By Jason Keidel
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More than a few former baseball stars, desolate and desperate for attention, write a tell-all book to snag the spotlight one more time before they plunge through the trap door of history.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes we even learn something. For all the ornery labels we slapped onto Jose Canseco, his book, “Juiced,” made for a fascinating read.
It served the twin functions of great entertainment and inside baseball. Indeed, Canseco proved to be a prophet of the steroid epoch, the main whistle-blower of an era that desperately needed one.
Now, Lenny Dykstra takes his turn. His book, “House of Nails,” is shooting up The New York Times bestseller list. Well, it at least cracked the top 20.
But among the vivid omissions from his book are the ways he’s treated other people — particularly the co-author of the book.
I don’t pretend to be pals with Peter Golenbock. We are Facebook friends — often the greatest online oxymoron of all — who will occasionally twist a thumb up after the other posts something of note. But it’s no secret he helped Dykstra write it, and got little to nothing for it. No matter whose side you’re on, no one can dispute Golenbock’s reputation, or Dykstra’s.
Golenbock is too modest, too happy, too centered to tear after Dykstra despite the way the former Met harpooned him in the back. After writing much of the book together, Dykstra — who admits he hadn’t read a book until 2011, while in prison — had some artistic awakening, and fired Golenbock under the guise of needing time and space to apply his prose.
You won’t confuse Dykstra with Fitzgerald or Faulkner. Or anyone who adores the written word. But perhaps the tone will sound familiar. Dykstra charges after friends and foes much like he did during his playing days. And, frankly, he sounds proud to have bent many rules and broke many laws.
Now, after cheating the game with steroids and breaking the law with grand theft auto and bank fraud — the latter landing him in prison — Dykstra wants us to know that former Mets manager Davey Johnson drank too much.
He doesn’t stop there, of course, and Dykstra gleefully muses about his feckless life and reckless spending. You can decide if that’s worth dropping a few quid on his decadent diary.
On a show on ESPN, Dykstra blames Johnson for detonating the dynasty. According to Dykstra, Johnson blew the 1988 NLCS vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers and thus flipped the first domino that led to the subsequent trades and fire sales that essentially ended the 1980s juggernaut before it had a chance to reel off its string of expected titles.
I’m not sure which is worse, Dykstra’s revelations or the way “reporters” are treating him, many of whom are little more than fawning fans who stop just short of giving Lenny a lap dance. They sweep his misdeeds under the “boys will be boys” rug. And when someone actually does dig into domains Dykstra doesn’t like, he just hangs up on them, as he did during an interview on the radio station WEEI.
Richard Sandomir posted a revealing piece in Sunday’s New York Times, during which he writes about that radio spot, Dykstra’s allergy to paying people who helped him write the book and how proud he is to be such a jerk (or “rebel” to those who are blinded Dykstra devotees).
As Sandomir writes, Dykstra does not mention his Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. He does not mention Golenbock. He does not mention Noah Scheinmann, who is suing Dykstra for $91,000 in federal court, for failing to pay him for running the book’s social media crusade. Nor does he write about his legal battle with his brother, Kevin.
But he readily brags about paying private investigators to dig up dirt on umpires. Dykstra said he used that information during games, as a way to get favorable calls.
Generally, a former sports star writes a book to clear the air, or his name, or to shine a favorable light upon his transgressions. It seems Dykstra is happy to be less icon and more iconoclast, to bask in his malfeasance.
Maybe Dykstra is a lovely man behind closed doors — rather thick, steel, reinforced double doors, in some underground bank vault. Because there isn’t much he’s said or done publicly to give you the sense he’s a swell guy.
This isn’t about Dykstra’s First Amendment rights. He can write any book about anyone. But forgive some of us if we aren’t impressed with it, or him.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel