In his book’s aftermath with accusations and lawsuits, the façade is torn from Lenny Dykstra

Books, MLB, Uncategorized

There’s a difference between a book review and the individual(s) behind the book. When reviewing a book, it’s a necessity to take any information that is coming from outside sources – even the author – and push it to the side in order to stick to the goal itself and read and analyze what the book and, by extension, the author says.

This is not the same as providing what amounts to an opinion piece – bolstered by facts – to gauge how truthful and accurate the book is and if there’s an agenda at play.

Such is the case with my review of “House of Nails” by Lenny Dykstra and my underlying opinion of Dykstra based on perception and facts from multiple sources that, to be blunt, are inherently more credible than Dykstra himself. That list includes newspaper articles in The New York Times, televised profiles such as Bernie Goldberg’s interview (discussed here on Deadspin) with a muttering, incoherent Dykstra on HBO’s Real Sports, and having read the book “Nailed!” by Christopher Frankie about his life working with Dykstra right up until Dykstra was arrested.

There are multiple sources that come across with greater transparency and less of a modus operandi than that which Dykstra presents his “everyone’s against me and nothing’s my fault” tome that starts off as, at the very least, a somewhat interesting biography of a unique character, and then veers off into a tattered combination of shaky self-defense and shady infomercial.

The aftermath falls directly in line with what precipitated Dykstra’s momentous fall in the first place. Rather than be happy he’s out of jail, make some money with the book and perhaps try to find a quiet, baseball-related job where he can stay out of trouble, he’s taking his return to fame as an opportunity to get back in the game of high finance and rebuild that wealth he squandered by doing the same things he did before.

It doesn’t take a psychic to see where this is going to end up.

Naturally, as the apparent truth comes out and the lawsuits fly, Dykstra himself admits to having a husband and wife editing team work on the book with him. The person who ran Dykstra’s social media campaign is suing him for non-payment. Veteran writer and sports book collaborator Peter Golenbock was helping Dykstra before he was fired and has chosen not to sue, but readily states that Dykstra used the chapter titles that Golenbock wrote.

Is this evidence of Dykstra lying for profit? Is he shading the truth harmlessly? Or is he trapped in the ambiguity of being a salesman who’s promoting his goods? Would Dykstra himself know the difference?

The Twitter account is indicative of the jaundiced view we should have of Dykstra. From the time it cropped up to being book promotion, there was something off about it. Considering how Dykstra comes across when speaking, does anyone truly believe that he would not just have the patience to tweet, but would do so in a way that was not only remarkably free of typos, but was also grammatically correct?

I called this one not long after he (or, more accurately, his social media manager) started the account:

The book is an exercise in self-justification with the sprinkled in wink-and-nod of him knowing that some of the things he did might not have been moral, but he was living the high-life with private planes, drug parties with celebrities, harems full of women and antics that would have made the hardest of the hard core partiers beg off at the debauchery.

We don’t see Dykstra as a stooped, slurring, sometimes incomprehensible and furtive ex-convict who’s telling stories and pushing products that we know in our heart-of-hearts are probably half-true and moderately effective at best. We want to believe Dykstra because the story is a fascinating tale of determination and unheard of achievement in spite of the obstacles that he he faced. We want to view him as a testimony to the value of fearlessness. We want to believe that someone of such modest upbringing, limited talent and lack of business experience was able to accumulate vast wealth and do so legitimately.

The reality is that he probably didn’t. The baseball career, even with the steroids, was real; the car wash business was a smart investment that he and his partners and employees made into a success. After that, who knows what’s real and what’s not? Did Jim Cramer use Dykstra for his stock-picking acuity, or was he latching onto an entertaining cohort for use on his show? It’s been widely stated that Cramer is a brilliant financial mind and also a WWE-style carnival barker. So do we believe the cogent Cramer who shakes his head and shrugs at Dykstra for overleaping, or the Cramer who was mentioned by Dykstra as a stalwart supporter of his financial skills?

Dykstra’s reaction to any and all negative reviews as well as legal actions that are being taken against him – with justifications from the pursuers that seem all too consistent and real with Dykstra’s history – is indicative that the author’s real self is showing as he’s called to answer for his behaviors. The star lust with the testimonials from luminaries like Stephen King and Jack Nicholson as well as the quotes from and defenses issued by the author of such vilified figures as Lance Armstrong and Donald Trump is evidence that Dykstra is acting the same way and doing the same things that sparked and hastened his downfall.

As this article in The New York Times illustrates, the “little people” don’t matter in Dykstra’s world. That includes people who worked and sacrificed for him to whom he replies “<Bleep> them” amid accusations of them of trying to “steal” his money. It includes family members. It includes former friends. Anyone who requests money for services rendered or to receive repayment on a loan is “stealing” from him the money “he” made and is graciously giving them. Using their credit cards to rack up massive bills to fund his lifestyle isn’t seen as wrong since, in Dykstra’s mind, they wouldn’t have had the credit line in the first place had he not “given” them money – money they worked for.

This is the logic he uses.

