We’re now into July, which brings with it the SINGLE GREATEST DAY on the sports calendar. No, not the Champions League Final or the Super Bowl. I’m talking about Bobby Bonilla Day: an annual reminder of one of the strangest (and most interesting) contracts in the history of sports.
Every single year on July 1st, The New York Mets pay baseball player Bobby Bonilla $1,193,248.20. And while million dollar contracts are hardly rare in sports these days, this one is special. You see, Bobby Bonilla hasn’t played professional baseball in 19 years. He hasn’t played with the Mets since 1999. He began receiving these annual payments in 2011 and will continue to do so until 2035, when he will be 72 years old.
Who is Bobby Bonilla?
To give a bit of history, Bobby Bonilla was one of the best (and highest paid) players in baseball through the early 1990s. Unsurprisingly, this brought with it a series of very large contracts towards the later end of his career. Contacts which Bonilla unfortunately failed to play up to. This eventually reached a breaking point in 1999 when Bonilla (then with the Mets) struggled with injuries, clashed with management, and batted only .160 through 60 games (for the uninitiated, this is bad. Like BAD, BAD).
The Mets wanted Bonilla gone, but still owed him $5.9 million. And here is where the madness comes in. The team decided that rather than pay him the $5.9 million now, they would defer the payment for 12 years. From 2011 to 2035, they would make the previously mentioned annual payment of $1.19 million (including 8% interest).
Why would anyone do this?
You don’t have to be a genius to realise that this sounds NUTS. These payments total $29.8 million, which if my math is correct is a bit more than $5.9 million.
At the time of this MENSA-level decision, the team had some of their money being handled by a certain financier you may have heard of: Bernie Madoff. They were promised double digits returns on their investment, so in their mind the deferred contract with Bonilla was a great idea. It would actually cost them NOTHING as the profit they would make would offset what they would eventually owe.
Just one tinnnnnny flaw in that plan – It was a Ponzi scheme and the team would go on lose A TON of money. Madoff would go to jail and the Mets wound up looking like idiots. One single person did not lost out on that deal, and I’m sure you can guess who that is.
So kick back, relax and enjoy the summer. Bobby Bonilla certainly will be.