It's a pretty safe bet that July 1 is Bobby Bonilla's favorite day of the year. That's because it's the day on which the New York Mets pay him $1,193,248.20. Bonilla, 57, hasn't picked up a bat since 2001, when he last played for the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Mets will keep paying him that amount every July 1 until 2035—when he's 72. It's a deal that has Bernie Madoff at its nexus. As CNN reports, the Mets were ready to split with him in 1999, which meant buying out the $5.9 million left of his deal. Mets owner Fred Wilpon believed his investments with Madoff were churning out money, so Bonilla's agent secured a deal that would see payments deferred until 2011 with an 8% annual interest rate—the idea being that money would be invested with Madoff in the meantime and earn double-digit returns. Except, of course, it didn't work out that way. Two takes:
- Dan Mullen, ESPN: "Because of baseball's salary structure, Bonilla's annual payday is often more than some of the game's current stars in a given year. Thanks to the shortened season and prorated salaries for players in 2020, that list has grown even longer."
- Chris Bumbaca, USA Today: "While Bonilla may best be remembered for these yearly payments among modern baseball fans, the context of his career is important. Coming off four straight All-Star seasons and two consecutive top-three MVP finishes with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Bronx native became the highest-paid player in a team sport when he signed a five-year, $29.1 million deal with the Mets ahead of the 1992 season."
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