Wednesday, October 2, 2013

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #66 BOBBY BONILLA


STARRED IN THE WORST TEAM MONEY COULD BUY.




SALARY NUMBERS DWARFED THOSE '92 STATS.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Bobby Bonilla last played in the majors on Oct. 7, 2001. Yet, on July 1, 2013, he received a check from the Mets for $1,193,248.20. He'll continue direct-depositing this tidy sum on that date for the next 21 years after New York bought out the final year of a five-year $25 million deal that was originally signed with the Marlins in '96. This was the end of a second but much shorter go-around with the Mets after they made him the game's top earner in '91 with $29 million over five years. In his 16-year career, he hit .279 with 278 homers and 1,173 RBI. Yes, sir, worth every penny then, now and especially in the future.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • On Oct. 19, 1999, the Mets were eliminated from the NLCS after an epic 10-9 Game 6 loss to the Braves in 11 innings. Bonilla was seen playing cards with #86 Rickey Henderson during the final three innings in the clubhouse. "There were players crying and screaming in the dugout (after the defeat). Then they walk in the clubhouse and see that?'' a person affiliated with the team said. That final act of defiance spurred the Mets to buy out the final year, even though it triggered a deferral clause that added more than four times the value to the $5.9 million owed. Talk about playing your cards right. Who negotiated this contract, Bob Sugar?

DEFINING SEASON

  • In '90 for the NL East champion Pirates, Bonilla drove in a career-high 120 runs, hit 32 homers and 39 doubles. In his six-year Pirates career, Bonilla averaged 19 homers and 83 RBI. That's what put him on the gravy train to riches.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Signed by the Pirates out of high school in '81, but a broken leg suffered in a collision with teammate #15 Bip Roberts in spring training four years later set him back and led to him being exposed in the Rule 5 draft in '85, when the White Sox acquired him.
  2. Made his major-league debut with the White Sox in '86 before the Pirates reacquired him in July for pitcher Jose DeLeon.
  3. In his first season in Flushing in '92, when the Mets lost 90 games and finished fifth in the NL East, Bonilla had the temerity to call the press box in between innings of a game to complain to the official scorer who charged him with an error.
  4. Traded to the Orioles in '95, with his most notable accomplishment probably being to help coax #96 Cal Ripken out of the dugout and encourage him to take a lap around Camden Yards during the 2,131 game on Sept. 6. 
  5. The rise of Albert Pujols was in part due to an injury suffered by Bonilla in spring training in '01, allowing him to break camp with the Cardinals. Bonilla was released after the season and last seen laughing heartily at the Mets while counting his millions on a white sandy beach.

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