with Rob Kriete
It is undoubtedly “Game On” at the home of former MLB player Bobby Bonilla this week. July 1st marks the day annually where “Bobby Bo” collects around $1.2 million from the New York Mets for deferred payments of a contract initially signed in 1991. These payments, for the poster-boy for delayed payments, will continue through 2035.
Rumor has it if one were to win the lottery, money can be taken as a lump sum or taken in payments over 20 years, with the deferred money being a more significant amount. No one would begrudge a lottery winner for choosing a larger amount over those two decades. Bonilla, however, seems to be much maligned for being a player benefiting from precisely that decision. (There is even a bobblehead depicting an elderly Bonilla with a “big check!”) The strategy of offering deferred payments to players has been going on since the 1980s for various reasons…mostly to win now and spend later. Owners of professional teams do it often with the idea that they may not even own the team when those payments are due. The Washington Nationals, current World Champions, are doing this with several of their star players. Stephen Strasburg recently signed a contract with over $100 million in deferred payments. So, the strategy is still alive and thriving in 2020.
However, Bobby Bo seems to be the piñata for sports fans and pundits as if he is stealing money annually. The Mets offered the deferred payments, he wisely chose them. Bonilla should be remembered as a strong, middle of the order, hitter. Bobby Bo was never close to being a Gold-Glove winner but was a feared line-drive switch-hitter throughout his career that spanned 1986-2001, including a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 30.2. He led the league in doubles in 1991, won a World Series in 1997, and won the Silver Slugger award six times. Yet, his decision to defer around $6 million of his salary, a choice every reader of this column would make, ultimately defines his MLB legacy. Perhaps in my next column, I will advocate for the career of Bill Buckner, who never would have made a play on Mookie’s grounder even if he fielded it cleanly in 1986. (I stand by this).
When I skip around the room screaming “Game On!” for winning the voluntary taxation known as the lottery, don’t be upset with my collecting a sizeable check every month for the next twenty years. I’m going to have my own “Bobby Bonilla Day!”