Everything about Dykstra has the earmarks of a scam artist and, like the “great, new, never before seen” invention on TV, we don’t want to think that we’re being taken advantage of by a crafty sales pitch.

He’s convincing. He’s aggressive. He doesn’t take no for an answer and keeps hammering and pushing until he gets what he’s after. On one level, that’s how he made it to the top of the baseball world and acquired all the money and toys he did; on the other, it’s also how he spiraled to the depths with blistering speed.

Did Dykstra work hard to achieve everything he did? Absolutely. Did he stomp on others along the way? Obviously. In its aftermath, the book comes across as a vanity project that just happened to be salable enough that a publisher wanted it.

Dykstra is not stupid. Some of his ideas such as the car washes with the baseball-related themes and even the glossy magazine “Players Club” were good ideas. He just doesn’t worry about consequences for what doesn’t work. And he doesn’t let professionals do what professionals, by definition, are expected to do and flesh out the ideas, making them streamlined, financially solvent and workable.

The lawsuits and allegations are eerily reminiscent to what he was inundated with prior to his arrest. Being sued is often a side cost of doing business for even the most successful companies. However, with Dykstra, the lawsuits are endemic in that he can’t do business without being sued.

The new, post-prison Dykstra wrote the book, explained his side of the story, and got predominately positive reviews for the book itself. It is entertaining. Now he’s getting sued; now he’s reacting badly with embarrassing Facebook videos to reply to criticism he receives; now he’s reverting to the Dykstra who was portrayed in articles, interviews and legal filings as someone who cannot take any responsibility for that which is, all or in part, his doing. The new Dykstra isn’t really new at all.

Advertisements

Mets Fans’ Negativity Toward Brian Wilson is Absurd

All Star Game, Award Winners, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MVP, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Underneath his cautious word choices, poker face, military cachet and known bio as an Ivy League-trained lawyer, Sandy Alderson has the true countenance of a “get the job done however you have to” Marine grunt. We see it occasionally when he’s had enough of answering the same questions over and over again as he did with his snide (and unnecessary) comment about sending chocolates to Jose Reyes; with his crack about currently not having any outfielders; and with his blunt dismissal twelve years ago of Mike Hampton’s decision to sign with the Rockies when Hampton referenced the Colorado school system. (Alderson said, rightly, that Hampton went to Colorado because they offered the most money.)

For the Mets, he wants players who can play and who fit into what he’s trying to build. This concept of signing players who have class and dignity is ridiculous and no one—not even the case study of a club that portrays itself as that, namely the Yankees—adheres to it. It’s a storyline designed to create an image and has no basis in reality.

The absurdity of Mets fans complaining about the “act” of Brian Wilson as a foundation for not wanting the team to sign him is so glaring that one would think it’s satire. But it’s not. Alderson went to watch a Wilson workout and while the erstwhile Giants’ closer is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Mets are said to be interested in him. If he’s ready at some point in the early summer and they can to a two-year contract with an option for a third, he’d be a perfect addition to a team that, by 2014-2015, will need a legitimate closer for a playoff run.

Wilson’s off-field personality is a matter of taste. Personally, I think he’s funny. Even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t care about that when assessing whether or not the Mets should sign him. He’s all business on the mound and that’s what counts. As opposed to other closers who are reluctant or outright refuse to throw more than one inning to accumulate the relatively meaningless save stat, Wilson has shown a willingness to pitch more than one inning and sometimes more than two innings to help his team.

Would the fans prefer to have Frank Francisco closing over Wilson? Why? Because Wilson has an over-the-top beard and draws attention to himself? Francisco Rodriguez, the last star closer the Mets had, was arrested for punching his common-law father-in-law in the face in the Citi Field family room and there were fans who: A) didn’t want him traded the next year; and B) wanted the Mets to bring him back to close for them when he became available.

But they don’t want Wilson. The same fans who look back nostalgically on the 1980s Mets whose on-field attitude was closer to that of a street gang than a baseball team and whose partying led to them winning one championship with a squad that should have won at least three and probably five; a team that has had multiple members—Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Dwight Gooden, Wally Backman—in trouble with the law, is seen as a beacon in the organization’s existence, yet they don’t want Wilson because of his beard and Lady Gaga-like “look at me!!” persona.

In his time as Athletics GM in the 1980s, Alderson wasn’t trying to score political points or build a G-rated theme park when he tolerated Jose Canseco’s act and had players who were using steroids without his consent to accumulate cartoonish muscles and hit home runs; he had Rickey Henderson on his team, a player who never met a management who couldn’t irritate; his manager was the notably egomaniacal and difficult Tony LaRussa. Alderson’s not building a military where conformity is necessary. He wants people who can play and help his team win. Period.

Wilson, as quirky as he is, has never had an incident off the field, nor have we heard of him being a clubhouse problem. If the Mets can get him at a discounted rate and he’s healthy, his post-season bona fides and willingness to do whatever is necessary to help the team win without complaint or thought of his own health and future would be a welcome change to a clubhouse that could use his fastball and veteran grit to counteract a vanilla group. Wilson cultivates the publicity and will gladly say, “I’ll take the heat. Follow me.” As much as David Wright is the acknowledged leader of the Mets, he doesn’t have that edge that Wilson would bring.

