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FROM THE STANDS: Bobby Bonilla and Denzel

Three things are rattling around my brain: Bobby Bonilla, Denzel and Texas Hoops.

Bobby Bonilla

Bobby Bonilla’s turned 52 about a week ago and he’s been on my mind ever since. If you don’t remember, Bonilla was a major league baseball superstar in the early-to-mid 90’s with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets, winning a World Series ring with the Marlins in 1997 and making six all-star games. After helping the Pittsburgh Pirates (with Barry Bonds) win two straight NL East Titles in 1990 and 1991, Bonilla signed a huge contract (by 1992 standards) with the New York Mets: 5 years, $29 million. He was the highest paid player in the league at the time, but he didn’t live up to the expectations. Three years later he was traded to Baltimore, then Florida where he won his ring, then to LA, then back to the Mets before they cut him loose two years later. He played for the Braves and the Cardinals before he finally retired in 2001. But that’s not interesting. This is.

He was cut loose by the Mets after the 1999 season, but was still owed $5.29 million. Seeing his baseball career was winding down and having two young children, Bonilla did not want to end up like so many other former pro athletes (broke). He and his agent decided to offer the Mets a deal: rather than pay him one lump sum of $5.29 million (which they have absolutely been forced to do, and in every other case that’s exactly what happens), the Mets could cut him and let him try and get with another team and keep that $5.29 million for 11 years. After 11 years, which would be 2011, the Mets would pay Bonilla that $5.29 million as well as the interest it accrued, which would be $29.8 million. That money would be paid to Bonilla in 25 installments of $1.192 million on July 1st of each year, starting in 2011, meaning the contract would end on July 1st, 2036. You might be asking yourself “What in the world were the Mets thinking? Why would you pay a guy $25 million more than you had to?” That seems entirely absurd. The answer is the most interesting part of the story: Bernie Madoff.

The owner of the Mets, Fred Wilpon, was ons of Bernie Madoff’s biggest clients at the time of Bonilla’s crazy contract idea to the team. The money Wilpon had invested with Madoff was bringing back double-digit returns each year  and the guy was literally raking it in (or so he thought), so when the Bonilla camp pitched the idea of delaying the $5.9 million for 11 years, Wilpon saw an opportunity to make a lot of money off that deferment. While they would have to pay him $25 million more than he was owed, investing that $5.29 million with Madoff would earn Wilpon close to $70 million over the life of the deferred contract. Seemed like a no-brainer to Wilpon, who signed the contract. Of course Madoff was a lying liar and there were no double digit returns, or returns at all. Wilpon lost about $700 million when the Ponzi scheme collapsed eight or so years later and he needed help from investors and Major League Baseball to hold on to his team, pay his bills and keep the Mets afloat and in New York. The Ponzi scheme nearly ruined Wilpon and the Mets and pretty much did ruin reputation… but not Bonilla. He was completely unaffected as he still had three years or so until his contract kicked in. Bonilla received his first check for $1.192 million on July 1, 2011. He was 48 at the time.  When the contract ends, in 2036, Bobby Bonilla will be 73 years old and those two young children will be hovering around 40. Crazy, right? Happy birthday, Bobby Bonilla. Every year his birthday comes, the story comes back up, and each time it’s just as unbelievable to me. I can’t imagine how Fred Wilpon feels.

Denzel

Our dog died in September and we are finally ready to get a new one. The consensus at the McLean house was, at first, a pug. Harder than it looks to find a pug puppy. Pug rescues don’t have puppies; almost all of them are 8-10 years old. The one pug breeder I found in the area completely freaked me out with the correspondence. I felt like I was being asked for my bank account number to help some desperate Nigerian widow escape her homeland with the millions her husband made before he died. Or they were going to deliver me a dog (not them actually. A third party I would have to pay separately with a credit card) and then steal my identity, or my kidneys, if they even brought me a dog. Anyway, that was a much more difficult process than I expected. So we moved on from pugs and found a very cute little Royal Bahamian Potcake mix. I had no idea what that was, either. Austin Pets Alive! had this dog on their website up for adoption. He was eight weeks old and his name was Denzel. My son saw this name and this picture and went nuts, ready to get him RIGHT NOW. Every 15 minutes for three days he would shout “Denzil.” Not his name “Denzel” like the actor, but “Denzil” like whoever is named Denzil. We met him on Tuesday and an hour later we were at home with our new dog. New names were kicked around: Dragon, Teriyaki, The Terminator, Gronk… But ultimately we stuck with Denzel. I mean Denzil. Here he is

Denzil

Welcome to the family, Denzil. That’s probably the last time I’ll call you that. In the car on the way home I was calling him “D, the green eyed bandit” since his eyes are green, but by bedtime he was simply Young Deezy. So welcome, Young Deezy.


Hoops

Now THAT was a fun basketball game on Monday. Limping to the finish, Texas looked like they didn’t want anything to do with Baylor, who came to the Drum on fire after a double-digit win at Iowa State over the weekend. For the first 34 minutes of the game, Baylor was on the verge of blowing Texas out. They had more offensive rebounds than Texas had total rebounds and silly fouls, turnovers and missed opportunities looked like they would sink Texas to their fifth straight loss. They were down by 10 with 6:38 to play and it felt like twice that… But then Texas showed up. Jevan Felix came out of hibernation to hit a deep three to cut it to seven and the defense, led by Prince Ibeh, started getting rebounds. A Felix steal and two made free throws on a foul after that steal cut the lead to three and a three-pointer from Jonathan Holmes with 1:04 to play tied the game. A monster block by Prince Ibeh kept the game tied and Texas had a shot to win it in regulation, but they executed poorly and didn’t get even a decent shot. Onto overtime. In that overtime, Jevan Felix hit a three to give Texas the lead. Then things got really interesting.

