It’s July 1, which in Major League Baseball means only one thing to fans with a sense of humor: Bobby Bonilla day.
As the now-popular annual event goes, the New York Mets pay retired slugger Bobby Bonilla $1,119,248.20 every July 1 through 2035 to settle a deferred salary debt from 2000 that was originally for a $5.9 million salary. It has become an internet phenomenon, synonymous with Mets mismanagement.
Yet deferred salary payments are far more common in sports (not just baseball) than most fans think.
Going back to 1975, deferred money played a role in the case successfully made by pitcher Catfish Hunter to become a free agent. His subsequent deal with the Yankees also included more deferred money.
And more recently, star players like Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki still both enjoy annual salaries despite being retired. Gary Sheffield, who stopped playing in 2009, is getting his final payment in 2019 from the Tigers.
Even the Celtics reportedly agreed to pay Kevin Garnett $5 million annually for seven years after his retirement.
Two members of the 2004 Red Sox are still collecting a Major League paycheck. One is pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who last played in 2017. The Reds will pay Arroyo $1.36 million through 2021.
The other former Red Sox World Series winner with a deferred salary is Manny Ramirez. In 2011, Nick Cafardo reported that Ramirez and the Red Sox had agreed to pay a remaining $32 million in his contract over a 16-year period. The payout in 2019 is $2,008,397. The money is the last of Ramirez’s original deal with the Red Sox in 2000, when he signed an eight year contract worth $160 million.
In 2026, when Ramirez finally gets his last Red Sox paycheck, he will be 54 years old. That said, Red Sox fans are probably happier with the arrangement than Mets fans, considering Ramirez’s central contribution on multiple championship teams.