Bobby Bonilla Day Becomes Entertaining Spectacle

Last November, a few weeks after hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen completed his purchase of the Mets, he spent some time engaging with fans on social media. During one such session, Cohen came up with the idea of transforming Bobby Bonilla Day from a punchline into a promotion. As Cohen envisioned it, he’d “hand [Bonilla] an oversized check and drive a lap around the stadium.” (I assume by this point everyone knows what Bobby Bonilla Day is and why it took place yesterday. If not, look here.)

As a Mets fan myself, I loved this idea. For starters, it meant that Cohen was capable of showing a greater sense of humor in his first month of ownership than the Wilpons had shown in their decades-long stewardship of the team. Moreover, I loved the idea of turning one of the franchise’s biggest albatrosses into something fun. There was something very Bill Veeck about it.

As BBD approached this year, I was wondering if the whole “giant check” idea would come to fruition. Sadly, that did not happen, at least for 2021. But the Mets are nonetheless embracing BBD in a roundabout way this season — and they’re not the only ones. A series of developments yesterday indicate that BBD has turned the corner and entered a new phase of its life cycle. Here are three such developments that I’m aware of from yesterday (although I suspect that there may have been more):

1. Although “the logistics of the [giant check] ceremony couldn’t be completed in time this year” (it’s not clear if the logistical issues had to do with the pandemic, or Bonilla’s travel schedule, or something else), the Mets yesterday announced that they will have a “Bobby Bonilla Day” promotion on July 28, with one lucky fan getting to book a “Private room hosted by Bobby” at their ballpark on July 28. Frankly, that doesn’t feel like a very BBD-ish execution to me, but at least it embraces the idea of turning this particular lemon into lemonade. I’ll look forward to the giant check on July 1 of next year.

2. The wireless company Mint Mobile (which I had never even heard of until yesterday) ran a pretty funny commercial offering a 25-year wireless plan similar to the 25-year deal that Bonilla got from the Mets. Best of all, the star of the commercial is none other than Mr. Bobby Bonilla:

3. A pair of students at the Denver Ad School — Ben Ward and Andrew Brown — created a really good BBD-related project for their portfolios, called MLB NXT. Ward gave me this explanation of it:

Given MLB’s visibility problem, why not take advantage of what is basically a national baseball holiday? Initially, we had hoped to make July 1st a day in which we challenge our partners, sponsors — shit, even players, whoever — to match the $1.2 million Bobby will get paid and pump it into growing the game. We even talked about making Bobby the spokesperson of RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities)

But why stop there? We’re thinking of getting league partners like Amazon to create a nationwide network of equipment lockers stocked with the baseball gear that kids need in order to play. And using shipping containers from Old Dominion to create killer box seats where kids can sign up for exclusive game access. And on and on.

Again, this is just a portfolio project, but it’s a very imaginative way of putting a positive spin on BBD. I really like it! MLB could do a lot worse than to run with this idea. Again, you can check it out here.

One of the most remarkable things about the transformation of Bobby Bonilla Day is that it has also transformed Bobby Bonilla himself. Most articles about BBD mention that the Mets released him in 2000 because he’d hit .160 the year before, but what often goes unmentioned is that Bonilla had also become widely perceived as a pariah, and with good reason. Among other things:

• In 1993, Bonilla physically threatened a sportswriter, telling him, “I’ll hurt you. I’ll show you the Bronx.”

• When the Mets were in extra innings during Game Six of the 1999 NLCS, Bonilla was playing cards in the clubhouse instead of watching the game with his teammates in the dugout.

• During the 1999 offseason, Bonilla threatened to make waves in 2000 if he didn’t get enough playing time, telling reporters, ”You’re all going to love me next year. In the millennium, there will be some fireworks. I want to play.” Asked if he would be a problem for the Mets if he did not play, he said, ”Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.”

And so on. Indeed, one reason BBD was so exasperating for Mets fans was that the deferred payments weren’t going to just anyone — they were going to someone who was reviled by the fan base.

Many years later, the mystique of BBD has somehow turned Bobby Bo into a warm, almost cuddly figure. It reminds me of how George Foreman underwent a similar reinvention in the public mind after coming out of retirement in the late 1980s.

