On July 1, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs asphyxiated while under the influence of fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in his Texas hotel room. Last weekend, ESPN reported that Eric Kay, the Los Angeles Angels’ Director of Communications, knew that Skaggs was an Oxycontin addict, is an addict himself, and purchased opioids for Skaggs and used them with him on multiple occasions. Kay has told DEA agents that, apart from Skaggs, at least five other Angels players are opioid users. He reportedly also told DEA agents that other high-ranking Angels executives were aware of Skaggs’ opioid use. The Angels have denied that the team was aware of Skaggs’ addiction or Kay’s involvement until the ESPN report came out.
Last week news surfaced that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are in conversations about possibly expanding baseball’s drug testing regime to include opioids. There has been relative silence, however, regarding Kay’s allegations that several players on a given team could be abusing opioids and that team officials could be aware of such use. An MLB spokesperson said that “MLB was unaware of any of these allegations. MLB will fully cooperate with the government investigation and conduct its own investigation when the government investigation is completed.” That’s an understandable position for the league to take given the ongoing investigation.
But one can’t help but wonder what those in and around the game think about Kay’s claims to law enforcement. To that end, I spoke with six baseball sources to get their insight.
The six men with whom I spoke differ when it comes to assessing the specific scope of baseball’s opioid problem. They differ on how many players use, the knowledge and/or understanding on the part of clubs and league officials of the problem and whether Skaggs’ death and the fallout from it will bring forth changes in the way the league approaches players’ drug use.