A blog about the Phillies and Major League Baseball (MLB).

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lenny Dykstra and the Power of One

FanGraphs recently hired an attorney named Sheryl Ring out of Chicago. After reading her early posts I made the above request and she followed through and did so soon after.
Sheryl Ring

Ms. Ring stuck to the law in her article - more so then I would have liked - and concluded that from a legal, criminal perspective Dykstra likely committed extortion under the law as it was in1993, but after 2013 probably did not. However, under civil law he would be open to litigation by umpires whom he investigated and threatened with disclosure of private information.

This is always a problem for me, the law. I had assumed that Dykstra would have been in violation of all kinds of statues both state and federal for extortion and blackmail. Ms. Ring stated later that she hoped she had answered my questions about what I was interested in, but actually the legal aspect was my least concern.

The Phillies local telecast is on Comcast. During rain delays they will sometimes broadcast past games of importance in Phillies history. Last year - or the year before - I caught some video of the Phillies/Braves 1993 playoffs, a game in which Greg Maddox in his prime was on the mound for the Braves. I was struck to the point of being slack jawed at how many pitches Maddux was throwing that would definitely be strikes in todays MLB, pitches for which if they were not called would lead to ejections from the Braves dugout. However, there were frequent cutaways to the Braves dugout and no one was upset. This is what slackened my jaw.

Then it got more incredible and my jaw was so slack that I became a mouth breather. Dave Hollins - who drew the most walks of his career in 1993 - took a swing at a Maddux pitch (after having strikes in todays game called balls) and tried to check his swing. Hollins made such an effort that he landed on his face with  his head and torso in fair territory with the barrel of the bat pointing between 2B and 3B.

This was called a check swing. Tim McCarver was doing the color commentary and after the replay finished McCarver explained that this was a good call because "Hollins did not break his wrists". McCarver must have been correct because Bobby Cox did not charge out of the dugout as would certainly happen today if such a call was made. In fact, the Atlanta dugout did not appear to be upset. In 1993, that was a legit check swing.

So how did the strike zone in MLB become so ridiculous that strikes on either side of the plate were called balls and a player could take a swing like Hollins in Game 6 of the NLCS and have it ruled a check swing? Is Lenny Dykstra the answer to this question?

In MLB the players will generally accept any sort of strike zone as long as it is enforced equally for both teams. Dykstra does not claim to be brazen enough to hire private detectives to investigate umpires for sexual and gambling offenses, he even claims to have blackmailed them in the open around home plate in front of the opposing catcher. So again, we're not dealing with secret stuff here. If this happened - and one look at the video I just described should be enough to make a believer out of most - then we're talking about something that had to have become common knowledge throughout at least the National League. Anything that was common knowledge in the N.L. would quickly spread through the A.L. as well.

It must have been really jarring for an umpire with a gambling problem to have Lenny step out of the box after a pitch he wanted to be called a ball and loudly shout at the umpire "So did you cover the spread last night?"There are shotgun microphones on both sides of the infield. It's not hard to imagine an umpire pissing his pants a bit upon hearing this. Another umpire was gay and in the closet. Lenny let him know he knew all about it right there at home plate.

Now, Lenny was a menacing little dude, but he wasn't a loner. Lenny was good friends with Darren "Dutch" Daulton and John Kruk. Those two would have known about this the same day Dykstra first implemented his scheme. These three were at the top of the game in OBP and walks in 1993. I remember Dykstra coming to the plate around the fifth inning and seemingly willing himself onto 1B with a walk soon to be followed by Kruk and Daulton. The 1993 Phillies did this machine like and turned those full bases into runs and chased the starting pitcher while taking the lead.

From the looks of it 1993 was the fruition of a plan that had begun in 1992. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a copy of Dykstra's book and the SNAP card in my wallet that's been active there for six years now won't help me with that, therefore I don't know when Dykstra claims to have begun this scheme. Dykstra was injured for much of 1992 so he didn't enjoy the fun as much as Kruk, Daulton and Hollins did if that is when it started.

If these three were all using Lenny's info on the umps the effects would be felt immediately on the entire lineup. The other team would start arguing with the umps for the same calls and would soon get them. After awhile the calls would spread to both teams quickly as the umps adjusted to their new reality. The opponents of the Phillies would no doubt try to take the shrunken strike zone with them to the next series that did not include the Phillies. Those players would have learned from the mouth of the horse named Lenny what the dirt on which umpire was and would be able to use it themselves when that umpire was behind the plate even if Lenny was not in the other dugout.

What you would get over time is a rapidly shrinking strike zone and check swings that looked like a comedy skit as the hitters worked their verbal magic around home plate.

What, me worry?

Something else happened around this time in 1993. I was in Los Angeles then and in the Los Angeles Times there was an article about Lenny Dykstra and his physical transformation. As with all corporate media at that time and even ten years later, there was no mention of PEDS. In the article the author asked Barry Bonds about Dykstra and Bonds offered something very much like this: Ÿou know, I've always wondered what I could do if I took my work outs as seriously as he does. I've always just been natural not really working out at all."

Well, we know how that ended even if we will never know the details as Bonds won't write a tell all.

Did Lenny make a mockery of the strike zone in MLB and inspire the big boppers of MLB to enhance their workouts with some "Lenny's Vitamins"? Could one fiery little guy have caused all that to happen? Is the concept of The Power of One a real thing or just the product of human imagination and paranoia?


No comments:

Post a Comment