I figure right now we’re in the sweet spot where BBD is really fun. In another year or two, it will probably become an overdone, shark-jumped self-parody, so let’s enjoy it now while we can.

(My thanks to Ron Ruelle for bringing the Mint Mobile ad to my attention.)

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Click to enlarge

July pin reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, our latest pin is based on classic Olympic pictograms (something that pin designer Todd Radom and I are both very fond of). Looks great, no? Check out those winged stirrup medals, and note that the gold medal winner’s striped socks are in Uni Watch colors!

This is a numbered edition of 200 pins, and we sold about 85 of them on the first day. You can order yours here.

Need to get caught up? Here are this year’s pins for January, February, April, May, and June (sorry, March is sold out!), plus our remaining pins from last year are available at a discounted price.

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Cap update: We continue to sell through our remaining cap inventory. Just a few left now:

7-1/2: 1 cap
7-3/4: 1
7-7/8: 1

Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Available here while they last.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: The Phillies will retire Roy Halladay’s No. 34 on Aug. 8. They’ve released a logo for the event, which is pretty much what the retired uniform display will be (from @PhillyPartTwo). … SS Drew Maggi of the St. Paul Saints, Triple-A affiliates of the Twins, wore his left stirrup outside of his shoe last night. His right stirrup remained inside (from @Tinger_3). … Atlanta C Kevan Smith wore the team’s 150th-anniversary patch on the left sleeve, instead of the usual right, last night. He had it on the proper sleeve the night before (from Andrew Constant). … In a related item, Smith was part of a Smith/Smith/Smith at-bat last night (from Andrew Cosentino).

NFL News: In Dan Snyder’s statement on the NFL’s investigation of the WFT’s toxic work environment, he calls his own team the “Washington Football Club.” The man doesn’t even know the official name of his own team! (Good spot by our own Jamie Rathjen.) … KC is teasing the return of the white-over-white uni combo (thanks, Phil).

Hockey News: Did you know that in 2005 the Sabres experimented with blue ice with yellow “blue” lines? It was supposed to make the ice look better on newly available HD TVs. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way (from Brandon Weir).

NBA News: Twitter-er Steve Hemsath seems to have found the NBA’s 75th-anniversary logo for next season. The 75th anniversary is, of course, the diamond anniversary — hence the logo’s shape.

Soccer News: The NWSL has hired a branding firm to revise its logo. Although the new design will coincide with the league’s 10th anniversary, it will not be an anniversary logo per se (thanks, Jamie). … Italy’s Serie A updated their logo, which will appear on every Serie A kit this coming season. … The Athletic has a piece on the up-and-down history of Columbus Crew primary logos, including identifying the three dudes who modeled for the original crest (from multiple readers). … New home jerseys for Sporting CP (from Ed Żelaski).

Grab Bag: A juror in a New Jersey federal court case has been found to be in contempt of court and fined $11,000 for googling a patch on an ICE officer’s uniform. The ICE officer, who was allegedly assaulted by someone he was in the process of arresting, said the patch was a trade union logo. But the juror, a union pipefitter, doubted the officer’s explanation, so he googled it and determined it was actually a white supremacist logo. The case was declared a mistrial and the juror held in contempt for violating the judge’s order to stay off the Internet during the trial (from Max Weintraub). … Akron’s alt-weekly newspaper The Devil Strip has a good article about how bad the city flag is (from Kyle Schiely).

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Holiday weekend plans: The entire Uni Watch team has the holiday weekend off. so we won’t have any content tomorrow. I’ll have a short post on Independence Day, as I always do, and then we’ll see about Monday — I’m not yet sure if I’ll publish anything that day.

However you’re spending the long weekend, please accept my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday! Peace. — Paul

39 comments to Bobby Bonilla Day Becomes Entertaining Spectacle

  • Bob Sullivan | July 2, 2021 at 8:45 am |

    Here in the Philly area, we refer to July 1 as Ilya Bryzgalov day. He will be paid $1,642,857 annually until 2026.

    • MJ | July 2, 2021 at 9:03 am |

      It’s truly a so humongous big day here, at least for the next 5 years. May Bryz find peace in his soul.

