Column: Target in Tyler Skaggs’ death is Eric Kay, but ‘others’ are most troubling
The word hangs in the air like a curveball that doesn’t break — “others.”
That particular six-letter combination appeared seven times in an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed against Eric Kay, the former Angels communications director, charged Friday with fentanyl distribution in connection with the overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
The term surfaced again in a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
The word “others” is an ominous presence in these documents, raising the possibility that one of the most tragic episodes in Angels history could be darker than anyone imagines.
The affidavit by a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent described how “Kay, [Skaggs], and others would refer to these pills as ‘blues’ or ‘blue boys’ because they were blue in color.”
The news release contended the DEA “determined that Mr. Kay allegedly regularly dealt the blue M/30 pills — dubbed ‘blue boys’ — to Mr. Skaggs and to others, [doling] out the pills at the stadium where they worked.”
The charge against Kay, 45, looked as if it was an inevitability since October, when the well-liked, longtime Angels employee was identified as the source of the tainted drugs that killed the 27-year-old Skaggs. That didn’t make Friday any less sad.
Eric Kay, a longtime Angels PR official, has been charged in Texas with distributing the fentanyl that caused the fatal overdose of Tyler Skaggs.
But there is more than heartbreak over the lives affected. The new details evoked a sickening feeling over what could be revealed in the coming days, weeks and months.
Who are the “others”? Are they also Angels players? Was Skaggs’ death a result of a systemic problem that existed or exists within the organization?
That’s certainly a possibility.
DEA special agent Geoffrey Lindenberg’s seven-page affidavit detailed a text message exchange between Skaggs and Kay on the afternoon of the pitcher’s death.
Kay: Hoe [sic] many?
Skaggs: Just a few like 5
Skaggs: Don’t need many
Their electronic correspondence resumed near midnight, when Skaggs texted Kay his room number.
Skaggs: Come by
Angel players place their Tyler Skaggs jerseys at the pitchers mound after no-hitting the Mariners.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A portrait of the late Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs sits atop the jerseys on the pitcher’s mound after the Angels no-hitted the Mariners.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles Angels lay their jerseys bearing the number of the late Tyler Scraggs on the pitchers mound after defeating the Seattle Mariners.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Debbie Hetman, mother of the late Tyler Skaggs, looks up after throwing the first pitch.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Angels Albert Pujols is hugged by an unidentified Anaheim police officer next to a framed jersey of Tyler Skaggs who was memorialized before a game with the Seattle Mariners.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Angels center fielder Mike Trout gestures towards a memorial of pitcher pitcher Tyler Skaggs before the game.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Angel players bow there heads for teammate Tyler Skaggs during a moment of silence.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Angels pitcher Taylor Cole places his hand on the number 45 on the pitchers mound in memory of the late Tyler Skaggs before the start of the game against the Seattle Mariners.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Angels starting pitcher Taylor Cole pays tribute to Tyler Skaggs before throwing out the first pitch.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
An Angels fan holds a sign for Tyler Skaggs before a game with the Mariners.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A marker is seen in the outfield in memory of the late Tyler Skaggs.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Emma Palacios, 15, and her father, David Palacios, 40, of Covina take pictures of a marker in memory of Tyler Skaggs.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Angel fans look at a memorial for Tyler Skaggs in front of Angel Stadium.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Julian Segura, 3, hugs his mom, Sylvia Menchaca, of the San Fernando Valley, in front of a memorial for Tyler Skaggs, after Julian placed a helmet with a message to the late Angels pitcher.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Karl Arriola, kneels in front of a memorial at the front gate to Angel Stadium before the start of the game.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Karl Arriola, 48, of Santa Ana kneels before a memorial for Tyler Skaggs, out in front of Angel Stadium.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
“Based on my training and experience,” Lindenberg’s affidavit read, “I believe [Skaggs] and Kay were discussing drugs, specifically in this case, blue 30 milligram oxycodone pills.”
The casualness of their messages indicated that wasn’t the first time Kay provided drugs for Skaggs. Lindenberg said he was able to confirm as much.
“During the course of this investigation, I learned that [Skaggs] and Kay had a history of narcotics transactions, including several exchanges wherein Kay acquired oxycodone pills for [Skaggs] and others from Kay’s source(s) and distributed these pills to [Skaggs] and others,” the affidavit said.
There’s that word again, “others.”
If the Angels have confirmed the existence of “others” or discovered their identities, they aren’t sharing the details. The statement they released Friday created the impression they were treating this more like a liability problem than a potential organizational drug scourge.
In addition to cooperating with law enforcement and Major League Baseball, the Angels said they hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation.
“We learned that there was unacceptable behavior inconsistent with our code of conduct, and we took steps to address it,” their statement read. “Our investigation also confirmed that no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids.”
The point about management’s lack of knowledge looked like a preemptive counter against a wrongful death lawsuit that could be filed by Skaggs’ family.
Meanwhile, Joe Maddon, hired as the Angels manager last October, sounded like he wouldn’t even entertain the possibility that Skaggs was the only drug user on the team.
“Honestly, I have not been a part of this investigation whatsoever,” Maddon said in an online news conference. “I’m as aware of it as you are.”
Maddon’s time with the Angels never overlapped with Skaggs’, but as the manager, didn’t he want to know what was going on in his clubhouse, if such a problem existed?
“Trust me,” Maddon said. “I know what’s going on in my clubhouse.”
He mentioned how he made it a point to speak to Andrew Heaney, who considered Skaggs his best friend.
But Maddon sounded less certain when asked how confident he was that any drug issues have been eradicated.
“I would hope so,” Maddon said. “I’m not an expert, but I don’t recognize any kind of issues right now.”
Maddon was smart to speak as carefully as he did, considering a disclaimer Lindenberg made in his affidavit.
“Since the affidavit is being submitted for the limited purpose of securing an arrest warrant,” the document read, “I have not included every fact known to me concerning this investigation.”
In other words, prepare for the worst. Prepare for the “others.” Baseball’s saddest story could become even more miserable.
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