But this year Bonilla’s infamous, annual, nearly $1.2 million deferred payment check – due every July 1 – from the Mets brings with it added meaning.
That is because today’s history lesson concerns the most disappointing debacles in New York sports annals, and Bonilla’s 1992 and ’93 Mets deserve prominent mention on that list.
More on them and others later. But let’s begin with a spoiler, because the big question in this debate was answered this week:
After a century-and-a-half or so of major pro team sports in Gotham, the Brooklyn Nets of the past three seasons rank as the greatest bust of all time.
Don’t bother arguing. It’s indisputable.
The Kevin Durant/Kyrie Irving/James Harden/Ben Simmons/Steve Nash Nets won a single playoff series after the franchise blew up a likable team guided by a competent coach in Northport’s own Kenny Atkinson.
No need to go recount all the gory details here. Irving alone has exhausted everyone in his orbit with his drama. But it’s over now, made official when news arrived on Thursday that Durant wants out via a trade.
These Nets were a bizarre amalgamation all along, a story that frequently led ESPN’s “SportsCenter” for a national audience but had trouble finding a place in their own city.
They spent countless gazillions of dollars on . . . nothing.
Their Achilles heel turned out not to be Durant’s literal one but rather their own self-destructive tendencies.
The Nets somehow managed to do this to themselves twice in a decade. Their future-mortgaging 2013 deal to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Celtics, a move that also produced only one playoff series win, was another all-timer.
But at least some of us – you can’t see me, but my hand is raised – saw that one coming as the Nets pinned their hopes on two future Hall of Famers who at the time were well on their ways to Jurassic Park cameos.
The thing about New York sports history is that there always is plenty of good, bad and just plain weird to go around, so the two most recent Nets bellyflops at least deserve some company on this biggest busts list.
The strongest case belongs to those early 1990s Mets of Bonilla and other assorted culprits.
The 1992 team had the highest payroll in baseball at $45 million and was a mess on and off the field, losing 90 games.
They were so bad they inspired a popular book called “The Worst Team Money Could Buy.”
Then they lost 103 games in ’93.
My Twitter crowdsourcing on this topic noted individual disappointments, such as the “Generation K” Mets pitchers of the mid-1990s (Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson), the Jets’ signing of Neil O’Donnell in 1996 and other contract misadventures, such as the Islanders and Alexei Yashin.
But that is normal sports stuff. Same goes for teams that have had a dud of a season amid broader success.
The 1925 Yankees were shockingly bad, going 69-85 and finishing 28 ½ games behind the Senators while Babe Ruth nursed his “Bellyache Heard ‘Round the World” and the early 1920s teams retooled to become the famed 1927 Yankees.
It was the Yankees’ only losing season between 1919 and 1964.
The Giants won championships in 1888 and 1889, then in 1890 fell to sixth place, 24 games behind first-place Brooklyn.
The arrival of future Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie that season was supposed to help, but he went 29-34, walked 289 and threw 36 wild pitches.
Rusie did have four 30-win seasons after that, but the Giants did not finish first again that century. Ten years later, a broken-down Rusie was sent to the Reds for Christy Mathewson – arguably the best trade in New York sports history.
See? Sometimes these setbacks have a silver lining. Your move, Nets GM Sean Marks.