Americans have a habit of placing all holidays on a Monday that are not tied to a specific date, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day. Others, however, fall when they have to fall. Even the unofficial ones, like the Bobby Bonilla Day, celebrated every July 1st by the community of baseball fans around the world. It is the date on which Bonilla receives the annual tranche of his contract with the New York Mets, exactly $ 1,193,248.20. Nothing extraordinary, except that Bonilla, 57, third base and outside, has not played in the Mets since 1999 and has not set foot on an MLB diamond since 2001. Now, he would not be the first person to receive a salary without working, but the (not) poor Bobby is neither a trifle nor a recipient of an inflated citizenship income: he simply found himself in the condition, twenty years ago, to receive a nice tribute from the Mets, who no longer wanted him but still owed 5.9 million. Instead of giving it straight away, they chose to pay in installments from 2011 to 2035, with an annual rate of increase of 8 percent. Partly to be able to immediately use that money to buy another player, and partly because that 8 percent was much less than the return of the 12-15 that the financier Bernie Madoff guaranteed on the huge sums that the Wilpon family, owners of the Mets, she had entrusted him.
It was a simple calculation, then went to ramengo when Madoff’s 65 billion dollar scam was discovered, then sentenced to 150 years in prison, to thousands of customers, including large banks. So, beyond the Ridancian anecdote, there was a project, in apparent madness, and neither the Mets nor Bonilla really deserve to be made fun of. Also because jokes, jokes and ironic celebrations of July 1st obscured a data certified by the famous statistical site FiveThirtyEight, specialized in the in-depth analysis of the numbers: for most of his career Bonilla, also winner of a championship with the Florida Marlins, was paid LESS than he deserved, and in the end his overall compensation is almost equal to what a player of his talents would have deserved, who reached the top after being ignored after high school and discovered by a coach during a tour with a minor team in … Scandinavia. Maybe, to influence the ironies about Bonilla, there are episodes such as the time when he came into play with ear plugs, not to hear the fans’ disputes and the fact that led to the end of his days in the Mets: in the decisive moments Game 6 of the 1999 semi-final, lost against Atlanta, Bobby and left-footer Rickey Henderson, instead of being on the bench to support their teammates, they went to the locker room to play cards. Quick out of hand, Bonilla must have always been: on the occasion of the divorce from his wife Millie he came out through a private investigator named Vito Carucci that Bobby had hidden a part of his substantial assets to steal him from paying for alimony. And it is not for nothing that part of the bank transfer on July 1st will end up at the lady.
The curiosity is that Bonilla’s contract was the second that the Mets structured as follows: but the figure that the launcher Bret Saberhagen, born in ’64, will receive until 2029 is only, paltry $ 250,000 per year, stuff to be almost ashamed of. Much higher than the compensation that will go to Chris Sale and Max Scherzer, also launchers, respectively up to 2039 and 2028, but the two are still in business, have won a title each in the last two years and in their case it is still of sums foreseen one hundred percent already in the contract, without the respective clubs, Boston and Washington, having to insert in the budget hypothetical revenues such as the Madoffian ones foreseen by the Mets. Sale made the most fragmented choice: in 2019 he signed a contract that guarantees him about 90 million until 2025, then 10 a year from 2035 to 2039, when he will be 50 years old and, paraphrasing what Michael Jordan said to a fellow team, “all the money he wants and all the time to enjoy it”.
Moreover, it is mostly for high level athletes who resort to special contracts or bizarre prizes, even when they are casual. Rollie Fingers, for example, was a major pitcher, the one who replaces the owner mid-game, and in his career, from 1968 to 1985, he never signed agreements worthy of scandal or derision. But the weirdest money he earned in 1972, earning the $ 300 (about 2,000 today, not even that much) offered by the Oakland A’s owner, Charlie Finley, to the player who had grown the most creative mustache during the pre-season and had kept them at least until the first game.
It had happened that the great Reggie Jackson had come to retirement with a beard and mustache, normal in the rest of society but anomalous in baseball, since only two players had had them in the previous 80 years. Annoyed, Finley had asked him in vain to shave, but faced with his refusal he had targeted his weak point, narcissism: that is, he had asked other players to grow a beard and mustache.
Jackson, so the boss reasoned, to distinguish himself he would have shaved himself then. But the new look became a sort of common code of the team and then Finley took the opportunity, he grew his mustache too and decided to award the prize to all the players, not only to Fingers, who was inspired by the photos of the baseball players of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and he had routed everyone with a very powerful pair of handlebar mustaches. Located between mouth and nose.
He says: why, where should the mustache be? You never know, given that Rollie himself, to highlight the hunger of the players of that time, paid much less than today, admitted that “for $ 300 we would have made the mustache grow anywhere on the body, not just above the lip”. Finley considered them money well spent, because they brought advertising and fans: he established the Mustache Day, June 18, 1972, with free admission to all spectators with mustaches, and the A’s, thanks also to the team spirit created by that bizarre competition, won even three championships in a row, a feat then repeated only by the New York Yankees between 1998 and 2000.
Not only that: the 1972 final, among the colorful, mustached, unpredictable Oakland A’s and the more traditionalist Cincinnati Reds, went down in history as’ Hairs v Squares’, which more or less means’ Pelosi against Noiosi ‘. The best player, with Jackson injured, was the catcher Fury Gene Tenace, the paisà Fiore Gino Tenacci, who took his last salary in 2009, 37 years later. Another bizarre clause? Macché: unlike Bonilla, Tenace, in fact, has never stopped working, as a player then coach. After all, with that surname, what could he do?