  • BurghFan | July 2, 2021 at 8:47 am |

    As it happened, I had the Pirate game on the radio last when they announced that Adam Frazier had been elected the NL’s starting All-Star second baseman. This made Frazier the first Pirate to start as an infielder since … Bobby Bonilla at third base in 1988, when he outpolled Mike Schmidt.

    While Bonilla may have been reviled in New York, there was a reason the Mets signed him to a big contract — he was a very good player in Pittsburgh.

    • Paul Lukas | July 2, 2021 at 8:56 am |

      Oh, for sure — in his prime, an upper-echelon player.

      • Justin Black | July 2, 2021 at 1:14 pm |

        As a Pirate fan, I was bummed when we lost him (and Sid Bream) to free agency. Good dude/player for sure.
        His signing with the Mets, however, soon turned disastrous on both ends. He was miserable there, played lousy & lazy & was just plain nasty with the NY media.
        I was shocked when he came back to the Mets a few years later. I read somewhere that when he was initially offered that deal, he stormed out, went home & told his wife the Mets were trying to screw him over. After hearing the details, she requested a meeting with the Mets, they broke it down for her & he agreed. Without her, no BBD! Of course they divorced soon after.

        • Phil Hecken | July 2, 2021 at 1:57 pm |

          Of course they divorced soon after.

          Bonilla and the Mets or his wife?

          And I thought Sid Bream died after that rundown with the Braves…

        • Paul Lukas | July 2, 2021 at 2:54 pm |

          I was shocked when he came back to the Mets a few years later.

          His second stint with the Mets was the result of a trade with the Dodgers — a straight-up swap for reliever Mel Rojas, who stunk in NY. It was described at the time as a “I’ll take your problem if you take my problem” trade.

        • Justin Black | July 2, 2021 at 4:06 pm |

          Rundown? I wish!
          No Bream didn’t die, but every true Pirate fan did….just a little bit.

  • Tom J | July 2, 2021 at 9:00 am |

    Bobby Bonilla was transformed because he took advantage of arrogant management to reap better compensation for his labor.

    How many people can say they’ve out negotiated an employer trying to terminate their contract?

    The fact that the Mets made this deal in part because of Bernie Madoff is just the kicker.

    Bobby Bonilla beat Wall St. fraudsters to secure a comfortable retirement. He’s a proletarian class hero.

    • Jeff Ash | July 2, 2021 at 9:12 am |

      From Andrew Brandt, former Packers VP: “Always amused by the narrative here, that this is such a great contract for the player, not the team. Fact: EVERY NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL team would rather defer money this way than pay in real time.”

      • Tom J | July 2, 2021 at 11:09 am |

        I think its less that its delayed but also that its enhanced by compound interest. So the Mets have would up paying Bonilla many times more than what he would have been paid up front and that connects with people.

        Now there’s a couple interesting questions beyond that:

        1. Would Bonilla have more money at now if he had taken the upfront cash and invested it himself? For example, would he be wealthier now if he’d taken the cash and invested in Domino’s Pizza stock?

        2. The Mets’ payroll in 2000 was $79,800,000 and in 2019 their payroll was $158,652,231. Arguably over time, the Mets have been more valuable, increased their profits and are in a better position to pay the enhanced salary. Not the way Madoff was telling them they would but still. So how much is Bonilla really sticking it to the man?

        Those questions taken into account, it still connects emotionally with a lot of people that Bonilla got more money from his employer, who has to cough up the cash every year.

      • Jasper | July 2, 2021 at 12:15 pm |

        Right. While $1.12 million is certainly a lot of money to us common folk, some context is needed. The annual Bonilla payout represents about 0.5% of the Mets total payroll. The team is estimated to have a value of over $2.5 billion.

        • Tom J | July 2, 2021 at 5:59 pm |

          Mainly I’m talking about the $1.12 million in the context of the Mets payroll now as opposed to 2000.

    • Matt | July 2, 2021 at 12:10 pm |

      Well, Bobby himself didn’t “out negotiate”, but his agent sure did.

