Anyone who was a fan of Lenny Dykstra will be completely bummed out by today's NYT's profile of his plight.
Nails is facing multiple charges of fraud, theft, drug possession and other crimes and has been in jail since June. If convicted, he could be in prison for a long, long time.
Loge13 has covered Dykstra's drama over the years
but Harvey Araton's piece today reveals some new details. For example, Nails really screwed over his family, including brothers, his son and even his own mother. He is now estranged from them all and his wife has divorced him.
Meanwhile, Lenny's old teammates come out and offer some support and lots of theories for why Nails is where he is. Between Carter, Gooded and Dykstra, it has been a rough year for the 1986 Mets
An amazing read. Check it out:
LOS ANGELES -- Before promoting a single stock or venturing into the perilous world of magazine publishing, Lenny Dykstra lived the good life, essentially risk-free. He signed autographs, shook hands and banked the profits from his car-wash business.
"We had him on the payroll for $1 million a year," said Kevin Dykstra, Lenny's younger brother, who managed a string of car-wash and quick lube centers in the Los Angeles area for him. "He was enjoying his retirement from baseball, playing a little golf. But then Lenny had to go do what he did."
Known as Nails during a flamboyant 12-year career with the Mets and the Phillies for playing with abandon and running into walls, Dykstra is now surrounded by them. He could be in prison for years.
A life once brimming with unbridled energy and flush with cash has ground to a bankrupt halt. Dykstra's wife of 23 years -- the mother of his three sons -- divorced him. His mother and brothers are estranged from him. Only former teammates appear to feel sorry for what has become of him.
"Believe me when I tell you that his old friends, the guys who played with Lenny, are heartsick thinking about him being confined to a tiny cell," said Bobby Ojeda, a starting pitcher on the Mets' 1986 World Series champions and now an analyst for the cable network SNY.
Not long ago, Dykstra was the proud owner of an $18.5 million mansion in Thousand Oaks, Calif., which he purchased in 2007 from Wayne Gretzky. But since early June, home has been a Los Angeles County jail in a part of the city with no ocean views and where bail bondsmen storefronts outnumber palm trees.
Dykstra, 48, faces federal charges of bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice, along with state charges of identify theft, grand theft auto and possession of drugs. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts and recently boasted to his 5,500-plus followers on Twitter, "With your support, I will have my day!"
The promise, alas, was a come-on for financial contributions as Dykstra, who three years ago listed his net worth as $58 million, has been unable to post $500,000 bail and has been appointed a public defender in the federal case.
Even his authenticity on Twitter was suspect: the post was made by Dan Herman, a 26-year-old Phillies fan who idolized Dykstra as a boy, claims to be his business manager and said he was working on a Dykstra documentary to raise money for his legal defense fund. Another Twitter post on Dykstra's account last week said: "Violence is not the only way of setting fire to the spirit of a people! I feel the human will supports me as it has in wars of the past."
In a telephone interview, Herman characterized Dykstra as a well-meaning victim of "unscrupulous people" who tried to take advantage of his celebrity and of overzealous law enforcement officials in Los Angeles.
To those who have known him much longer, back to the genesis of Nails, Dykstra's imprisonment is at least partly a result of a willful recklessness that was celebrated between baseball's white lines but may have been fated to court disaster outside them.
Even as a player, he came alarmingly close. In May 1991, driving with his Phillies teammate Darren Daulton and with nearly double the legal blood-alcohol limit, Dykstra crashed his speeding car sideways into a tree, seriously injuring both of them. Two months earlier he was placed on a year's probation by Commissioner Fay Vincent after admitting to losing $78,000 in high-stakes poker games in Mississippi.
Within baseball's ultracompetitive environment, Dykstra was practically iconic among peers for his take-no-prisoners ferocity, Ojeda said. The demands of the game, he added, left no time to worry about possible long-term behavioral trends and effects.
"The truth was that we despised the guys who worried about their longevity, about getting hurt, and there were more guys with the same attitude as Lenny on our '86 championship team than with any group I've ever been around," Ojeda said.
"But there eventually is a transition to make, where you learn to self-govern and say, 'O.K., I'm dealing with normal people now and I can't play by those rules.' Obviously, Lenny struggled with that. If he'd learned to listen to other people more and to take no for an answer, he might have headed off some of the trouble he finds himself in now."
The problem was that Dykstra had long been conditioned to dismiss those who told him he was too small at 5 feet 10 inches and 160 pounds to be a major league center fielder, much less a star. He joined the Mets in 1985, sharing time with Mookie Wilson, after advancing through the Mets' minor league system in four years.
"In a sport where we were all hoping we were going to be great, he acted like he knew he was going to be great," said Ron Darling, also a Mets starting pitcher in those years and a broadcaster now. "He was unlike anyone I'd ever met. We used to think of Southern California guys as kind of soft surfer types. Lenny was the opposite, the original skateboard dude, the guy who broke into your house and took a swim in your pool."
In Class A ball, Dykstra played under his eventual Mets manager, Davey Johnson, who lectured him on the wisdom of hitting line drives, playing small ball. Dykstra heeded the advice for most of his time with the Mets, but by 1993, with Dykstra having gone to Philadelphia in a 1989 trade, his body type changed drastically.
With muscle packed onto muscle, he had career highs in home runs (19) and doubles (44) and was second in the National League's Most Valuable Player award voting to Barry Bonds after leading the Phillies to the World Series.
