Sunday, September 2, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1993

Part 32 of our 50-year Free Agency Disaster...
What is it: 1993 Topps #52, Bobby Bonilla

What makes it interesting: The '93s are kind of nice, as the early '90s Topps cards go. Topps upgraded their stock to a coated white this year, much shinier than the flat white they used in '92, and obviously nicer than the cardboard stock they used every year prior. This, clearly, was in response to Upper Deck, who joined the fray in 1989 and took the quality of a Baseball Card to another level. Or ruined the hobby. Your call.

They also had some of these "cool background" cards of star players. Here's Bobby Bonilla, resplendent in front of the New York Skyline. Few players arrived in New York with as much fanfare as Bobby Bonilla, who signed a record contract with the team prior to the '92 season, and brought a broad smile and tons of promise to a team that had fallen on hard times.

Few players did more to vilify themselves during their time with the Mets than Bobby Bonilla.

After a debut performance that saw him hit a pair of Home Runs in an extra inning Mets victory, Bobby Bonilla basically did everything wrong from there. He underperformed at the plate, loafed in the field, and basically became a target for fan derision and a pariah in the media for his behavior in general. This included phoning the press box during the game to dispute an error he was charged, and the famous "I'll show you the Bronx, Motherfucker" incident with Bob Klapisch. His numbers, which had made him a 4-time All Star with the Pirates, dropped precipitously in '92, when he hit .249 with 19 HRs and 70 RBIs. His power numbers improved in '93, as he hit 34 HRs, , but by that point the team as a whole had spiraled out of control, unable to win games or inspire any sort of confidence. An injury would end Bonilla's season in early September, but little could have been done to save the Mets from an embarrassing 103-loss season where Bonilla made the All Star team because there had to be a Met on the team, not because he was particularly deserving. By this point, Bonilla was shouldering the brunt of the blame for the Mets struggles, and rightfully so, as his attitude never improved. Nonetheless, Bonilla actually improved in '94 and '95 (he had to, there was really no place to go but up), hitting .290 with 20 HRs in the strike-shortened '94 season, and made another All Star team in '95, hitting .325 in the process before he would be dealt midseason to the Baltimore Orioles. By this point, the Mets were in selloff mode, and decided to deal away the ugly contracts and build around Generation K and a group of young players. Bonilla, for one, was traded for supposed 5-tool player Alex Ochoa, who never did develop the way he was billed, but given the goodwill Bonilla had generated in his stormy 3 and a half seasons with the Mets, the Mets were probably better off without him.

Bonilla would bounce from Baltimore, to Florida, to the Dodgers after departing the Mets, drawing vicious taunts and boos every time he showed his face at Shea. Fate, of course, intervened on November 11th, 1998, as the Mets, desperate to get rid of hideous reliever Mel Rojas, and the Dodgers, desperate to dump Bonilla and the horrendous contract he'd been given by Florida (who had pawned it off to LA in one of their annual Fire Sales, in a deal involving Mike Piazza) decided to swap headaches, bringing Bonilla back to the Mets. Bonilla would return to the Mets fat and out of shape, and did little to do anybody any good during the '99 season. He spent a good chunk of the season injured, and following an incident when he refused to Pinch Hit, wisely buried on the Bench by Bobby Valentine, where he could inflict no further damage. For the '99 season, Bonilla solidified his legacy as an All-Time Mets Villain with his .160 Batting Average and 4 Home Runs. Nonetheless, Bonilla was still regarded as a threat, and somehow earned himself a spot on the Postseason roster, and appeared in several instances where a long hit might have earned him some forgiveness. True to form, Bonilla did not come through. After finishing the season playing cards with Rickey Henderson while the Mets fought the Braves to the death, Bonilla was mercifully released on January 3rd, 2000, where he could no longer pollute the Mets with his presence. But, of course, the stink he left continues to live on. The Mets, so eager to rid themselves of his presence, agreed to buy out the final year of his contract by deferring the payments to $1+ million a year over 25 years, beginning in 2011. After all the crap the Mets had to endure with him on the team, and all the crap the Wilpons have inflicted on us with their financial mismanagement, they're still stuck with Bobby Bonilla on the payroll. Somehow, it seems fitting that he would haunt the Mets long after he'd played his last Major League game.

Card back:

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