Introducing… Bobby Bonilla

A switch-hitting power hitter, Bobby Bonilla is one of baseball’s top slugging switch-hitters of all-time.  Able to crush the ball from the right side of the plate or the left, Bobby-Bo slugged over .500 four times during his career.  Given his booming bat, Bonilla was a fixture in the lineup even if he was often a man without a position.  Bonilla rotated between third base and right field throughout his career and failed to resemble Brooks Robinson or Terry Puhl at either post.

A Bronx native, Bobby was originally signed by the Pirates but they lost him to the White Sox in the Rule Five Draft.  The Pirates were eager to reacquire their rising young star so they sent hard-throwing hurler Jose DeLeon to Chicago to get Bobby back.  It was a wise move on the Buccos part.  Bonilla established himself the following year in 1987 when he hit an even .300 for the Pirates splitting time between third base and right field with Jim Morrison and R.J. Reynolds. 

Although a .300 hitter in ’87, Bobby-Bo enjoyed his breakout year in 1988.  Named to the first of six All-Star squads that year, Bonilla won the Silver Slugger Award for third basemen.  He was the only Major League third baseman to drive in 100 runs.  But his 32 errors at third base led the league.  Skipper Jim Leyland stuck with Bonilla as his third baseman in 1989 and he led NL hot corner custodians in base hits.  Bobby was the only National League player to post 30 doubles, ten triples and 20 homeruns.  However, his error total climbed up to a league high 35, so the Pirates moved him to the pasture in 1990.

Able to forget about his woes as an infielder, Bobby-Bo had his finest run-producing season in 1990.  He finished second in the NL with 120 RBI and also finished second with 112 runs scored.  An All-Star and Silver Slugger winner again, he finished as teammate Barry Bonds’ runner-up in MVP voting as the duo carried Pittsburgh to the postseason.  The Reds kept Bonilla’s bat silent and defeated the Pirates in the NLCS.

The Pirates returned to the NLCS in ’91 with Bobby pacing the NL in doubles and leading his right field position peers in runs scored, hits and walks.  But just like they did in 1990, the Bucs were ousted in the NLCS again.  After the season Bobby filed for free agency and returned home to play for the Mets.  After a disastrous first year in New York, Bonilla got back on track in 1993 when he clubbed a career high 34 homeruns.  On fire in 1995, the Mets made a deadline deal with the Orioles, sending Bobby to Baltimore for two young outfielders named Alex Ochoa and Damon Buford.  Bobby returned to the postseason with the Orioles in ’96 but the Birds fell to the Yankees in the ALCS.

Bobby tested the free agent waters again and signed with the Florida Marlins for the 1997 season.  He clubbed 39 doubles for the Marlins in ’97 but early in 1998 season he was involved in a blockbuster fire-sale trade that sent him, future Hall of Fame outfielder Gary Sheffield, outfielder Jim Eisenreich and catcher Charles Johnson to the Dodgers for future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza (who they quickly traded) and third baseman Todd Ziele.  The trade wasn’t beneficial for Bobby who struggled out west.

After the ’98 season he was traded to the Mets for fireman Mel Rojas and had his worst season in 1999 when he hit .160 for the Mets.  When his career looked over, Bobby Cox gave him a shot with his Braves in 2000 and he rebounded as a part-timer with Atlanta.  He played one final year with the Cardinals in 2001 before calling it a career.

THE NUMBERS

G 2,113/R 1,084/H 2,010/2B 408/3B 61/HR 287/RBI 1,173/BB 912/SO 1,204/SB 45/BA .279/SA .472/OBP .358

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2 comments
  1. brettkiser said:

    Although a fine hitter, Bonilla has the stigma of always being overshadowed on his teams. At the height of his career, he spent time in the outfield with Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke, so he wasn’t regarded as the best the team had to offer. That aside, you won’t find too many switch hitters better than Bobby in Major League history. His HOF chances are weak.

  2. anthony said:

    Bobby bonilla was my favorite baseball player and it was sad and frustrating too see him struggle with the mets cosidering he was born in the bronx he badly wanted to bring a championship to ny.. to me he had great power from both sides of the plate and i feel he should of had more career homeruns for a power hitter like he was.. i was glad to see him win a championship with the marlins in 97. Bonilla was overshadowed by other great hitters thou and power hitters but im gonna go out on a limb and say this most of these guys in the 80s and 90s took steroids. Bonilla never did and alot of sports analysis seem to forget that.. Bonds, Mcgwire Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, palameiro, and there were others. Bobby Bonilla should at least make the HOF as being one of the top switch hitters of all time.

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