There’s no basis in saying “no” to him for his beard or tattoos or any off-field reason that’s not hurting anyone. “He annoys me,” is not a reason. Closing is more mentality than stuff and if Wilson has the mentality. If he can return to some semblance of form, the Mets should try and get him because he’d help them win more games. And that’s all that really matters.

//

Curt Schilling Witlessly Follows The Lenny Dykstra Business Model

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Curt Schilling is a believer.

When he sticks to his Republican talking points, ends his self-righteous blog postings with “God bless you and God bless the United States of America” as if he’s concluding a Presidential address and appears as a prize showhorse at GOP events, he truly thinks he’s a part of the culture and is adhering to the strict principles of conservatism.

In a way it’s admirable. In another it’s stupid.

Perhaps Schilling was under the naïve impression that his Republican pals would bail him if he ran into trouble with his video game business. He was a “job creator” after all—the same type of person whose plans for expansion are strangled by a “socialist” administration bent on robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Schilling received a $75 million loan guarantee from the state of Rhode Island to move his company there from Massachusetts. The guarantee was provided by the ousted Republican Governor of the state, Donald Carcieri. Now that the former liberal Republican and now Independent Lincoln Chafee is the Governor, there’s a back and forth as to whom is responsible for the demise of Schilling’s company and what’s going to be done in its aftermath.

You can read the news story here on Boston.com.

It sounds as if Schilling’s looking for more money. Saying that he stands to lose the $50 million he claims to have left from his playing days isn’t going to elicit sympathy from the people of Rhode Island, nor is it going to persuade any “friend” Schilling has in the Republican party to stand up for him especially if he can no longer help them get elected.

Schilling’s adherence to the system is going to be his downfall. All he need do is look at how quickly Roger Clemens’s supporters ran from him once he found himself on trial for perjury. The battle lines were drawn at the congressional hearing when Clemens forcefully proclaimed his innocence of using PEDs and—according to the government—perjured himself in the process. The Republicans in the hearing were starstruck and aghast at the Democrats’ attacks on Clemens. Then their support withered away once Clemens became a detriment. Now he’s on trial and one would assume a vast chunk of his fortune is going towards legal fees.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Schilling made over $114 million as a player in his career. Those who think that’s all he made are not accounting for endorsements and other income that’s not counted in a player’s salary such as per diem benefits, licensing fees for things such as baseball cards and other enticements received by athletes that would be plenty for a normal person to live on quite comfortably. He’ll still receive his players’ pension.

It’s irrelevant whether or not the business model Schilling used to get the loan was solid enough to warrant a $75 million guarantee from Rhode Island or if Schilling was risking his own money. It’s his company and he’s responsible for it. For someone like Schilling this is a combination of the worst case scenario personally and publicly. He idealism has reverberated back on him and, in spite of his intentions, he’s left to portray himself as another victim of the economic downturn and political expediency.

He wants a bailout that neither the government nor the taxpayer are not going to want to give him. The United States couldn’t function without the banking industry and the auto industry—other recipients of such bailouts. It will survive the destruction of Schilling’s video game company.

Maybe he’ll be able to go to people from his baseball playing days to find a path out of this mess, but given his polarizing personality I can’t foresee anyone doing anything more than giving him a job as a coach or broadcaster and that’s not going to get him the money he needs. A tell-all book would make him Jose Canseco-money, but that won’t clear the debts either. No one will do what Rhode Island did and hand him a check.

Schilling sought to be an entrepreneur when he might’ve been better off holding onto his money. If he had $50 million, was that not suitable? He had to try and be a big shot and put his money where his principles were under the mistaken belief that this endeavor was a version of giving back and practicing what he preached as an overt supporter of conservative causes? Not everyone can be an innovator, a job-creator or a business titan. Some people are meant to do what it was Schilling did: throw a baseball.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

He’s learning the hard way.

Lenny Dykstra tried to create a vast empire of his own. He had a string of successful car washes that would’ve kept him comfortable for the rest of his life with little effort on his part, but he wanted more. He had to be a “player” as his ill-fated magazine “The Players Club” will attest. His schemes were ludicrous. Now he’s in jail and under siege by endless lawsuits.

Schilling was the polar opposite of Dykstra but his finances are heading for the same place. It’s likely because they both had delusions of grandeur and the mistaken thought that because they were successful as athletes and people cheered for them when they were in uniform that the blind idolatry would easily translate into the business world. If it didn’t work, well, there’s always someone to bail them out.

It’s not the case and Schilling could wind up a broken man in every conceivable sense because of it.

This doesn’t make Schilling a bad person as some suggest. But it does make him the epitome of what he railed against in his politics. No one wants to be called a hypocrite, but that’s the least of Schilling’s problems right now.

//

Bryce Harper In Center Field is a Bad Idea

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

It’s good to know that Davey Johnson hasn’t entered the realm of the elderly manager.

