Sunday, December 12, 2010

Topps top 60 countdown at No. 8, Bobby Bonilla before things went bad

It wasn't entirely his fault.

OK, the card-playing in the clubhouse with Rickey during Game Six was horrible. In fact, all of 1999 was horrible.

But I'm talking about Bobby Bonilla's first go-around with the Mets. which ran from 1992 to part of 1995. The Mets put him into a role -- as "the Man" on a high-profile team -- that Bonilla just wasn't suited for.

The Mets, of course, have a history a doing this type of thing, chasing the biggest free-agent of the off-season because the player is, in fact, the biggest free agent of the off-season, appeasing the media beast that will never give its approval no matter what the team does.

Fresh off Bonilla's success with the Pirates, where he was surrounded by Barry Bonds and other stars, the Mets threw at him a 5-year, $29 million deal and anointed him the star on which the team would build upon.

He certainly wasn't terrible. Bonilla hit 34 homers in 1993, and hit .290 the following season. But those just aren't the numbers required to be a mega-star in New York. Fans were disappointed and Bobby Bo became Bobby Boo, which was just blood in the water for Met-hating Yankee hacks like Bob Klapisch, who egged Bonilla into a much-publicized confrontation. Bonilla told Klap he could "show him the Bronx," and I don't think he meant an afternoon at the Cloisters and the Bronx Zoo. As if a Yankee hack like Klap didn't know the Bronx.

Cast out of the New York spotlight, Bonilla actually mounted a resurrection in Baltimore in 1996 and with the Marlins the next season, earning a World Series ring.
He was traded to the Dodgers in the fire sale of 1998, part of the mega-package that included Gary Sheffield and brought Mike Piazza to the Fish for a five-game layover before his ascension to the Mets.

And Bonilla came back, too, in a swap of bad contracts and players needing a scenery change, with the Mets booting Mel Rojas to the Dodgers.

Mets 2.0 was a disaster, with Bonilla becoming bummed about playing time, feuding with Bobby Valentine and, apparently, forming a card-playing malcontents club with Henderson.

Alas, Bonilla did get one really great baseball card. I love his 1993 card with the magnificent New York skyline rising in the background and Bobby flashing a confident smile.

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