Why Is This Man Smiling?
“You guys won’t be able to knock the smile off my face.” — A smiling Bobby Bonilla told a gathering of reporters after the Mets made him the highest paid player in baseball in 1992.
As a matter of fact, it didn’t take long for Bobby-Bo’s smile to disappear back then, but things are looking up again for Bonilla as the clock strikes midnight tonight.
Beginning in 2011, Bobby Bonilla will be back on the Mets payroll and remain on it for the next 25 years, collecting an annual salary of $1,193,248.20. Those are the terms the Mets agreed to on January 3, 2000, when they bought out the final year of his contract.
In 1992, Bobby Bonilla signed a $29 million five year contract with the Mets that made him the highest paid player in baseball. Unfortunately for the Mets, Bonilla would come to symbolize one of the worst eras in Mets history; the worst team money can buy.
By the middle of the 1995 season, the Mets had had enough and they traded Bonilla along with a PTBNL to the Baltimore Orioles in return for Damon Buford and Alex Ochoa. During his tenure, the Mets were 75 games under .500 and the franchise had hit rock-bottom, but at least the worst was over… or so we thought.
Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal explains,
But it was actually Mr. Bonilla’s second free-agent contract that led to his upcoming financial windfall. He signed with the Marlins in 1996 for four years and $23.3 million. After Florida traded Mr. Bonilla to the Los Angeles Dodgers in May 1998, the Mets then re-acquired him that following off-season, sending relief pitcher Mel Rojas to the Dodgers for Mr. Bonilla on Nov. 11, 1998.
Mr. Bonilla’s second tenure with the Mets was far briefer, but no better, than his first. He hit just .160 with four home runs in 60 games in 1999. He feuded with manager Bobby Valentine. In perhaps his most memorable transgression, he played cards with teammate Rickey Henderson as the Mets lost the deciding game of the National League Championship Series in Atlanta. The Mets didn’t want him around any longer, and Mr. Bonilla wanted the freedom to pursue another contract with another team, but the Mets were still on the hook for the $5.9 million due Mr. Bonilla in 2000.
The stage was set, the 25-year deal was agreed to, and the contract was finalized and signed in blood.
Bobby-Bo is smiling again these days, and this time I really believe that nobody will be able to knock that smile off his face.
With a financial windfall expected to kick in at stroke of midnight on the eve of 2011, it will be a Happy New Year indeed for Mr. Bobby Bonilla.
Happy New Year everybody!
About the Author: Joe DeCaro
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.
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