To baseball fans, the month of July is known for four things: the 4th of July, the All-Star Game, the trade deadline, and … “Bobby Bonilla Day.”
The reason for this is simple: On July 1 of every year from 2011 through 2035, Mr. Bonilla (who is now 54 and last suited up in 2001 for the St. Louis Cardinals) is paid $1,193,248.20 by the New York Mets. Way back in 2000, the Mets wanted to release the former All-Star outfielder but still owed him his salary of $5.9 million for that season. His agent, Dennis Gilbert, negotiated a deferred payment deal (which is not unusual in sports today) with an eight-percent annual interest rate, deferred for ten years and then paid out over 25 years. The grand total for Bonilla’s $5.9 million payout will actually be $29.8 million.
In 2000, this didn’t seem like such an odd deal. They Mets used the savings to acquire Mike Hampton, who played a large role in getting that squad to the World Series. Around the same time, the Wilpons (the family that still currently owns the Mets) invested in what was then a seemingly good investment with Bernie Madoff, which of course ended up being a part of the Ponzi scheme Mr. Madoff is now infamously known for. Obviously, the Wilpons did not get the return they’d hoped for (or in fact any return at all), although initial estimates had them making a return higher than the sum they’re now playing Bonilla.
And so it is that on this day we celebrate (or perhaps have a laugh about) “Bobby Bonilla Day.” The laugh could be at the expense of the Mets organization, or possibly could be heard from Bonilla himself as he laughs all the way to the bank not only this year, but every year forward for the next 18. If there is ever a hall of fame for contracts or agents, Dennis Gilbert needs to be in it.