Given how thin he looks and that his voice seemed to be a shell of what it once was after taking over the Nationals last summer, it’s still a question as to how much of a managerial fastball he has left and if he’s going to maintain his energy throughout the season. I might be reminiscing about the manager of the 1980s Mets who dealt with a star-studded, young and out-of-control team that was lucky to stay out of jail while they were playing.

Their scrapes with the law (and more) had to wait until their playing careers were over: see Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry and Wally Backman.

Now he’s having a spring training look at Bryce Harper in center field and is insistent that there’s a legitimate chance that the 19-year-old will make the big league club to start the season.

Can Harper play center field?

Johnson thinks he can and the youngster played 20 games at the position in A-ball last season.

But is it a good idea?

Probably not.

Johnson doesn’t have the greatest history with adhering to reality when he believes in something strongly and that’s a detriment to being a truly great manager. In Johnson’s category of managers are Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa who at times blindly stuck to failing strategies rather than acknowledge that they were wrong about anything. They clung to decisions they made even if they were hurting the team.

Johnson is the same man who, as manager of the Mets, stuck Kevin Mitchell and Howard Johnson at shortstop; continually wrote Gregg Jefferies’s name in the lineup when he needed to be sent down; put Keith Miller in center field; and absolutely refused to tell Strawberry to move from his Shea Stadium strawberry patch of faded grass which was his position—within a 15 foot radius—against every hitter on every pitch.

Johnson’s ego was part of the reason he was such a successful manager and able to keep that Mets group in line to a certain degree, but it was also part of the reason that most of his teams faltered at the end. Had the 1980s Mets paid a bit more attention to defense and fundamentals rather than starting pitching and home runs, they could’ve won more than one championship.

Johnson needs a rein on his over-the-top calls. It seems that the Nationals are entertaining the thought of having Harper break camp with the big league team.

If they deem him ready physically and especially emotionally; if they feel he can help the team contend, then by all means they should do it. But in center field?

No.

If they bring him North, Jayson Werth can play center field and Harper can play right. With all the scrutiny that will surround him, Harper doesn’t need to be learning a new position for a team that expects to win and a veteran pitching staff hounding him if he fails to make a play that an experienced center fielder would make.

Johnson needs someone to check him. In his other managerial stops, Johnson would be told to do something by upper management, then ignore it when he wrote the lineup cards.

He’s a great manager, but he’s made the same mistakes before. It shouldn’t happen again.

Click here to listen to my appearance with Les Norman on Breakin’ the Norm.

My new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.

//

And Wally Backman As Billy Martin

All Star Game, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires

With Sandy Alderson running the Mets, Wally Backman is never, ever going to be the manager of the team.

In fact, the only way Backman would ever be named manager of the club is if they’re so terrible that they’re going to win between 60-70 games regardless of whom the manager is, so they might as well have someone who’s got the potential to draw attention to himself one way or the other, positively or negatively.

By that reasoning, they could have Lenny Dykstra manage the team from jail.

It’s not that Backman doesn’t have the baseball smarts or dedication to be a successful manager—he loves baseball and was as fiery and determined as a player as he’s been and would be as manager; but he’s too much of a risk; a loose cannon with a history of off-field issues that still aren’t clear as to whether they’ve been completely resolved. He’s a Billy Martin clone and the only way Martin was able to last as long as he did in baseball was because George Steinbrenner kept bringing him back when he had no one else to turn to.

Martin was a great manager with zero self-control and a self-destructive streak second-to-none. If he were managing today, he wouldn’t be managing today because the age of information at the click of a button would make it all but impossible to cover up the latest bar fight; foray to a strip club; or arrival at the ballpark 15 minutes before first pitch hung over.

Backman didn’t get the job as Mets bench coach and is now rumored to be a candidate to take over as the third base coach for the Washington Nationals if, as expected, former Mets manager Davey Johnson stays on as Nats manager.

The Mets bench coach job went to veteran baseball man and former Athletics manager Bob Geren.

If I were Mets manager Terry Collins, I wouldn’t have wanted Backman either. Backman would undermine; he’d be someone to watch for a backstabbing action; and he’d be less a sounding board/assistant than a self-interested threat. That’s not what you want in a bench coach.

After the way his time as the A’s manager ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if Geren didn’t want to manage again at all and in spite of the way the players ripped him, he was a respected and successful minor league manager whose A’s teams weren’t particularly good for most of his tenure.

If Backman wants to stay with the Mets, he’s going to have a job managing somewhere in the minors, presumably at Buffalo to replace Tim Teufel who’s taking over for Chip Hale as third base coach.

Given the Mets history of hiring managers, they haven’t promoted the Triple A manager since Bobby Valentine in 1996 and Valentine was an experienced big league manager whose list of transgressions were all within the game; Backman’s aren’t.

His act would not work with veteran players. In fact, one of the fears teams had in hiring Collins was his in-your-face attitude and searing intensity; he’s toned that down. Backman is the same guy as Collins was and that’s the last thing the Mets need.

Contrary to a belief stemming from faulty logic, fans don’t go to games to watch a manager manage. If there’s a spike in attendance when a name manager is hired, it’s because said name manager won’t take the job unless he has guarantees that his new team is going to bring in players so he can win.

