Bobby Bonilla

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Bobby Bonilla
Third baseman / Right fielder
Born: (1963-02-23) February 23, 1963 (age 51)
Bronx, New York
Batted: Switch Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 9, 1986 for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB appearance
October 7, 2001 for the St. Louis Cardinals
Career statistics
Batting average .279
Home runs 287
Runs batted in 1,173
Career highlights and awards

Roberto Martin Antonio "Bobby" Bonilla[1] (/bˈnjə/, born February 23, 1963 in The Bronx, New York) is a former player in Major League Baseball of Afro-Puerto Rican descent[1] who played from 1986 to 2001.

Bonilla is currently being paid approximately $1.19 million by the New York Mets each year, a deal made when the Mets released Bonilla before the 2000 baseball season and still owed him $5.9 million for the final year of his contract. The deal expires in 2035, at which point Bonilla will have been paid $29.8 million for a season in which he did not even play for the Mets.

Playing career[edit]

Bonilla was signed out of high school by Pittsburgh Pirates scout Syd Thrift. His rise through the Pirates' farm system came to a halt during spring training in 1985 when he broke his right leg in a collision with teammate Bip Roberts. The White Sox then acquired him through the Rule 5 draft. Bonilla made his major league debut with the White Sox. Syd Thrift, then the Pirates' General Manager, reacquired the unhappy Bonilla in exchange for pitcher José DeLeón. Bonilla also played from 1984 to 1988 with the Mayagüez Indians of the Puerto Rican Winter League.[2]

Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

Bonilla became the Pirates' starting third baseman in 1987, but after committing 67 errors over his next two seasons, manager Jim Leyland moved him to right field. There he formed a formidable combination alongside stars Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke and helped propel the Pittsburgh Pirates to two of their three straight NL East titles from 1990 to 1992.

New York Mets[edit]

In 1992, he was signed as a free agent by the New York Mets to a (then) very lucrative 5 year, $29 million contract ($48.7 million today[3]). But without his fellow Pirate stars around him, his offensive production dropped. His stay in New York was also marred by a number of incidents, such as threatening sportswriter Bob Klapisch that he would "show him the Bronx" in response to his book on the 1992 Mets, The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Collapse Of The New York Mets (ISBN 978-0803278226).[4] On another occasion, he called the press box during a game to complain about an error that he was charged with.[5]


Finally, in 1995, Bonilla was traded by the Mets with a player to be named later to the Baltimore Orioles for Damon Buford and Alex Ochoa.

After helping the Orioles to the American League Championship Series in 1996, he was once again granted free agency and signed with the Florida Marlins. Reunited with his old manager, Jim Leyland, he helped the Marlins win the 1997 World Series. He spent the 1998 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Back to the Mets[edit]

In 1999, the New York Mets reacquired Bonilla from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Mel Rojas. Again, his level of play did not measure up to expectations and he had numerous clashes with manager Bobby Valentine over lack of playing time. His tenure in New York culminated in an infamous incident during Game Six of the 1999 NLCS where the Mets were eliminated by the Braves in an eleven inning game while Bonilla reportedly sat in the clubhouse playing cards with teammate Rickey Henderson.[6]

After a subpar season in 1999, the Mets released Bonilla, but still owed him $5.9 million. Bonilla and his agent offered the Mets a deal: Bonilla would defer payment for a decade, and the Mets would pay him an annual paycheck of $1.19 million starting in 2011 and ending in 2035, adding up to a total payout of $29.8 million.[7][8] Mets owner Fred Wilpon accepted the deal mostly because he was heavily invested with Ponzi scheme operator Bernie Madoff, and the 10 percent returns he thought he was getting on his investments with Madoff outweighed the 8 percent interest the Mets would be paying on Bonilla's initial $5.9 million. As a result, the payout was a subject of inquiry during the Madoff investment scandal. [9]

Atlanta Braves[edit]

Bonilla signed with the Braves in 2000 and played a mostly uneventful 114 games for them. He did achieve his highest batting average since the 1997 season, although he hit only 5 home runs, a far cry from his career high of 34.

St. Louis Cardinals[edit]

In 2001, he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, but was released due to an injury and the success of his replacement, Albert Pujols. He played his final game on October 7, 2001.

Overall, Bobby Bonilla was a six-time All-Star, and had career statistics of 2,010 hits, 287 home runs, 1,173 runs batted in, and a career .279 batting average.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Levin, Eric; Mary Huzinec (1988-07-18). "Save That Ball, Boys—The Way Bobby Bonilla's Going, It'll Be Valuable". People. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  2. ^ The Santurce Crabbers: Sixty Seasons of Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball By Thomas E. Van Hyning, Herman Franks P154
  3. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Klapisch, Bob (2002-02-26). "1992 taught Mets a chemistry lesson". 
  5. ^ Edes, Gordon (2007-05-25). "It's a trial of hits and errors". The Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ "Henderson, Bonilla show up Valentine in Game 6". Sports Illustrated. 22 October 1999. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "How Bobby Bonilla Landed The Luckiest Baseball Contract Ever". Celebrity Net Worth. 2013-07-01. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  8. ^ Shapiro, Mark (2000-01-04). "Mets Say Goodbye To Bonilla, Eat $29 Million". Chicago Tribune. 
  9. ^ "Trustee Says Mets Saw Madoff as House Money". New York Times. 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Darryl Strawberry
Will Clark
National League Player of the Month
April & May 1988
April 1990
Succeeded by
Will Clark
Andre Dawson