Injured often throughout his career, Dykstra played his last season in baseball in 1996. He was 33. But few were surprised 11 years later when he was caught in the net cast by baseball's investigation into anabolic steroid use. Dykstra denied it but his brother Kevin -- embittered by Lenny's divestiture of the car-wash businesses for $51 million and not paid the $4 million he claimed he had been promised -- cooperated with the former senator George J. Mitchell, who headed the investigation.
Kevin Dykstra, a former minor league umpire, told Mitchell that he had been a source of his brother's recreational and performance-enhancing drugs.
"Lenny's whole thing was that he always wanted to be bigger, in every way," Kevin Dykstra said in a telephone interview. "After baseball, he was just never happy with what he had. He had a $4 million house, but he had to get Gretzky's house. He had nice cars, but he had to have a Maybach. He flew first class, but he wanted his own private jet."
Wayne Neilsen, who is the brother of Lenny and Kevin Dykstra's mother, Marilyn, and also worked in the car-wash business, supported Kevin Dykstra's claim of an equity stake in the business. "He screwed us all out of money," Neilsen said in a telephone interview. "He didn't do right by his family and we've kind of disowned him."
By the time of the Mitchell report, Dykstra had moved on to a short-lived prominence as a stock-picking savant with the blessing of Jim Cramer of CNBC's "Mad Money." As with Dan Herman and others who hitched themselves to Dykstra during his well-publicized financial rise, Cramer's fascination would seem to have been at least partly rooted in baseball rooting. He grew up in Philadelphia, and one of his first jobs was selling ice cream at Veterans Stadium.
In 2005 Cramer gave Dykstra a stock investment column on the TheStreet.com, a Web site he co-founded. Customers paid $999.95 a year for Dykstra's advice, which was mixed with baseball aphorisms.
Chris Frankie, another onetime Dykstra and Mets fan, edited the column and said that Dykstra's market prowess was no fabrication, as some came to believe as his life fell apart.
"I do think Lenny was deceptively smart in a lot of ways," Frankie said. "He didn't know everything about every company; he had about 100 stocks that he followed. He had a research assistant. He made picks when I was with him."
Cramer insisted that Dykstra had legitimate market instincts, as long as he mimicked his baseball career, tried to hit singles and doubles, and didn't swing for the fences.
"Lenny was doing really well, coming up with some terrific winning ideas," Cramer wrote in an e-mail. "And then, well, honestly, I don't know. It's a sad story."
Frankie and others who have worked with Dykstra said that his desire to live like a corporate kingpin, his fascination with private jets and his decision in 2008 to publish a glossy magazine intended to financially guide wealthy professional athletes hastened his downfall.
As business became more complex, his behavior became erratic and his relationships more hostile. He badgered employees all hours of the night, disavowed debts and operated on whims. According to Frankie, he frequently spiced conversations with quotations from a favorite movie, Oliver Stone's "Wall Street."
Ron Darling recalled a telephone call from Dykstra about the time he was pitching his magazine, The Players Club, which distributed several issues free to athletes and sports industry executives before going under.
Darling said: "Out of the blue, he said: 'Dude, I've got a pitch in to A.I.G. Why don't you come over? These guys like you.' "
Darling declined, but many did business with Dykstra and soon after regretted it. By July 2009, when he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, he was awash in multiple court actions by creditors as large as the former Washington Mutual and as small as an older brother, Brian, who sued him for back pay related to the car washes.
His image and empire disintegrating, bills went unpaid and employees and even prospective employees were saddled with expenses as routine as interviews over dinner. The unluckiest employees were pressured into providing him credit card access with the promise they would be paid back with interest.
"One of the dumbest decisions I ever made, giving him my American Express card information," said Kevin Coughlin, who left another job to become photo director for The Players Club, in part because Dykstra had been one of his favorite players.
Coughlin said that Dykstra ran up tens of thousands of dollars on his card, including one $32,000 charge for a leased jet from Atlanta to Helena, Mont., where Dykstra's son, Cutter, was playing minor league ball. Coughlin worked only 67 days for Dykstra, but it took months to recover the money.
Kevin Dykstra said Lenny used the same credit card ruse on their mother, Marilyn, and alleged that his brother invested, and lost, the $700,000 bonus his son Cutter received when he signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Asked if the family has sympathy for Lenny, or any temptation to visit him in jail, Kevin Dykstra said: "Listen, we were once a really tight family, but we still can't believe what he did to us. You know, people used to say, oh, there are two sides to every story. Well, the results speak for themselves."
Kevin Dykstra said he is back to managing car-wash centers. But with three children to support, he lives paycheck to paycheck. "We had a $2 million business," he said. "Everyone was doing so well."
It is possible that Lenny Dykstra has similar regrets. He told Davey Johnson in a telephone conversation two years ago that the car washes had been his greatest investment because people would always have cars and no one would ever invent something that would make the business obsolete.
Upon hearing of Dykstra's other investments, and recalling how Dykstra always raised the stakes from hole to hole during their 1980s golf games even when outclassed, Johnson thought: "He'll either wind up making a bundle or losing it all."
He wound up doing both, with prosecutors readying evidence that he ran way afoul of the law in the process.
"You think about what's happened to Gary Carter, which is a tragedy," Ojeda said, referring to the former Mets catcher afflicted with inoperable brain cancer. "What's happened to Lenny was self-induced, yes, but to me it's also a tragedy.
"I know people may not like to hear that or agree with me, but I believe that at least some of this has to do with chemical reactions in the brain and that there are people who can become addicted to the action, the adrenaline rush, the same way they become addicted to drugs."
Asked if he also believed that Dykstra's apparent fate was predictable, Ojeda said: "Absolutely not."
After a pause, he added: "But would you have said it was unlikely? I don't know that you would have said that, either."