Winning spurs attendance and that could have something to do with the manager, but isn’t because of the manager in and of himself.

It wouldn’t work. And if Backman wants to leave, the Mets should let him. If they’re somehow worried about him haunting them at some point, they should take solace in the fact that he might haunt them even more if he stays.

//

Swift And Deadly 6.7.2011

Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

The MLB Draft and destruction of legendary tales.

I…I’m almost unable to speak; to fathom; to understand.

The new Mets front office was supposed to be immersed in Moneyball, objective analysis, and all the faith-based tenets.

I’m shaken to the core.

The Mets drafted…HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS; and worse, they drafted a…HIGH SCHOOL PITCHER!

Selecting high school outfielder Brandon Nimmo and high school pitcher Michael Fulmer directly contradicts that which he who appeared from the heavens to teach us the proper way to run a baseball team.

Wasn’t it Michael Lewis who wrote in the sacrosanct text of Moneyball that drafting a high school pitcher was “delightfully mad”; that it “defied reason”?

What happened?

Are they not “card-counting”? Was it a ruse?

I…I can’t believe in anything anymore. My faith has been shattered.

Leave me be. Please. I…need some time to myself.

Speaking of Moneyball, Billy Beane and “genius”…

In all seriousness, I wasn’t as sold on the Athletics before the season as others were.

Much like in 2009, there was a benefit of the doubt aspect to assessing the Athletics. Intentional or not, there is an underlying expectation of Beane figuring it out, somehow.

I had them at 84-78 and a few games out of the top spot in the AL West.

My book with said predictions is still available by the way. Click on the links in the left column.

I did provide warnings as to the fleeting nature of young pitching. Dallas Braden is already out with Tommy John surgery and Brett Anderson might need the procedure.

There’s no one to blame for that, but it’s symptomatic and proves my point that there’s no “genius”. There never was.

The A’s have lost 7 straight, demoted Kevin Kouzmanoff and manager Bob Geren doesn’t appear long for his job.

I can write the pending press conference statement for the eventual Geren firing if the “genius” likes.

“This is no reflection on Bob.”

“Everyone in the organization is at fault and the main culprit is me.”

“We feel we’ve underperformed and something needed to change.”

“We’re better than this.”

“I’m taking full responsibility for this club’s problems.”

Blah, blah, blah.

I can’t wait for the Moneyball movie; although I don’t know if 74-88 will be a selling point for the “genius” of Billy Beane.

Lenny’s new accommodations kinda fit.

Lenny Dykstra wanted to be a billionaire; he talked and spent as if he was.

People believed him until they were caught in the middle of his schemes, scams, tricks and lies.

Now he’s in jail on a whole slew of different charges from those he was arrested for last month—NY Times Story.

I doubt we’ll see Dykstra at any Mets/Phillies reunions unless it’s to hit people up for his legal defense fund.

It’s just as well.

//

Cycle Over A Cliff

Books, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

It wasn’t all that long ago that Lenny Dykstra could be referenced as a breaker of stereotypes.

The myth of the typical brain-dead jock who had no interest in reading; wasn’t concerned about nuance; didn’t truly grasp what he was doing in business was shattered by Dykstra’s “success” after his baseball career ended.

Dykstra’s perception as a business savant was evidenced by the amount of money he supposedly had; the business deals he was willing to partake as a high-stakes gambler (something he also had a fondness for). He was willing and able to do whatever he needed to do to make it. As one of the more egregious and early examples of PED use becoming prevalent in baseball, of course Dykstra was willing to go that extra mile without fear of consequences.

Some see that as an attribute and it is…to a point.

He accumulated a lot of credit and bought a lot of stuff; he’d built a reputation as one who transformed himself up from a ballplayer to a boardroom titan whose aggressiveness on the field meshed seamlessly into the corporate world.

No, it wasn’t all that long ago that I shook my head and said, “Of all the Mets from the 1980s who you’d expect to hit it big off-the-field as an entrepreneur, Dykstra was the last one you’d pick.”

That was a team that housed Yale graduate Ron Darling; BYU graduate Rick Aguilera and other highly intelligent people.

But it was Dykstra who built up an empire.

Or so we thought.

It turns out that the instinctive belief of “no way”—based on historical facts that we were too brainwashed to believe—was accurate.

The empire wasn’t real, but the image was. Those who dealt with him treated the others who’d encountered him before as a barometer. “Well, if (blank) says Dykstra’s okay, then Dykstra must be okay.”

It was a cycle.

A cycle over a cliff.

Dykstra was arrested yesterday and charged with a whole host of white collar crimes relating to his myriad of businesses—most of which were feeding into one another as a Madoff-lite style bit of financial roulette and chicanery—ESPN Story.

While playing, Dykstra had no concept of half-speed. It was 1000 miles per hour on and off the field. Gambling? Partying? Playing as hard as he could and acting like an obnoxious, loud-mouthed (though still likable to some degree in a Manny being Manny sort of way) jerk? PEDs? Playoff homers? Writing books?

Lenny did it all.

It was easy to ignore his behaviors; his punch-drunk slurring when speaking; that he wasn’t educated enough to know what he was doing in the financial realm.

