While all of Canada and a lot of people in the United States were celebrating “Canada Day” Wednesday, there were a few people who were acknowledging another anniversary…fondly called by some (and despised by others!) Bobby Bonilla Day. So, who is Bobby Bonilla and why is he being remembered on July 1?
Bonilla is a former major league baseball player whose career spanned 16 seasons, from 1986 through 2001. He played for nine different teams, but it is the New York Mets who are providing Bonilla with a nice “nest egg” in his retirement. Every year, on July 1, Bonilla receives a check for $1.9 million dollars and will continue to do so until 2036 (oh, by the way: Bonilla will be 73 years old by then!)
So, how did this happen? After winning a World Series ring with the then Florida Marlins in 1997, Bonilla was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then was flipped to the New York Mets for a second go-around with the Sluggers of Shea. He had a pretty good amount of success with the New Yorkers from 1992 through 1995 when he averaged 20 home runs and 69 RBI. However, in 1999, Bonilla played in only 60 games for the Mets, hitting a paltry .160 with only four homers and 18 RBI.
The Mets had to get rid of Bonilla and his $5.9 million contract, so they promised to pay him the remaining portion and released him on January 3, 2000. One of the stipulations of the buyout was that the Mets would pay him $1.9 million every July 1, beginning in 2011 and will continue until 2036.
Now, mind you: Bonilla was a pretty good ball player. In addition to his World Series ring, he was an All Star six times and won the Silver Slugger Award in 1988, 1990, and 1991. His “salad days” were when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates, from 1986 to 1991. Bonilla’s best season was in 1990 when he accumulated a .280 average with 32 home runs and a career-high 120 RBI. What made Bonilla so special was that he had power from both sides of the plate.
Bonilla, however, was letting the fact that he was the highest paid player in the league get to his head. He had several clashes with Manager Bobby Valentine over the lack of playing time. His second stint with the Mets came to a crashing halt during the 1999 League Championship series when “Bobby Bo” sat in the clubhouse playing cards while his team was involved in an 11-inning game. That, apparently, was the last straw.
The Mets owner at the time, Fred Wilpon, agreed to the ridiculous buyout agreement with Bonilla because he was heavily invested with a guy named Bernie Madoff. We all know how that turned out!
So, now, Bonilla just sits at home waiting for another July 1 payout. With interest, he is actually making more than $1.9 million. I wonder if the current Mets ownership have entertained the idea of just paying Bonilla off. Sounds like the logical thing to do!