Just a little more than three years ago, Ben McGrath wrote a piece in The New Yorker that tagged former Met Lenny Dykstra as "baseball's most improbable post-career success story," on the cusp of launching a luxury lifestyle magazine after some luck day trading. By 2009, he filed for bankruptcy, claiming debts of more than $31 million, against just $50,000 in assets.
Today Dykstra stood in a Los Angeles federal court to plead not guilty against charges that he embezzled from his own bankrupt estate, getting rid of more than $400,000 of goods without permission. The AP report describes him as "dazed," and yes, confusing, answering the question of whether he understood the charges lodged against him with a koan of sorts: "I don't understand it, but I understand them."
Dykstra, who has been declared indigent by a judge, is being represented by a public defender. He showed up to court from the county jail, where he's being held for separate charges including grand theft auto and possession of cocaine and ecstasy. Last time Dykstra was jailed, none other than Charlie Sheen bailed him out, but this time around, TMZ reported, Sheen refused to help out his pal again. For a while, it seemed like Dykstra might be bailed out by a producer who specializes in addiction-recovery stories and has a planned project on Dykstra's life. The producer even offered to put up his own home against the bail, but the judge refused to reduce the $500,000 bail, and so Dykstra stayed put.
Rereading McGrath's story now makes that sad trajectory feel all but inevitable — the air-puff fortune, the ill-timed magazine launch, the manic mannerisms, the spendy details, like the revelation that Dykstra is a "luxury-hotel junkie" to the description of his house as bearing "a vague resemblance to Monticello." Sheen's bit role in the drama only serves to spotlight Dykstra's zeitgeisty downward spiral in even harsher light — Sheen might have imploded, but at least he did it with a full bank account.