Because he had a large credit line, flamboyant lifestyle and the ability to purchase, rent, hire, buy and sell, Dykstra had “made it”.

But he hadn’t.

Unlike a true visionary like Steve Jobs; or a financial wizard like Warren Buffett, Dykstra didn’t do anything. He’d built up a lucrative car wash business—intelligently—while he was still playing, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be a big shot. All or nothing.

Unlike one who builds and creates, Dykstra’s money was the shifting and manipulation of paper; the use of his name and press clippings as a lever to gain access to cash and people with cash.

But it was a ruse that cannibalized itself.

Didn’t anyone who dealt personally with Dykstra stop and consider the possibility that it was all a farce?

Sometimes you need to take a step back and do the math; examine the reality of the stories people tell and calculate their likelihood.

It had to be right in front of their eyes, but the foundation of his acumen—success as a baseball player—wasn’t a building block for that billionaire future he envisioned. It was a sham.

Now Dykstra’s been arrested. Presumably, there are a lot of people swindled out money and time who must be wondering why they didn’t see the warning signs.

They saw them—they must have—but ignored them.

Dykstra was the last person from that Mets team you’d think would have huge non-baseball success post-career.

And he didn’t.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

Yellowcake From Nyjer

Books, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

Because of his on-field brawls, confrontations with fans and suspensions late last season, Nyjer Morgan‘s reputation has become that of an explosive, feisty outfielder who’s ready to fight at the slightest transgression.

This is exactly a year after the Nationals were credited with finding a defensive gem whose speed and glove made him the centerpiece of a trade with the Pirates—as 2009 wound down, the stat guys were suddenly in love with Nyjer Morgan. And he hit .351 in 49 games after joining the Nats.

Neither appellation is accurate.

The Nationals traded Morgan to the Brewers for minor league infielder/outfielder Cutter Dykstra (Lenny Dykstra‘s son) to clear a logjam of mediocrity in their outfield. This wasn’t so much about Rick Ankiel beating out Morgan, but that the Nats wanted to get rid of Morgan and his exponentially multiplying baggage of perceived bellicosity.

Morgan’s not a troublemaker, per se; it has to be remembered that he was a hockey player as a teenager and—a pretty good one—and understanding the culture of players literally fistfighting for playing time, he’s not going to tolerate any infringement on his personal space for fear of others taking similar liberties.

Nor was he this tremendous pickup for the Nats despite his terrific play late in 2009.

Of all the players for whom Morgan has been traded, the one I would want above all is now-Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and his searing fastball.

As for this trade, the Brewers were trapped in between a club built on power and starting pitching with a shaky defense, a questionable bullpen and gaping black holes in their lineup.

Incumbent center fielder Carlos Gomez has more long-term potential than Morgan, but Morgan is a far better player right now with similar defensive skills; the Brewers are built to win now and they have to get off to a good start. To that end, as a known entity, Morgan should be the everyday center fielder to begin the season.

Independent of the bizarre, undefined way in which the Nationals are building their club—they have two cornerstone, franchise players in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper along with some good young talent in Ryan Zimmerman; and they’re paying a deranged amount of money for a good, but not great player in Jayson Werth—Dykstra is a good acquisition; he’s 21, versatile and had a fine year at the plate in A ball in 2010. He’s far from the big leagues, but can be part of the future with Strasburg and Harper.

This trade is a win-win for both sides.

I’ll be a guest on two podcasts Wednesday. In the afternoon, I’ll be on with Sal at SportsFanBuzz; in the evening with Mike on NYBaseballDigest.

I’d suggest you get yourself a complete survival kit and do not light a match.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


//

Instant Gratification

Hall Of Fame, Media, Players, Spring Training

I fancy myself as a pretty good judge of talent.

But sometimes I miss.

Yes.

It’s true.

Digging through some old baseball cards, I found certain young players who, at the time, I thought were going to be stars; because they were going to be stars, I felt it was prudent to protect their rookie cards not only in plastic looseleafs, but in an individual plastic sheet before putting it into the plastic looseleaf.

Some of the names now appear ridiculous.

Todd Hollandsworth.

Tony Tarasco.

Ben Grieve.

Of course there were a few that were good for awhile like Raul Mondesi.

Then there are the Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, Cal Ripken that have some legitimate value.

It’s a crapshoot to see if a young prospect is going to live up to the hype or not.

We can also look at the drafts from yesteryear and examine the 1st round picks to get a gauge on how easily a players career can falter.

1992 had Phil Nevin, Jeffrey Hammonds, Paul Shuey and Preston Wilson sandwiching Derek Jeter.

In 1993 Darren Dreifort was selected after Alex Rodriguez; after that there were a series of names you might or might not recognize before Billy Wagner was taken. Three players after Wagner, Chris Carpenter was picked.

There are so many variables in a player’s development that the last thing he needs is to be anointed before he’s physically and emotionally ready.

You would think the lesson of caution would have permeated any fan base by now—especially ones like the Yankees and Braves who have known success and recent failure for big time prospects who simply didn’t make it for one reason or another.

