Angels, according to Quinn’s report.
Skaggs was found dead on Jul 1 in a Dallas-area hotel room, with “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication with terminal aspiration of gastric contents” cited as the cause of death by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office. He was 27 years old at the time of his death.