With Texas up by three and right at two minutes to play, Isaiah Taylor and Royce O’Neale dove for a loose ball tipped into the back court by Taylor, with Taylor rolling on his back and O’Neale on top of him. As their momentum carried them forward on the floor, O’Neale put a forearm squarely in Taylor’s mouth. The TV announcers said it was incidental contact because O’Neale was looking down court. They were wrong. That looked completely and totally intentional to me, and Taylor agreed. He came up bleeding and ready to rumble. Assistant coach Chris Ogden saw it, too, and rushed over to separate the two players. Taylor lost his balance as he stood up and Baylor guard Al Freeman pushed Taylor in the back and then ran away, so it looked a lot more physical that it actually was. Both benches cleared, as you would expect, and while no punches were thrown seven players were ejected for leaving the bench: three for Baylor and Kendall Yancy, Connor Lammert, Cam Ridley and Prince Ibeh for Texas. And there was still 1:45 or so to play. O’Neale hit a three to tie the game and it looked like it might slip away when Jonathan Holmes missed a jumper and Baylor got the rebound. But once again the defense showed up with Myles Turner getting a rebound and setting Texas up for a game-winner with 21.6 to play. Isaiah Taylor hit a running floater with 4.8 seconds left to give the Horns the lead and Turner blocked a layup as time expired to preserve the win. A split-lipped Taylor was still pretty hot after the game was over and the teams had to be separated on the court. See? Fun!

While I appreciate the attitude and intensity, the players have to know better than to leave the bench during something like that. No one that left Baylor’s bench was a big contributor while Texas lost three starters and their defensive stopper. Here’s my question: where were the guys at the end of the bench that they always show when someone hits a three-pointer? YOU are the guys that can leave the bench and participate in a mele. YOU are the ones who should be rushing to the middle of the court and breaking the rules; not the starters. If we meet the Bears again in the Big 12 Tournament, remember that, please.

I don’t like Baylor’s basketball team much. I am not a fan of Scott Drew and his recruiting tactics, but Scott Drew, his recruiting tactics and his team don’t really care what I think, nor should they, but that win, in that fashion with everything on the line was easily the best game of the year for Texas and me.

It went along way to getting Texas on the right side of the NCAA Tournament ledger, but they aren’t there yet. Texas needs a win over K-State in the season finale on Saturday, which would put them at 8-10 and likely the No.7 seed in the Big 12 Tourney. At 8-10, they would be tied with Kansas State, but Texas would hold the tiebreaker with the season sweep. There is an outside shot at the No.6 seed if OSU drops their final two regular season games, but I am assuming they don’t and Texas is the 7. Being the 7-seed means Texas plays on the first day of the Big 12 Tournament against the 10-seed, which is Texas Tech. A win there for Texas, which absolutely would have to be the case, means a date with conference champion Kansas in round two. More importantly is means Texas is 9-10 in Big 12 play and 20-12 overall and into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. That will almost certainly mean an NCAA Tournament berth regardless of the Kansas outcome… But first things first: a win over K-State on Saturday.

The Horns have looked much more like the team we thought we’d see this season in the last few games, playing Kansas and Iowa State down to the wire and fighting through a bad start to beat Baylor. If they plan to be playing in the Dance, they need to keep up the energy like the last six minutes of the Baylor game. The Horns must find a way to get the ball inside to Myles Turner, because when he touches the ball good things happen. He is deadly accurate from the blocks and he is as good a passer for a big man as anyone in the league. The guards simply ignore Turner and Ridley down low way too often. Get it inside and let the big men do work, and with Taylor driving and dishing, the inclusion of Turner on the high post could only make the offense more dangerous. For the last four games Texas looked like a team lost that just needed something good to happen. They fought and competed, but at times it looked like they were hoping things went well rather than making things go well. They had things go well on Monday and you could see the emotion explode after the game. Now take that good thing that went well and build on it. There is is work to be done to get into the NCAA Tournament, but the win over Baylor made the chance to get in easier than it was on Sunday.

 

Other Things

Texas baseball had a bad weekend, losing 2 to San Diego on Sunday. It wasn’t good, but it was far from the worst thing ever. Augie Garrido talked about how good they were, now he gets to show them how easily it can slip away. I have to think a big picture guy like Garrido secretly doesn’t mind something like this in February since he can use it to get his team’s attention.

Congratulations to the Texas Swimming and Diving Teams for winning the Big 12 Championship. Both the men and the women won the title last weekend. It was the third straight conference title for the women and the 36th straight for the men. 36th straight. Outstanding work from both teams.

Congratulations to the Texas Track Teams for winning the Big 12 Indoor Track Title. The men and the women swept through the indoor championships in Ames with the two combining to win nine individual awards. Terrific and congrats.

Back next week with some recruiting info, an update on the progress of football workouts and a preview of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament. And Young Deezy.

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