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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #29 Lenny Dykstra

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #30. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back tomorrow morning for #28.– Lenny Dykstra

Years: 1989-1996

.289/.388/.422, 51 HR, 169 SB in 3374 PA

Previous Rank: 35 (+6)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 20th among position players, 28th among Phillies

Three All-Star Appearances (1990, 1994-1995), Silver Slugger (1993)

Finished Second in NL MVP Voting in 1993

Called Nails and Dude, Lenny Dykstra was a fast living center fielder from Garden Grove, CA. Listed at 5’10”, but definitely a tick or two shorter, Dykstra was the fire cracker in the group that propelled the Phillies from worst-to-first in 1993. Acquired from the Mets with Roger McDowell on June 18, 1989 for fan-favorite Juan Samuel, Dykstra got off to a bit of a slow start as a Phillie, hitting just .222/.297/.330 in 392 1989 plate appearances with the Phillies. But Nails would rebound with a 1990 to remember.

According to both FanGraphs’ and Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, Dykstra was the second-most valuable player in the National League behind only Barry Bonds. Dykstra would hit a career-high .325, lead the league in hits (192) and OBP at .418, hit nine HR and steal 33 bases in 38 attempts (86.84%), a tantalizing preview of what was to come. A few bad decisions and some bad luck cost him significant time in 1991 and 1992, including a drunk-driving crash in 1991, a broken collar bone suffered in Cincinnati in 1991 once he returned, and a broken hand on Opening Day 1992 when Dykstra was hit by a pitch.

Dykstra had the very-rare combination of power, speed, defense, running, and throwing abilities and it made him one of the very best, and perhaps most underrated players in the National League through the early 90’s. 1993 was Dykstra’s marquee season, as he led the National League in PA, AB, runs, hits, and walks with a career-high 19 homers and 37 steals leading to a second-place NL MVP finish and his first, and only, Silver Slugger award. Dykstra’s opus, combined with the rest of the serendipity that occurred in 1993, drove the Phillies to 97 wins, a victory over the Atlanta Braves in the NCLS, and the NL Pennant.

The success of those 1993 was in no small part due to Dykstra’s contributions. Dude, who had been a postseason hero with the New York Mets, would get on base at a .400 clip against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS and nearly single-handedly powered the Phillies offense to a World Series title in 1993, hitting four homers, stealing four bases, and hitting .348/.500/.913 against a stacked Blue Jays pitching staff. The Phillies, of course, ultimately lost in six games.

Things would seemingly be all downhill for Dykstra in 1993. In 1994 and 1995, the baseball seasons was shortened by a strike and Dykstra battled through injuries in both 1995 and 1996. Dykstra would miss the entire 1997 season before attempting one final comeback prior to the 1998 season. The comeback attempt was unsuccessful and Dykstra quietly retired.

Some folks may question the inclusion of Dykstra on the list because of his alleged steroid use or because of his off-the-field behavior, including charges levied against him in 2011 but Dykstra makes our list because he made the Phillies better while in a Phillies uniform.

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