But they’re not.

The Braves haven’t placed any undue pressure of Freddie Freeman, but they did place the entire organization’s fortunes on Jason Heyward last year; Bobby Cox went so far as to compare him to Willie Mays. Heyward was one of the rare few able to withstand the hype; we’ll see with Freeman.

Memories of the Yankees trio of homegrown pitchers who were meant to dominate baseball—two of whom failed—should cause hesitation among the Yankees, the media and fans before raving about Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos.

Apparently not.

We hear the fans go off in borderline orgasmic glee at the mere sight of Banuelos and Betances; David Wells makes idiotic statements to the tune of Banuelos being ready to pitch in the majors now; the media runs with the stories because they know that it can create a critical mass of attention.

Do they not remember Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy? Of the three young pitchers, only Phil Hughes is doing what he was supposed to do; Chamberlain is a nondescript middle-reliever and butt of jokes; Kennedy is in Arizona.

It never stops.

Is Banuelos ready? I doubt it. Physically perhaps he can compete; but emotionally? Do they really want to take that chance now? Especially with the starting rotation questionable at the back end?

Two prospects who did make it were Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry; both had moments of true greatness; both flamed out with drug, alcohol and personal problems before they could be what their abilities suggested. Yes, they had good careers, but they were nowhere near what they were supposed to be; what they should’ve been.

Former Mets GM Frank Cashen always lamented rushing both to the majors and felt partially responsible for their off-field failings. It’s not a remote concept that both Strawberry and Gooden would’ve been better equipped to deal with the spotlight had they spent full seasons in Triple A before coming to the majors.

Is Cashen being too hard on himself? Probably. Both Gooden and Strawberry would’ve found trouble whether they were in the majors at 19 and 21 respectively or 21 and 23.

To their credit, the Yankees are steadfastly refusing to rush Banuelos and Betances despite their tattered starting rotation; but that’s not stopping the lust.

This is one of the reasons it was so important that they get Cliff Lee—so they didn’t have to make that decision so quickly; the decision to try and win now with pitchers who could help that end or leave them in the minors to grow as players and people.

Will they make the same error they did with Chamberlain and let the lofty hopes of a franchise simmer like an unstable volcano, unleash him to the world, then deal with the fallout from scaling back and placing him in a preferable role?

I doubt we’ll see Banuelos or Betances coming up to the big leagues this season other than in September for a look-see at the big leagues. And if that means missing the playoffs, so be it.

The instant gratification from a youngster who’s homegrown and deemed “ready” and simultaneously fills a need is tempting; it’s a siren whose true face and consequences are known only in the aftermath.

Naturally it’s more of a point of pride to say, “these are our players”. That’s why there’s such a bond between Yankees fans and the “core four” of Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera; they weren’t mercenaries; they’re Yankees; they bleed pinstripes and there’s a connection that comes with that.

The Mets of Gooden and Strawberry could say the same thing; regardless of the success the duo had in latter years with the Yankees, they’re still Mets. It was that way with Lenny Dykstra in his star years with the Phillies—he didn’t look right in a uniform other than that of the Mets.

The Braves had that with John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. The Phillies have it with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels.

It’s a comfort to say, “they’re ours”.

What’s missed is how rarely that happens; that young players come up together; bleed, fight, scrap and win. That nostalgia for days gone by and the realization it may not happen again explains why it hit people so hard when Pettitte retired; a piece of that history is gone; it’s a form of baseball mortality and the innate knowledge of the passage of an era.

But they’re trying to force it to happen again with the youngsters the Yankees have accumulated; it’s bad enough to saddle young players with the hopes of a franchise; it’s worse to force it on them.

In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster.

We’ve seen it over-and-over again.

//

Viewer Mail 2.19.2011

Fantasy/Roto, Media, Spring Training

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE WAR:

Great take on WAR.

(Personally, I feel it’s just a way for stat zombies to think they sound cool when they talk)

So, looking forward to your take on the Pujols sitch… on Jon Heyman’s “reports” and Ken Rosenthal’s “reports”, etc.

It’s mind-boggling that there’s an ever-growing faction of individuals who feel their ability to calculate a faulty formula constitutes expertise.

I continually go back to the Jason Bay/UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) controversy. Bay’s “inferior” defense was referenced so often that it became an accepted “fact” when in reality, it was little more than a factoid. Anyone who’d watched Bay handle the Green Monster and play at cavernous Citi Field could see that he was actually an above-average defender with speed.

But that mattered little to those with their complicated formulas to determine Bay’s “true” defensive abilities.

So it was laughable and eerily appropriate when UZR’s calculations were altered at mid-season last year to reflect that—wait a minute!!—Bay’s not that bad!!

They disguise their misplaced assertions as evolution in the calculations.

Oh. I see.

All winter long we were inundated with stories of Bay’s inadequacies in the outfield and how he didn’t fit into the Red Sox 2009-2010 decision to focus on pitching and defense rather than power; that Bay was a candidate for injury that made signing him to a long-term deal a too great a risk.

