Pain and pills
There are too many parallels between Ken Caminiti's story and Tyler Skaggs' tragic death.
Pain and pills.
Teams and clubhouses trying to police players' drug habits.
The stories I heard while reporting my book about Ken Caminiti draw lots of parallels to the details emerging during the Eric Kay trial into Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs' tragic death.
While the drugs have evolved since the 1980s and 1990s, players are still popping lots of pills to stay on the field.
Sometimes a player's self-medication crosses a line. And it's tough for players and team personnel to recognize when that line has been crossed, or what they can do to help a player who is struggling.
Pitcher Matt Harvey told a Texas courtroom Tuesday that he provided his teammate with some Percocets.
"Guys are constantly doing what they can to stay on the field," Harvey said, according to ESPN's T.J. Quinn. "At the time I thought I was being a good teammate."
Such was the case, too, for Caminiti, who said he was introduced to greenies after reaching the majors, and who would later go on to give teammates a pick-me-up when they needed one. For some players, getting a greenie was as casual as bumming a cigarette off a coworker during a smoke break.
Ken needed substances to get up and come down from games. The concoction that helped keep Ken on the field became known as a “Caminiti cocktail,” a mixture of pain meds and anti-inflammatories to help dull the pain -- but those drugs would also make him feel sluggish and sleepy, so he’d counteract that by adding greenies to his pre-game drinks, and then maybe down a couple of cups of coffee.
After games, he would need to drink a six pack to come down from the high, or sometimes he’d mix OJ with vodka, but the pain would inevitably come rushing back, the cycle continuing again and again and again.
Harvey also admitted Tuesday that he struggled with cocaine, an addiction that Caminiti battled.
It's easy for teams to look the other way when a player is performing. When they aren't ...
In Ken's case, his teammates tried to help, taking turns deciding who would confront him to ask if things were OK and try to keep him on the right path.
Team personnel tried to talk to him, too. But at the time, they only felt they could do so much.
Baseball is a difficult career field, and a results-driven one. Deliver and you're golden. If you can't play or don't perform, you won't last long. Players will take whatever will help them stay on the field and play without pain, "loosey goosey," as Skaggs told Harvey.
For every Ken Caminiti or Tyler Skaggs or Roy Halladay there are lots of other players suffering silently, trying to mask their pain however they can, blurring the line between assistance and addiction. But the pain will return. It always does.