Thanks to the unstoppable churn of the internet, Bobby Bonilla’s annuity payment from the generationally-hapless Mets draws some attention every summer. This year, in some sort of meta-awareness about-face, the Mets leaned into their financial mismanagement and invited Bonilla to stumble through an ad-read for the team’s Airbnb partnership. In other words, Bonilla once again gets paid to make the team look like dolts.
As part of a cost-saving measure from twenty years ago, the Mets offered up a lottery-style solution to their slugger: forego the $5.9M we owe you now, and we’ll pay you around $1.2M per year for twenty-five consecutive years, starting in 2011.
Today, July 1st 2021, Bonilla cashes his 11th payment, for a running total of $13,125,730 paid so far, with another $16.7M on deck for the next fourteen years. All told, he’ll make out with about $30M in oversized Publisher’s Clearing House checks when the deal expires.
We can talk about the time value of money, assuming healthy market returns, and all of those principles are certainly true: a dollar today is worth a dollar tomorrow. But there’s also something pretty sweet about picking up some mailbox money every summer right before America’s birthday.
Each year, Bonilla gets to light a roman candle straight from the cheeks of one of MLB’s major-market franchises as he toasts to his health. It’s like how Mariah Carey gets to buy a new gold statue of herself every December because your wife’s favorite department store can’t stop playing “All I Want for Christmas is You.” All Bobby has to do is take another journey around the sun for another guaranteed payday and another ritualistic public swirlie for the Mets.
At this point, the Mets are like the guy in your fantasy league who nobody really likes but you keep around because you know he’ll probably lose. These are the guys who end up wearing dresses on street corners with signs saying they suck at fantasy football but start a shit-posting group thread in May. Just no self-awareness whatsoever.
Dane Cook made this same joke years ago: every group has that friend who is only there to be insulted. Pretty sure his bit is where the “Karen” joke originated, too (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.) And that’s the Mets, just a sad, middle-aged woman looking for hairs in her food who can’t balance her check book. Maybe Mrs. Met should get a high fade and a fake designer handbag. F*cking Karen.
This year, though, the Mets decided to get out ahead of the annual media drag and instead dunk their own head in the toilet before Bobby and his agent could do it for them. Not only is paying a guy for half a lifetime after he retires bad for the balance sheet, but it becomes just another brick in the wall of losing culture. As a Braves fan, I love their ineptitude. Chipper Jones mounted that steed so often that he named his daughter after their old stadium. Do you think Steinbrenner would have ever brought his worst management decision in for a nostalgic romp and a giggle, much less paid for the pleasure of humiliation afterwards?
This whole story is so 2021 it hurts: all fluff, all sales, all corporate pleasantries, no killer instinct.
If you’ve never worked in a corporate culture, here’s how it went down. Some low-level marketing guy actually had a decent idea: instead of getting toilet water in our eyes this summer, why not get out ahead of the Bonilla thing and make it funny. Something people wouldn’t expect. Great. He takes it to his boss, and the idea slowly floats up the ladder through the minds of less funny but more powerful people until it has been totally sucked of originality and a sponsor has been found. The bosses high-five each other for their ability to connect with baseball fans, the social teams hype it up the night before, and the now-dumb idea gets met with tepid response and eyerolling. Who thought of this crappy idea, the bosses ask aloud, I think it was Jim in marketing. And baseball continues to suck.
So enjoy Bobby Bonilla Day, and send a toast his way after work. The man crawled through five hundred yards of metropolitan sh*t and came out clean on the other side.