Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez… There are a lot of disgraced baseball players these days. But there’s one who’s more disgracier than the rest, and that’s Lenny Dykstra.
Christopher Frankie knows all about. The journalist was once part of Dykstra’s inner circle. Then he wasn’t.
He’s written a book, called Nailed, which details his experiences. We spoke about how he got involved with Lenny Dykstra, when he realized it had all gone wrong and how Lenny’s kid ended up with Meadow Soprano.
SCP: The book is advertised as the story of Lenny Dykstra from a journalist who was in the inner circle. How did you end up in that inner circle? When did the relationship begin?
CF: In March 2008, Dykstra was flying high. HBO Real Sports ran a glowing profile of his business and stock market success, which included the sale of his carwash empire for $55 million and the endorsement of Wall Street slugger Jim Cramer.
That’s when I quit my job at a unit of the Financial Times to build an electronic newsletter business for Doubledown Media. Dykstra was partnering with Doubledown on The Players Club, his new magazine for professional athletes. The president of Doubledown wanted to expand that relationship to include an e-newsletter featuring Dykstra’s stock market picks.
Less than a month into my employment, Dykstra and Doubledown sued each other with Dykstra claiming Doubledown management didn’t have his permission to launch the newsletter. However, he liked the ghostwriting I had done for him and offered me a job. I accepted.
That’s the over-simplified version, but that’s how it all began.
SCP: How did you fall out of that circle?
CF: It was a painful deterioration over time with many incidents, which I detail in my book ‘Nailed: The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra.’ However, if I had to pinpoint when everything came to a head, it would be the day I quit. The staff I managed walked out on the same day, shutting down Dykstra’s New York office.
SCP: What led you to write the book?
CF: A few reasons:
· It’s an absolutely amazing story that I think will intrigue baseball fans of my generation, Baby Boomers, as well as countless others
· To set the record straight about the good, bad and ugly. The narrative surrounding this complex, sad, yet intriguing story has been to this point incomplete and underwhelming at best. Texture was missing
· To provide insight into why seemingly smart people got caught up in this web rather than just walking away.
SCP: In hindsight, it seems odd that a player with Lenny Dykstra’s reputation would ever have been taken seriously in the financial world. Is he just a brilliant con man or was some of his financial success real at the beginning?
CF: It was unusual when it happened in 2008 as well – that’s why it was such an interesting story. Don’t forget though, he had some high-profile endorsements and was featured in many magazines – he had apparently been vetted as a stock picker.
At first he was painted as a sort of Rainman on Wall Street. Later, when everything fell apart, everyone said he was a fake. That’s not really fair. You can argue his options system is flawed and misleading because of its focus on a win-loss record without capital requirements, and people can certainly question his honesty, but Lenny picked his own stocks for better or worse.
He also had some very good business ideas. But, lots of people who have good ideas run their businesses into the ground because of greed or hubris, etc. That said, I think when Dykstra got desperate, he manipulated and conned many people in his life. But, that’s a different question than whether he can understand a stock chart.
SCP: What was the tipping point? When did things start to go bad?
CF: The first sign of Big League trouble was when Dykstra took our payroll money in July 2008 to pay back a brokerage house for a $300,000 bounced check. This was a real wake-up call and a devastating blow to morale. That’s when the employee carousel began to kick into full swing.
SCP: Steroids, drugs, gambling. What’s the most shocking thing you saw from Dykstra?
CF: I was never under the misconception that Dykstra was a perfect human being. Who is? So the steroids and gambling in his past were both things I knew about going into the job.
There were lots of individual crazy instances that I detail in ‘Nailed,’ but thematically the most shocking thing to me was his apparent drug use in 2008, which seemingly got progressively worse during my time working for him (ie: staying awake for days at a time) and exponentially more horrific after I quit. One of the police officers I interviewed said Dykstra’s behavior was escalating at the time of his arrest – that he was becoming more violent. I’m glad I quit when I did.
SCP: Who’s Dorothy?
CF: Dorothy is one of Dykstra’s personal assistants I first met in 2008. And, like many of the people I write about in the book, Lenny has had some pretty unflattering things to say about her.
However, she still works for him to this day. For at least the last five years she hasn’t collected a salary and even loaned him money. I saw a recent post by Dorothy on Lenny’s stock-picking website where she detailed how she planned to pick him up from prison.
Many people, including law enforcement officials, have accused Dorothy of enabling Lenny’s bad, and often criminal, behavior the last few years. On a personal level, she was usually pretty nice to me, even writing me a letter of recommendation when I quit. However, she made a lot of really questionable decisions… and that’s putting it nicely.
SCP: Dykstra’s son is a highly rated baseball prospect (with a highly rated girlfriend.) Has his father’s checkered past caused any problem in the son’s career?
CF: I can’t say definitively since I have not spoken to Cutter… or his new bride to be. However, I would imagine this ordeal would be difficult on any family, famous or not.
I was working for Lenny in 2008 when Cutter was drafted in the second round by the Brewers (he’s since been traded to the Nationals’ organization and playing in their farm system). And, at that time, it certainly seemed that baseball-wise, Lenny had a positive impact on his sons. Lenny was teammates with one of the smartest ballplayers of his generation, Keith Hernandez, and I think he learned a lot from him. Plus, as I detail in ‘Nailed,’ as a kid and young man, Lenny had an amazing drive to dominate at baseball. So, I think his sons benefited from his baseball smarts and determination. But, 2008 was a long time ago.