June 29, 2010

Staff Picks: The Zeroes

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 8:43 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Just when you think the stories of excess and insanity on Wall Street can't get any more unseemly, along comes The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane by Randall Lane, released today by Portfolio. In particular, there is the chapter entitled "Nails" about his business relationship with Lenny Dykstra. If you've never heard of Mr. Dykstra, let me introduce you...

“That’s my f*****’ ashtray money, bro, I don’t even know if I flew on their plane.”

—Lenny Dykstra

Apparently, Lenny should have transferred that money from his ashtray to his checking account because f*****' ashtray money to him at the time was the $7,000 dollars Halycon Jets claimed he bounced a check to them for.

Lenny Dykstra earned the nickname "Nails" by smashing headlong into outfield walls and spitting profanity and tobacco juice on Major League baseball diamonds in the '80s and '90s. He was a member of two of the most excessive and raucous pennant winning teams in baseball history—the 1986 Mets and 1993 Phillies—so he fit right in when he retired into one of the most excessive and raucous cultures to ever exist on Wall Street. He was considered by Jim Cramer, who took him on as a columnist for, as "one of the great ones" in investment advice. Cramer praised him as "a guy who is applying the same skills to money that he applied to sports." And what skills did he bring to baseball, you might ask? Maybe it was his reckless abandon? As John Stewart joked last year, maybe "somebody gave him the sign to steal."

Because, as detailed by Lane later in the book, Dykstra was not, in fact, "one of the great ones." Cramer's declaration on Dykstra was about as prescient as his defense of Bear Stearns' position just before that once-great firm collapsed. It turns out the stock advice Lenny Dykstra was offering in his "Nails on the Numbers" column was taken from an professional marketing analyst, Richard Suttmeier, and written up by a ghostwriter. Lane also alleges in the book, and in a related article posted at The Daily Beast yesterday, that Dykstra accepted cash to hype stocks on and in exchange for promised access to Cramer (though he goes out of his way to state that he's sure Cramer had no knowledge of this). Lane ends his Daily Beast piece by stating that "Cramer ... continues to draw hundreds of thousands of followers, via his CNBC show Mad Money—one of the few in the industry who managed to escape the past decade unscathed." He must mean unscathed financially, because with his picks of Bear Stearns and Lenny Dykstra, you have to wonder... Is Jim Cramer dumb as Nails?

As for "Nails" himself, Leonard Kyle Dykstra has now exited his financial career the same way he exited his playing career—broken. When he was done with baseball, it was with a broken body. Broke financially, Dykstra claimed last year to be living in his car and hotel lobbies. With between $10 and $50 million worth of liabilities, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last July. I hope that he at least still has that money stashed in his ashtray.