It turned out that Bay didn’t play well for the Mets, but it had nothing to do with his glove nor his knees or shoulders; it had to do with the whole aura of being a Met in transitioning to New York and the inherent dysfunction; with the big ballpark; and with a concussion he sustained at mid-season.

But his poor UZR number followed him around like a leeching greenfly.

Two things: one, having watched Bay play the outfield, it was clear he wasn’t a bad defender; and two, there’s a difference between handling the Green Monster and any other left field. The Green Monster is nuance and knowing caroms; other outfields and the defensive metrics aren’t limited to UZR; the center fielder’s range; positional placement; and the pitching staff all need to be accounted for.

But it’s a number and if one understands it, they have an “expertise”; except they don’t. They’re parroting and spouting regurgitated nonsense disguised as analysis.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joba Chamberlain:

Nobody said Joba came to camp fat. And there’s certainly no evidence of a “spiral.” Sorry if it ruins your theory/spin/etc.

He’s fat, Jane.

The “spiral” is connected more to his perception than his performance which was only worthy of the heights his reputation dictated for a month in 2007. Apart from that, he’s been a mediocre pitcher at best whose press was always light years ahead of his accomplishments.

It wasn’t all his fault back then, but that he showed up to camp out of shape is indicative of his immaturity and either giving up or a sense of entitlement that came with the accolades he received as a “star” based on nothing other than idolatry or organizational babying.

Much like the Lenny Dykstra-steroids allegations from 25 years ago when the skinny speedster arrived at Mets camp with 20 pounds of muscle added to his frame, think about the likelihood of someone with Chamberlain’s lack of discipline spending a week—let alone a winter—pumping iron.

It wouldn’t happen.

If he pitches well, the weight is meaningless; but it’s not meaningless in the way the club views him. Baseball players need not look like bodybuilders—it probably does more harm than good—but his place in the Yankees universe is increasingly tenuous. The notion of being “in shape” is different for a baseball player, but Chamberlain could not arrive looking like he spent the winter lying on the couch eating pork rinds.

And that’s what he did.

Pattie writes RE Joba:

Thank you for articulating the responsibility and putting it where it belongs. I am no Joba fan, but, as my dad used to say (endlessly): “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Yankees management bent Joba the Twig into the gnarly mess he is now. Seriously bad handling of what used to be a potentially great asset.

I can’t take the excuses anymore. I wish they’d come out and say, “we mishandled him; we’re responsible”; but they’re still offering up silliness like it was the shoulder injury or proffering the “guidelines” as justification for what they did to him.

If they’d let him pitch and he’d gotten hurt, so be it; but this is worse—everything was designed to have a justification for his failure if it happened as if they somehow expected it.

Maybe they did.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Joba:

Joba and I have the same birthday. Same day, same year. Beyond that, I find nothing about him interesting.

He is obnoxious and overblown. Unfortunately, I can’t just unlearn who he is. He is trapped in my brain forever and his added girth means he’s taking up a lot more room than most.

As sad as it is, the story of a failed prospect or person is interesting in the “watching a train wreck” sort of way.

I genuinely think certain individuals are salvageable, but only if they go to the right people; people that can and will help them; but they have to make the effort too.

And the sand in the hourglass is dangerously low.

Lower than they realize.

Mike the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Joba:

Sorry Jane; Brian Cashman flat out broke Joba Chamberlain and rendered him inconsequential. The Yankees don’t know how to groom pitchers and never have in 38 years since BOSS bought the team. They buy other team’s pitchers instead. I’ll be generous and say Guidry; Righetti; Pettitte; and Wang (don’t make me laugh) were the only starting pitchers to do anything worthy of discussion that came from within. Ian Kennedy, Hughes and Joba were All Hurt at one point. Outside of Hughes, the most recent attempt to groom a pitcher is A BIG FAIL, and adds to the Yankees’ woeful history of not farming up pitchers under the Stienbrenner’s. To dispute this you must come up with names. Drabek and Rijo did nothing in a Yankee uniform. Other than who I mentioned, who else did? There are none and don’t even try to insult Guidry; Righetti or Andy by naming someone who is very ordinary.
The JOBA RUSE is over people.
I blogged about this very topic Tuesday before he even showed up fat. The writing has been on the wall for all to read. There’s no denying, Brian Cashman broke it.
….Hey Prince, can we by-pass Spring Training and get right to it?

I can’t argue with any of the points. I’d have to examine the Yankees pitchers who’ve made it as Yankees. Ted Lilly and others made it, but did it elsewhere; how much credit should go to the Yankees for development needs to be determined.

Because the big club was impatient doesn’t mean they didn’t have a hand in the success of said pitchers.

Impatience and the “name” players took precedence over giving the youngsters a chance. We’ll get a clearer view this year as Ivan Nova will be a necessity and not a luxury; Dellin Betances could also play a part this season.

Will there be rules and regulations? Due to the situational immediacy and club desperation, probably not.

If anyone has access to ESPN Insider, please send me the Dave Cameron posting on why letting C.C. Sabathia walk if he opts out of his contract is a good move for the Yankees.

He might have solid points; he might be writing stat zombie, blockheaded idiocy. I need to see what he says before retorting one way or the other.