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Business guru Lenny Dykstra

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2008

Just got around to reading Ben McGrath’s New Yorker profile of Lenny Dykstra, the former baseball All-Star who has, somewhat improbably, become rich post-baseball as a business owner and day trader.

Dykstra last played in the majors in 1996, at age thirty-three. Improbably, he has since become a successful day trader, and he let me know that he owns both a Maybach (“the best car”) and a Gulfstream (“the best jet”).

But maybe not so improbably…Dykstra has a canny sense for business:

Dykstra chose car washes, he says, because of the automobile-centric culture in California, and because “it was a business that couldn’t be replaced by a computer chip.” He brought his own frustrated consumer experiences to bear in creating the business model, and eliminated many of the usual array of motor-oil choices-startup, high-mileage, various blends-from his inventory. “You get the shit out of the ground,” he said, referring to standard Castrol GTX, “or the shit made in the laboratory that’s the perfect lubricant” (Syntec). “Meaning, it’s either A or B. It’s not about the oil. It’s about the people. They got confused.” He stocked the places with baseball memorabilia and flat-screen TVs, and served free coffee (“the good kind”), so that customers would associate the experience with luxury rather than with cumbersome chores.

One of the characteristics of Dykstra the businessman is his constant use of baseball metaphors and comparisons. Here’s a listing from the article:

The Players Club, in contrast to the television installation, would be “major league,” he explained, and to that end he was assembling an editorial staff of “.300 hitters,” and lining up sponsors to match.

Dykstra’s business card gives an address for the “headquarters” of The Players Club, at 245 Park Avenue, which he describes as “big league-like, top five addresses in the world.”

Next, he took a call from a designer he wanted to hire for the magazine. “You worked for Esquire and In Style,” he said, delivering a pep talk. “That’s called the big leagues. It’s like in baseball. You can’t go above the major leagues. There’s not another league. We’re teeing it up high, dude.”

He quoted from Confucius, Dickens, and Billy Joel, and balanced straight stock picks (“Intel is the N.Y. Yankees of the chipmakers”) with musings about fatherhood and current events, like the war in Iraq, seldom passing up the opportunity to draw extended sports analogies.

“My approach in investing is much the same as my approach to hitting,” he wrote. “I would rather take a walk or single and reach first than shoot for a home run and strike out swinging.”

Dykstra hopes the magazine will help players recognize the importance of marriage and family. He drew three stick figures and named them Tom, Dick, and Harry. Above Tom, he drew a man and a woman-two parents. Dick got a father but no mother, and Harry the reverse. “Do you know the studies and what they’ve proven?” he asked. “You should look that up, dude. Like, bad things. It’s like the one-one count.” The one-one count is another of Dykstra’s baseball metaphors for life, meant to illustrate that some moments, and the choices they bring, are more fateful than others (i.e., the next pitch makes all the difference), or, in this case, that circumstances set in motion during the early stages of development are difficult to overcome later on. If a batter falls behind, one ball and two strikes, he’s in a hole from which, the statistics augur, he will not recover, even if he is Barry Bonds; and if he gets ahead, to two balls and one strike, he wrests control from the pitcher and takes charge of his own destiny. Having two parents puts you in control of life’s count, and enables you to become a .300 hitter.

Here’s an archive of Dykstra’s articles on trading for The Street.

Update: Not so fast, Nails. Seems as though Mr. Dykstra’s business sense was not that good; he recently filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The 46-year-old has no more than $50,000 of assets and between $10 million and $50 million of liabilities, according to a petition filed Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California.

Dykstra’s filing comes in the wake of more than 20 lawsuits he faces tied to his activities as a financial entrepreneur, including The Players Club, a glossy magazine for athletes he had helped launch in 2008.

Sounds like he was a little over-leveraged. (thx, todd)