Baseball

Bobby Bonilla Day: An Over-Glorified “Holiday”

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July 1st is a day Mets fans dread. It’s the day where the team pays Bobby Bonilla $1.19 million despite him last playing for the team in 1999. This became known as Bobby Bonilla Day, and it’s become a joke across MLB. What might get lost while fans dunk on the Mets is that this isn’t the only laughable payment made on July 1st every year, and the Mets actually benefitted from agreeing to this deal.

The Other Bobby Bonilla-Esque Payments

While the day is dubbed “Bobby Bonilla Day”, this payment might not even be the worst one that happens on this day. Michael Mayer of Metsmerized put together a full compilation of the deferred payments, and it’s quite shocking the number of players who have deferrals in their contracts. Since there are too many to fit in one article, here’s a link to the full thread below.

Among some of the duds in this include Bruce Sutter, who last played in 1988. The Braves gave him his final paycheck today of $1.12 million –– 33 years after he threw his last pitch. Chris Davis, whose contract has become an albatross on the Orioles, will continue to get paid through 2037. While Bonilla’s contract was the result of one bad season, Davis has been the least productive player in MLB since 2017. If this “holiday” ever gets a new name, it might as well be Chris Davis Day. Albert Pujols, who underperformed mightily for the Angels, is also going to collect money from them for 10 years after his contract ends. The list goes on forever, and it signifies that as fun as it is for fans to laugh at the Mets, other teams deserve some ridiculing too.

Without Bonilla’s Deferral, the Mets Don’t Get David Wright

1999 was Bonilla’s second term with the Mets. He was a bright spot on some underperforming Mets teams in the 1990s, making two All-Star teams. The Mets dealt him to the Orioles in July of 1995, but he was back in Flushing after a trade with the Dodgers in November of 1998. By then, Bonilla was about to turn 36 and was a shell of his former self. He only played in 60 games in 1999 and hit an anemic .160/.277/.303 (49 OPS+) and registering -1.2 rWAR. The Mets released Bonilla after the season despite still owing him $5.9 million. This is when Bonilla and his agent convinced Mets owner Fred Wilpon to defer the payment until 2011 and then continue to give Bonilla $1.19 million every year until 2035.

With the money they saved on Bonilla, the Mets traded for All-Star southpaw Mike Hampton. The lefty helped the Mets capture the NL Pennant and even won NLCS MVP. After the 2000 season though, Hampton was a free agent. He signed an eight-year contract with the Rockies, citing Denver’s public school system as a reason for this move. Hampton had two rough seasons in Colorado before getting traded in November of 2002. As a result of Hampton leaving for the Rockies, the Mets were awarded two first-round picks in the 2001 Draft. With the first pick, they selected Aaron Heilman, and with the second pick, they selected David Wright.

Wright became the face of the Mets franchise during his illustrious career and could’ve been in the Hall of Fame conversation were it not for some devastating injuries. This all circles back to accepting Bonilla’s proposal though, which set everything in motion for the Mets to end up with arguably the greatest position player in franchise history.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Mathias is a graduate student at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He is currently studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism on the Sports Media and Communications track. He graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2021, where he studied journalism and served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020 before taking over the MLB department in June of 2021. Mathias is also a former varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.