  • MJ | July 2, 2021 at 9:01 am |

    Point of fact: the logo for Roy Halladay’s jersey retirement is not how his retired number will look. The Phillies use a font throughout Citizens Bank Park that has never appeared on the uniforms as an NOB font. There’s no circle behind the number, no pinstripes and no last name banner overlying the bottom of the number. That said, they should consider implementing any and all of the design features in the retirement logo, though it would be preferable to use era-appropriate fonts; Dick Allen never wore the current NOB font. Left out of the discussion is whether or not the number should be retired for a guy who pitched here for 4 seasons and won zero pennants.

    • Greg | July 2, 2021 at 9:27 am |

      Braves used to use period applicable fonts and colours for retired numbers at Turner Field, but since moving to Truist, it’s all the current block style NOB in red. Blah

  • Joe | July 2, 2021 at 9:01 am |

    Looks like it’s backwards; the ICE officer was allegedly assaulted by the person he was arresting.

    • Paul Lukas | July 2, 2021 at 9:08 am |

      Thanks. Fixed.

  • Jeff Ash | July 2, 2021 at 9:13 am |

    Take Monday off. We’ll be OK.

  • Silver Creek Dawg | July 2, 2021 at 9:17 am |

    Little known fact- the Atlanta Braves have a Bobby Bonilla-type deal of their own. They’re paying Bruce Sutter $1.12 million ending this year, but with a twist- a $9.1 million balloon payment next season.

    But at least it’s over soon…

  • Wade Heidt | July 2, 2021 at 9:20 am |

    Here is your Toronto Blue Jays Ticker today:

    The Blue Jays wore red uniforms for Canada Day (in Buffalo):

    https://twitter.com/BlueJays/status/1410698676952088582

    Special Canada Day shoes for Alek Manoah:

    https://twitter.com/BlueJays/status/1410641450476449794

    Special orange ribbon banner on the outfield wall in Buffalo to acknowledge the belief in reconciliation with Indigenous people for a better Canada:

    https://twitter.com/BlueJays/status/1410604202628288514

    • Tim | July 2, 2021 at 3:13 pm |

      Don’t forget the Blue Jays record on Canada Day now stands at 15-27 for an awesome winning percentage of .357

      Maybe they should just take the day off and have a couple of Molsons and some poutine.

  • William Gordon | July 2, 2021 at 9:27 am |

    Interesting that Paul has never heard of Mint Mobile. If I am not mistaken, the actor Ryan Reynolds owns them, and that may be his voice on the commercial.

    • Patrick in MI | July 2, 2021 at 3:03 pm |

      I too have never heard of Mint Mobile. Must be a west coast thing? Heck, I’m not even sure who Ryan Reynolds is!

      I don’t follow much basketball but that 75th anniversary logo is very nice and minimalist.

      • Phil Hecken | July 2, 2021 at 3:34 pm |

        I’m not even sure who Ryan Reynolds is!

        Wait…What?

  • Mainspark | July 2, 2021 at 9:45 am |

    The day should be called “Dennis Gilbert Day” as he is the agent who negotiated Bonilla’s deferred contract.

  • GMS | July 2, 2021 at 10:06 am |

    Bonus points: that Mint Mobile commercial is an almost word-for-word spoof of those Frank Thomas Nugenix commercials…

  • Dave Stewart | July 2, 2021 at 11:17 am |

    Another fact about Bobby Bonilla, the only reason Albert Pujols got the opening day start in 2001 was because BB was injured out of spring training. And the rest is history.

    • marchingkazoo | July 2, 2021 at 12:31 pm |

      Bobby Bonilla, Wally Pipp. Potato, potahto. Eh?

  • FloriDan | July 2, 2021 at 11:21 am |

    Bobby Bo actually mellowed out pretty quickly when he left the Mets. The media in Miami awarded him the “Good Guy” award in 1997. I guess going back to NY was stressful.

    https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1997-09-27-9709260600-story.html

  • SBL | July 2, 2021 at 12:08 pm |

    Actually, the Bonilla annuity turns out to be one of the smartest transactions any team has made in the last 25 years, based on the return the Mets got from the move.

