In honor of there being 25 days till the NY Mets Home Opener of 2015, I bring you this story of a Mets player who will be payed 40 years after he left Shea Stadium in Flushing, NY. I am referring to none other than former Met Bobby Bonilla who calls his Mets contract, ‘that beautiful thing.’ Of course it is a beautiful thing for him but not for the team. They have only reached the postseason once since and it can be argued that the short-term gain of the arrangement with Bonilla wasn’t worth the long-term cost.
“The idea wasn’t completely unilateral,” said Dennis Gilbert, who represented Bonilla earlier in the star’s career. “Both sides thought it was a good idea.” Mr. Gilbert went on to say, “Bobby’s a very smart person, and he understands the value of income.”
The NY Mets were trying to build a World Championship caliber team but the aging, disgruntled Bobby Bonilla and his nearly $6 million contract were standing in the team’s way. The Mets decided the best way to free up enough money to bring in fresh blood was to buy out Bonilla’s contract and postpone payment for 11 years. By postponing their payments to Bobby Bo for 11 years, the Mets freed enough money to trade for starting pitcher Mike Hampton and outfielder Derek Bell and sign first baseman Todd Zeile. Those three players earned a combined $15.1 million in 2000, and the Mets reached the World Series that year for the first time since 1986 but fell to the crosstown rival NY Yankees.
At his best, Bobby Bonilla was a versatile player and productive hitter during his 16 years in the major leagues. Seven times, he hit at least 20 home runs in a season. He was a four time 100+ RBI man, who played third base, first base and the outfield at various times. He was on six playoff teams and won a World Series in 1997 with the Florida Marlins. Bonilla first signed with the team in December 1991 which was a five-year, $29 million deal that made him the highest paid player in MLB. He then saw one of the worst periods in the franchise’s history. The Mets were 75 games under .500 over Mr. Bonilla’s first three full seasons with the team before they traded him to Baltimore in July 1995.
It was actually Bobby’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 Bonilla to the LA Dodgers in May 1998, the Mets then re-acquired him that following off-season, sending relief pitcher Mel Rojas to the Dodgers for Bonilla on Nov. 11, 1998. During this time he hit just .160 with four home runs in 60 games in 1999. He feuded with manager Bobby Valentine.
In perhaps his most memorable incident, he played cards with teammate Rickey Henderson as the Mets lost the deciding game of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets didn’t want him around any longer, and 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 to him in 2000.
What are your thoughts on the Bobby Bo contract? Let us know in the comments section below.