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OC Register: Whicker: What did the Angels know about Tyler Skaggs – and when?

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This is the 40th anniversary of the boisterous Pittsburgh Pirates, who shrugged off a 3-1 deficit in the 1979 World Series and won it.

All their noises were joyful. All the pitches they saw were hittable, and their strike zone stretched to the Goodyear blimp. And when they won the NLCS over Cincinnati, their spouses and girlfriends danced on top of the dugout to the tune of “We Are Family.”

Ever since, team-as-family has been a familiar marketing trope. A million media tape recorders are clogged with the heartfelt words: “This team is closer than any I’ve ever seen.”

It’s true that any shared endeavor brings people together, whether it’s Habitat for Humanity or community theater.

But you could also say that the clubhouse is tight because the players are not family.

In fact, teams are often an escape from family, an opportunity to belong to a group of colleagues without the blood obligation to grieve and confront.

We know that families can be hard places, deep sources of tension, disappointment, outrage, sometimes violence.

How many athletes-turned-fathers have put their sons through more hellish demands than they’d ever impose on a teammate, or someone else’s child? What percentage of American literature and music is devoted to the damage attributed to ties that no longer bind?

A baseball season is a carpet ride. A family is real life. And when the crises come, family members tend to do what needs to be done. If needed, they intervene.

Much needs to be learned about what happened to Tyler Skaggs on July 1. But even though we fondly remember all the “45” jerseys that were dropped onto the mound at Angel Stadium, and even though it still haunts to visualize Skaggs’ jersey hung up in the dugout, the Angels can please quit telling us they’re a family.

The club maintains it had no idea Skaggs was hooked on opioids. That will be the legal defense. Eric Kay, the communications director who is cooperating with the DEA, says he told his boss, communications vice-president Tim Mead, who says that’s not true. Mead, the most dogged defender and proponent of the Angels’ organization and an employee for 40 years, left to become president of the Baseball Hall of Fame in June.

Kay took a leave from the Angels for what was called “depression” but for what we now know is treatment for opioid addiction. He told the DEA he fetched drugs for Skaggs, with five other Angels eventually joining in, and that he got drugs for Skaggs before the Angels flew to Texas on June 30.

As all parties circle the wagons and the lawyers, one distasteful truth rises above all. If no one with the Angels truly knew that Skaggs was in trouble, that blows away the family myth, because, obviously, no one saw the benefit of saying so.

In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. There were 60,000 deaths from guns in 2017. There were 58,000 Americans killed in the entirety of the Vietnam War.

Given a real family atmosphere, either Skaggs or Kay or someone else would have felt the freedom to pull the alarm, to go to upper management with no fear of retribution and say that a 27-year-old lefthand pitcher and clubhouse leader was approaching the brink, and that action was required. There is no taboo in doing that, not when 70,000 people are dying of something.

Obviously, no one felt comfortable enough to do that.

Maybe everyone remembered Josh Hamilton. The Angels signed him in 2012 for $125 million and paraded him around like the MVP he was. They, of course, knew Hamilton was a cocaine addict who, in Texas, had the minders and monitors he needed.

When he relapsed as an Angel, following disappointing play and injuries, the Angels removed his jerseys from the gift shop. Hamilton wasn’t their brother, he was just heavy. They disowned him.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is just now considering testing players for the most serious drug problem in the world. It ignores opioids but sets up a system to make sure players aren’t bulking themselves up to hit artificial home runs. Then it winks and supplies the game with helium-filled baseballs.

No wonder players feel as if they’re just prime cuts at the butcher shop. They cease to become “assets” when their skills disappear.

Tyler Skaggs’ life is gone. Eric Kay’s will never be the same. Would one be alive, and the other well, if their workplace was a family that valued the telling of the cold, hard truth? It’s too late to know, but others can learn.

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And what about his real family? His wife, mother, friends  and relatives? Does this also "blow away" the myth that they were his family because they didn't know Tyler was an addict either? I hate hearing all the blame being placed on the Angels shoulders. If the Angels should have known then his real family should have as well. It is unfair to point the finger at the Angels and say they let this happen, when it is much deeper than that.

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11 minutes ago, NeverOver said:

And what about his real family? His wife, mother, friends  and relatives? Does this also "blow away" the myth that they were his family because they didn't know Tyler was an addict either? I hate hearing all the blame being placed on the Angels shoulders. If the Angels should have known then his real family should have as well. It is unfair to point the finger at the Angels and say they let this happen, when it is much deeper than that.

I had walked away before hitting send -- then saw you had typed this out...  But I was thinking the same exact thing.  Whicker spends a lot of time focusing on how a family would have known and done something to help him -- and yet -- that didn't happen.   Dude hid his issues really well like many addicts before him have been able to do, until the addiction won.

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I think Wicker is making a lot of assumptions here, that Kay is being honest and everyone else isnt.
I think maybe he wants that to be true to give him a soapbox to stand on... i pray hes very wrong. 
hamilton is very telling, this club did shun him, why would we now be so supportive?  We didnt gain anything from it he was one of the worst thing to ever happen to this club, why would we even consider going down that path.  its not really logical. 
I dont want any of this to be true, i pray the club was truly ignorant... but the facts are as yet unknown. 

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Lame article.

Sure, its probable that other players knew. Maybe even low level guys associated with the team. That makes them not close? 

Everyone here knows an alcoholic. If he/she doesnt drive drunk, get into fights or anything like that, do you step in and say "you need to stop"? No.

So if Skaggs or any of these other guys popped pills, which is far more common that many believe, but he wasnt falling down and passing out, what were people supposed to say to him? Especially if he started using them post surgury, and got hooked. For all we know, all players who get TJ get painkiller scripts. If thats the case, how common was it around the team with everyone getting TJS the last few years...

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Like I've said before....His Best Friends off the field even knew.....Grooms men! No one said a word. Or, even brought it up to his wife, mom, brother? Come on.... Not one of his closest buddies off the field ever said hey Tyler you might want to back off that stuff?..

The Halos arent 100% at fault here! They are an easy target because they were his employer, ownership is uber wealthy and he was involved some way with them 9-10 months out of the year. And his codependent co-user was an employee of the team. Doesnt mean the Halos knew Kay was a drug abuser either? Or, he would had already been in a company paid rehab or termed (for conduct unbecoming or something else).

And yes a Professional Sports team is a family as you are with those players for 6 months a year and sometimes you get together to train during the off season. It does become a Band of Brothers. I have many relationships with former teammates and the conversations flow as if we saw each other last week. Its relationships. They are all different. Teams band together towards a specific goal and yes there are times shit boils over and people tell each other to not go out and party or do this or that before a game, series, or during the playoffs. 

Yeah, and when it's going bad. Sometimes, negative shit is brought up, finger pointing, back stabbing, just like any other group! And sometimes, guys would disappear for a couple hours. Were they with their hookup in town? Doing something else? Or, just wanted to get away from everyone cause of the bullshit! Guys would go shopping for a gift for their kids or wife or girlfriend. A couple of us would go eat, movies, grab a beer...

Shit happens!

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