    The reason they gave him the annuity in return for cancelling his contract was to create the necessary room in the team’s 2000 budget to trade for another player that they wanted who had a large salary …

    … Mike Hampton, who won 15 games and then led the Mets to the 2000 pennant by winning NLCS MVP.

    Hampton then left for Colorado as a free agent after one year (because of the Denver school system, of course). Because he was so good in 2000, the Mets were awarded a compensatory pick after between the first and second rounds of the 2001 draft. And they used that pick to draft …

    … David Wright, one of the best players in team history, who led them to pennants in 2006 and 2015.

    So if you’re scoring at home, the Bonilla annuity led directly to a franchise icon and three NL pennants.

    (See Devin Gordon’s book, SO MANY WAYS TO LOSE, for the full accounting.)

    • Marc | July 2, 2021 at 1:08 pm |

      That’s what I tell my friends every year but they don’t care, in part because they don’t want facts to get in the way of a good story, in part because of the circumstances outside the deal to give the team payroll flexibility, i.e.: the fact that the Wilpons thought they could make more than 8 percent through Madoff investments (I believe that they were snookered, like Elie Wiesel, and not complicit; at worst, like a number of people, they thought Madoff might have been trading on insider information) and the fact that Bonilla always came off as a jerk here. (Was he a closet Yankees fan? He was from the Bronx.)

      I think this https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/31732959/bobby-bonilla-day-explained-why-mets-pay-119m-today-every-july-1 is a pretty fair assessment. A lot of players get money deferred. It just gets presented to the public as the total cash payout, not the real present value, which tends to make the Washington Nationals contracts look bigger than they really as there is no interest applied, just as when contracts like Bonilla’s are bought out and converted to deferred money, they too look like huge payoffs to guys being dumped when, if interest is taken into account, they are not. I personally think that all contracts should be presented in terms of present value, for both the benefit of the public and for competitive balance tax purposes.

      Oh, and Mint Mobile seems be owned, in part, by actor Ryan Reynolds. https://gothamist.com/arts-entertainment/celebrate-bobby-bonilla-day-sleepover-citi-field-july? Not sure if there is some specific connection to why Reynolds and the company chose to troll the Mets on Bonilla.

      (Sorry for the length.)

  • ChrisH | July 2, 2021 at 12:21 pm |

    “KC is teasing the return of the white-over-white uni combo”

    I sure do wish the Bears would go back to that look.

    • Nestor Chylak | July 2, 2021 at 3:55 pm |

      You and me both. A tribute to Sayers; promote it, Bears!

      Had no idea white-over-white was a rarity in KC. Don’t think the Bears have worn it since the Lovie Smith era.

  • DAF | July 2, 2021 at 12:35 pm |

    The Akron flag doesn’t seem that bad to me. I’d probably rate it 6/10.

  • SaveFarris | July 2, 2021 at 2:27 pm |

    Ticker Update: Remember when Joe Kelly traded his uniform for a mariachi jacket?

    Guess what he just wore to the White House.

    https://twitter.com/JomboyMedia/status/1410988310391054342

  • Adam H Herbst | July 2, 2021 at 4:27 pm |

    Two Bobby Bonilla comments: I recall soon after the Mets signed him (his first go round) he was not performing and started to hear boos. Not unusual, but Bobby started wearing ear plugs (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1992/06/04/a-plug-or-two-for-bobby-boo/1c4ddf1f-3436-42a7-87ba-850afc320715/)

    As for Bonilla becoming cuddlier – recalls the quote that the evil Noah Cross makes in the movie Chinatown: Of course I’m respectable I’m old! Politicians ugly buildings and wxxxxx [prostitutes] all get respectable if they last long enough.

  • SaveFarris | July 2, 2021 at 6:42 pm |

    Sweet Merciful Lord: The caps are even worse than you think.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E5U1IIvXIAcCRC5?format=png&name=900×900

  • DCA | July 5, 2021 at 9:00 pm |

    On July 4th in Trenton, the Buffalo-Trenton Bisons-Thunder wore Trenton Thunder jerseys and Buffalo Bisons 4th of July hats.

    https://flickr.com/photos/slgc/51290832303/