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Mo Vaughn finally got ticked off enough this week to publicly vent over the
upcoming treatment he expects from Dan Duquette and the Red Sox front office.
“They’re trying to use my arrest for drunk driving against me,” said Vaughn.
(Vaughn, as you may know, was acquitted of drunk driving charges, in a verdict
which had to make the O. J. Simpson jurors feel better.) “It’s going to be theatre in two
parts — up to the All-Star game, and then part two after the All-Star game.
They’ll have me using drugs and selling drugs.” What prompted this outburst?
A suggestion by the Red Sox front office that Vaughn seek a professional
opinion about his alcohol consumption.


Historically, it’s pretty much de rigeur to wait until one is lambasted in
public before whining about it. Why Vaughn jumped the gun on this escapes me.
Roger Clemens‘ much-ballyhooed departure from Boston was strange enough, with
Clemens screeching to any available microphone that Dan Duquette didn’t respect
him, couldn’t evaluate talent, and probably spent most of his time chasing down
Hanson sound clips on the Internet. From the limited information available to
me and the rest of the public, it seemed a business difference between Clemens
and Duquette — Clemens wanted more years and more money than the Red Sox were
willing to pay. I don’t have all the information, but there seemed to be more
rancor there than was justified by the exchange.


The opposite appears to be the case with Vaughn. Mo Vaughn has behaved
irresponsibly. His statements and attitude have been diametrically opposed to
his behavior, and like 2 of the last 3 presidents to hold office, he seems to
enjoy complete amnesty from the consequences of his actions. Pulling a favorite
doublespeak line out of Iran-Contra, Vaughn hung his hat on the limp and
manipulative “mistakes were made” line so glibly uttered by Ronald Reagan. I
didn’t understand why it worked then, and I’m amazed that it works now.


There is a pattern of behavior by Mr. Vaughn that no organization in its right
mind is going to want share responsibility for. I hate the idea of extraneous
crap entering into personnel decisions. I think it makes for bad decisions,
bad baseball, and further poisons the game in an already critical media.
Vaughn was acquitted of DUI in a jury trial that few people reading this would
even have gotten. Demand a jury trial for a typical DUI, and you’re going to
pay court costs in addition to losing your license, paying the fines and
education fees, attending victim therapy sessions, and enjoying a weekend at
the County Jail. Judges don’t take kindly to regular people wasting their time
and the court’s money. The vast majority of people reading this know or
presume that he’s guilty of driving drunk, and they’re probably right.


So what kind of chutzpah is it for Vaughn to bitch about this being used
against him in contract negotiations? Especially when he’s the only person
that’s said anything publicly about either the negotiations or the Red Sox’s
alleged request? Usually, you’d have to admire that sort of gall, but in this
instance, it nearly sickens me. I’ve spent many years defending players from
unfair raps by the media — labels like “slacker”, “minor league hitter”, “head
case”, “choker”, and a few others that I can’t mention now that we were forced
to rate with RSAC. Then Vaughn goes and pulls this kind of crap, lending that
much more credence the next time a ballplayer is a victim of baseless
allegations. I guess there is the possibility that Vaughn feels a deep sense
of shame over his behavior, but somehow, I doubt he perceives it that way.


Lost in the shuffle of emotions and angry words is the basic question: Is
Vaughn worth a large long-term contract? Maybe, but I doubt it. Vaughn turns
31 this year, weighs more than he should, isn’t great shakes with the glove,
and hits about 170 points of OPS better at home than he does on the road. He
also plays first base, a position not exactly short on cheap, available talent.
Truth be told, he could be one of the worst free agent signings in baseball if
chooses to simply play out the string in Boston and becomes a free agent at the
end of the year. His production right now isn’t significantly different than
Cecil Fielder‘s at his peak, and neither is his body type and defensive
prowess. Mike Ilitch paid a fortune for his mistake of giving Cecil a
lucrative long-term deal, and Vaughn has the potential to be the same sort of
albatross. And that’s before you consider his penchant for hanging out in
bars, having a few drinks, and perhaps getting behind the wheel.


Vaughn’s public persona has been carefully crafted. I’m sure he does a lot of
good through his foundation, and his soulless speeches about drug abstinence to
youths in Boston are no doubt stirring and motivational. Ionesco must have
scripted the scenario in which Vaughn won the MVP award, beating out a far more
deserving Albert Belle because Mo’s “such a good guy.” Albert Belle must have
absolutely cracked up over that little ironic twist, probably earlier this
winter.


I realize that we’ve all grown completely cynical about people’s behavior, and
no, I probably couldn’t stand up to the media scrutiny that public figures face
today. No one gives a rat’s ass that a Jagger-mouthed intern with big hair
blew the President except a few social conservative Clinton-haters. Boycott
efforts against Nike for their abominable business practices have had about as
much traction as Bob Dole‘s feeble attempts to generate outrage against Clinton
in the ’96 elections. Newt Gingrich positions himself as a family values
candidate after divorcing his wife while she battled cancer and countless
reports of Newt fooling around on the side… I understand all that. But
folks, this is baseball. That means it’s important. It matters.


Mo Vaughn is trying to negotiate his deal in the press – something I’ve always
detested when management does it. He’s pointing to an unpopular figure as a
strawman, and is doing everything in his power to deflect justified criticism
of his performance on the field, and his behavior off of it, which, like it or
not, reflects on the Red Sox. I hope that Duquette has the good sense not to
become embroiled in a public war with Mo over this. Knowing Dan’s public
relations skills, he’ll end up somehow affiliating the Red Sox club with the
local chapters of the KKK and NAMBLA or something.


Duquette’s reportedly batting around a trade proposal from the Dodgers that
would reunite Pedro Martinez with his much older brother Ramon, and probably
bring Eric Karros to Boston as well. Karros is a mediocre, expensive
ballplayer. Ramon Martinez is 30 for at least the 7th consecutive year, and
showed enough danger signs last year to send Evel Knievel into shivering
convulsions. Nonetheless, I’d find some deal out there if I were the Duq. I’d
be willing to bet that some sort of deal for Randy Johnson would be possible,
and at least if Johnson’s health fails, it’s likely to be because of something
that happened on the field. Seattle needs a first baseman, and a 1-2 punch of
Pedro/Randy would probably do the Red Sox pretty well. (Apologies to all you
David Segui fans out there.) There’s got to be some club on the cusp of the
playoffs that’d be willing to give up some young talent for a hitter of
Vaughn’s caliber. Find a deal, Dan. Send him to Cincy for Roberto Petagine
and Brett Tomko. The Reds might do that, and the Red Sox become a major force
in the AL in the process.


Vaughn isn’t worth the money he’s asking, and for that reason, Duquette
shouldn’t give it to him. Let some other organization choke on Vaughn’s
inevitable five year, $47 Million deal, and sign Petagine after his
inevitable release this September. You’ll get a better first baseman for the
start of the millennium, and you’ll save enough money to buy up the latest and
greatest lame-ass Cuban pitcher. Or at least bid him up so Boss Steinbrenner
will have to pay more.


Either way, get Vaughn out of town. He’s not worth the money or the hassle.
Call Ed Wade, have him sign JD Drew for $4 Million, and ship Mo to the City of
Brotherly Love for JD. Perhaps in the exchange, Scott Boras can end up
representing Mo Vaughn. Wouldn’t that be special?

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