No matter what the big sports story is making headlines July 1st, I choose to always lead with Bobby Bonilla. That’s right, yesterday was Bobby Bonilla Day… at least until 2035. The stout slugger signed perhaps the greatest contract in the history of sports contracts in 1999. The New York Mets wanted to wash their hands of Bonilla after that season. They needed to buy out his contract. At the time the buy-out was about 5.9 million. The Mets decided to defer that payment. Bonilla agreed to a deal that wouldn’t see him get a check until 2011. In doing so, the not-so-saavy Mets now owe Mr. Bonilla nearly 1.2 million dollars each July 1st until 2035. That’s nearly 30 million when it’s all said and done. That, in a nutshell, is why the Mets are the Mets.
Now to some good baseball. Bobby Bo’s best days were with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Teamed with a pre-steroid Barry Bonds and the steady Andy Van Slyke, Bonilla and the Pirates boasted perhaps the best outfield in baseball at the time. Not since those early 90’s Pirate teams has Pittsburgh seen baseball success. The long drought is officially over.
For the past two seasons the Pirates have been knocking on the door. This season, they’ve kicked in the door, found the lazy boys and made themselves comfortable. Comfortably in first place currently, the Pirates have become the talk of baseball, owning MLB’s best record.
Pittsburgh has done it primarily with pitching and hustle. 25 year-old Jeff Locke has been the ace of the staff. AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano are having resurgent seasons. Young Gerrit Cole has shown promise since his call-up. Yet, the key to the pitching staff has been a shutdown bullpen. Set-up man Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli have been nothing short of spectacular. They’ve looked like Mariano Rivera passing the ball to John Wetteland, circa 1996.
As impressive as the pitching staff has been, the offense has impressed in other ways. Aside from 3B Pedro Alvarez, no Pirates regular has eye-popping power numbers. Their star center fielder Andrew McCutchen has yet to get hot, but has been steady. In fact, that’s the theme with this Pirates offense. They’re steady, and when it’s time for a big clutch hit, they seem to always get it- no matter who is at the plate.
This group of Pirates has one 9 in a row and they currently own baseball’s best record. Led by manager Clint Hurdle, who took a similarly young Rockies team to the World Series in 2007, the “Buccos” show no signs of slowing down. They have 6 winnable games coming up this week. They open a 3 game series at home tonight against cross-state rivals Philadelphia. They close the week at Wrigley Field for a trio of games against the Chicago Cubs. The bottom line? Get familiar with this team, because they should be getting real familiar with October baseball this year.
*The Brooklyn Nets have re-signed important reserve Andray Blatche. The move comes on the heels of the mega deal Brooklyn consummated to obtain Garnett, Pierce and Terry from the Boston Celtics. Blatche was widely criticized during his stint with the Washington Wizards. He redeemed himself in a reserve/spot-starter role with the Nets last season.
*Andy Pettitte surpassed Whitey Ford as the Yankees all-time strikeout king Monday night in the Yankees 10-4 win against Minnesota.
*Tottenham Hotspur have announced the transfer signature of Brazilian Confederations Cup star Paulhino. Teamed up with Gareth Bale, Dembele and Clint Dempsey, the playmaker could make Spurs a darkhorse this year in the Premier League.
More Sports Blasts Coming Soon.