Photo via: CBS News
Earlier today, former Los Angeles Angels communications director, Eric Kay, was found guilty of distributing fentanyl which was the cause of former pitcher Tyler Skaggs death in 2019. Kay’s sentencing has been set for June 28 and he faces a minimum of 20 years in prison. Aside from justice for the Skaggs family, there are many ramifications that may come of this decision. Those ramifications could come down on: the five players who testified to buying prescription painkillers from Kay; the MLB and how it approaches the current labor dispute when it comes to negotiating a new Drug Health and Safety policy; and the Los Angeles Angels.
II. The Five Players
When the government called four witnesses during the February 15 trial, they uncovered the hidden truth in the Angels’ clubhouse that multiple players were abusing prescription painkillers. Those players were Matt Harvey, C.J. Cron, Mike Morin, Cam Bedrosian, and Blake Parker. They all testified the defendant, Eric Kay, provided them with Oxycodone pills late in 2016 and early 2017. Harvey was a key witness in the trial, testifying to giving Skaggs Percocet pills days before he died and becoming the second person put on the stand admitting to being a drug source for the late Skaggs. Harvey may have waived his Fifth Amendment rights for immunity to being criminally prosecuted, but that does not give him immunity from the governing body of Major League Baseball (MLB).
The testimony given by the five players in this trial could haunt their careers in baseball. Specifically, Harvey, if signed in free agency, could face an immediate 60 day suspension for admitting he provided opioids to Skaggs. Harvey’s admission in federal court qualifies as distribution under MLB’s drug policy. The league will begin its due diligence of looking into the potential violations of the drug policy now that the trial is complete. As for the four other players, they would not be subject to suspension unless they were previous violators of the policy. The reason they are not subject to suspension is because they only admitted to their own opioid use, but not to distribution. If repeat offenders, those players could be subject to a mandatory treatment plan.
III. The MLB’s Drug Health & Safety Policy
The MLB is currently in the heat of a messy labor dispute that has been unable to make much progress since the lockout on December 1st. This entire scenario will undoubtedly be a talking point in the negotiations. Depending upon what the MLB and the MLBPA determine, this decision could lead to tightening the Drug Health & Safety Policy and making it stricter to protect the image of the league. It is also noteworthy that however the MLB decides to discipline the players who testified, it cannot currently take action until it reaches a new labor agreement with the MLBPA. The lockout is a tool the league uses to move negotiations along and gain leverage throughout those negotiations, but with the verdict in this case being a major headline, the league might feel pressure to come to a decision sooner than not to take care of the impending discipline.
IV. The Los Angeles Angels
The Angels, who have already endured negative publicity, may have not weathered the storm just yet. Skaggs family attorney, Rusty Hardin, released a statement promising civil action against the Angels for allegedly being aware of Kay’s drug trafficking and calling for MLB to take further action on the issue. Hardin released a statement saying, “The trial showed Eric Kay’s drug trafficking was known to numerous people in the Angels organization, and it resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of one of their most popular players. We have no doubt the Angels knew what Eric Kay was doing, and the team is morally and legally responsible for his conduct. In the upcoming civil cases, we are looking forward to holding the team accountable.” Hardin makes it clear that the end of the Kay trial is just the beginning for the Angels in the courtroom.
V. Final Thoughts
The ramifications of this verdict will affect many players, team executives, and league officials in Major League Baseball. Suspensions, firings, monetary damages, and policy changes could be on the horizon for all of those involved. The longer the labor dispute between MLB and the MLBPA continues, the longer until it is clear what the ramifications of this verdict will be. In the meantime the Skaggs family can feel justification and closure, but they know a lot more will come from the loss of Tyler Skaggs.