This Date In Mets History: January 3 — Bobby Bonilla Is Sent Packing For Good

Al Bello - Getty Images

The unpopular slugger is still drawing a paycheck from the Wilpons, however.

Bobby Bonilla made his final exit from the Mets on this date in 2000 when his long-overdue release became official. When the Mets and Dodgers swapped bad contracts 14 months earlier, Bonilla to the Mets for troubled reliever Mel Rojas, it was a chance for redemption for Bobby Bo, who burned a few bridges during his first stint with the Mets. There was a Hollywood ending buried somewhere in the script, but he squandered the opportunity.

Bonilla showed up in spring training overweight, which did nothing to help his balky knees. Nonetheless he started the season as the everyday right-fielder and number six batter in the lineup. But when he got off to a painfully slow start and landed on the disabled list in May. In his absence, Roger Cedeno caught fire. Manager Bobby Valentine, who never saw eye to eye with Bonilla, recognized that Cedeno’s legs and ability to get on base were greater assets than anything the aging slugger could bring to the table.

The brooding Bonilla Bonilla never accepted his limited role and he was hardly missed when he landed back on the DL for most of July and August. Still, he had a few opportunities to play the hero off the bench late in the season, when every game proved to be a crucial one, and also in the postseason, but the big Hollywood-ending hit never happened.

Bonilla’s fate was sealed when it was learned that he and Rickey Henderson were playing cards in the visitors’ clubhouse at Atlanta’s Turner Field while his teammates were battling tooth and nail to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the NLCS. The Mets and their fans may have looked the other way for the productive Henderson, but there was no benefit of the doubt for the sulking, pouting, underachieving Bobby Bo, who did nothing to erase the alternate moniker bestowed upon him during his first go-round as a met: Bobby Boo.

Bonilla is having the last laugh however. Because of an ill-conceived buyout scheme, the Wilpons still owe him 24 annual payments of $1.2 million each.

Birthdays

New York was just a stopover in now-48-year-old Mark Dewey’s five-season, three-city tour of the NL. For the record, the righty reliever was 1-0 with one hold and no blown saves in 20 games for the 1992 Mets.

Happy 49th birthday to Luis Rivera, who in 1994 served as a backup to shortstop Jose Vizcaino and second-baseman Jeff Kent. In 49 plate appearances he posted an uncharacteristically robust .948 OPS.

Outfielder/first-baseman Jim Dwyer, who turns 63 today, came to the Mets in 1976 along with Pepe Mangual in a deal that sent Wayne Garrett and Del Unser to the Expos. Used sparingly, he only made 15 plate appearances as a Met—not much of an audition for a guy who would play for 14 more seasons and collect a World Series Championship ring as an Oriole in 1983.

In 1967, John Sullivan, 72, started 29 games as second-string catcher behind Jerry Grote. His big moment came on May 2: a walk-off pinch RBI single to beat the Giants 3-2 at Shea, helping the Mets continue their temporary hold on ninth place.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

On Jan. 3, 1959, President Eisenhower signed legislation proclaiming Alaska to be the 49th state. It was there in 1964-65 that a young Tom Seaver faced his first real competition, pitching for the Fairbanks-based Alaska Goldpanners collegiate team. Playing alongside the likes of Rick Monday, Graig Nettles and future Mets teammate Danny Frisella, his work there earned the future Franchise a scholarship to the University of Southern California. There he further honed his pitching skills under legendary Trojan coach Rod Dedeaux, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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