Positions: First Base
, Designated Hitter
Mo Vaughn was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, on the 15th of December, 1967. He played collegiate baseball at Seton Hall, and posted impressive numbers. He batted .417 over three seasons, and hit 28 home runs as a freshman.
The Boston Red Sox picked him 24th overall in the 1989 draft, and he rapidly rose through the organization, earning a major-league call-up in June of 1991. Vaughn had two unremarkable seasons before permanently winning the first base job early in 1993. Vaughn batted .297 with 29 home runs and 101 runs batted in. Vaughn also played well during the strike-shortened 1994 season, but took his offensive game to a new level in 1995, when he blasted 39 home runs, drove in 126, and batted an even .300. Vaughn was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player in a controversial vote. Cleveland's Albert Belle had a better season, but his overall unlikability cost him the award. The Red Sox made the playoffs that year, but Vaughn was held hitless as the Sox were eliminated in the first round. In 1996, Vaughn took out his frustration on American League pitchers, with career highs of 44 home runs and 143 runs batted in. Vaughn also batted .326, an extremely high average for a strikeout-prone slugger. A knee injury slowed Vaughn in 1997, but he still batted .315 with 35 homers. Vaughn's last season as a Red Sock was another tour de force. Vaughn batted .337 and crushed 40 home runs, while driving in 115. In the playoffs, Vaughn batted .412 and homered twice, but the Sox exited in the first round again.
Contract negotiations with the Sox became acrimonious that offesason, and Vaughn ended up signing a six-year deal with the Anaheim Angels, worth close to $80 million. Vaughn's career in Anaheim was dogged by bad luck, as he suffered a sprained ankle in his first game as an Angel, and spent several weeks on the disabled list. Vaughn still finished with a respectable 33 homers and 108 RBI. In 2000, Vaughn hit 36 homers and drove in 117, but struck out an alarming 181 times, and batted only .272.
An offseason examination revealed that Vaughn had been playing with a ruptured biceps tendon, and would need surgery. The surgery kept him out for the entire 2001 season.
In the winter of 2001, the Angels were looking to unload Vaughn, and dealt him to the New York Mets for pitcher Kevin Appier. Vaughn had to adjust to a new league and also bounce back from a year's worth of inactivity. He started slowly, and while he crushed several impressive tape-measure home runs, including a game-winner into the upper deck of Yankee Stadium, Vaughn's season was marred by inconsistency, and going into the final week of the season, Vaughn had only produced 25 homers and an average hovering around .250.
Between the years of 1995 and 1998, Vaughn was one of the American League's most feared hitters. He was not a typical slugger, in that he produced a consistently high batting average in addition to his prodigious home run and strikeout totals. Fenway Park in Boston seemed tailor-made to his swing. But after leaving Boston, Vaughn's offensive production declined. In the field, Vaughn has always been a defensive liability. At 270-plus pounds, Vaughn has limited range and mobility. When he was hitting 40+ homers a year, it didn't matter as much. But Vaughn's offensive production is now merely adequate as a first baseman. At the plate, he is frequently fooled by breaking pitches, and seems to have lost some bat speed. Vaughn's numbers may improve as he accustoms himself to National League pitching, but at 35 years old entering next season, it doesn't seem likely he'll regain his previous form, as he officially retired following the 2003 season.
Vaughn's cousin, Greg Vaughn, is an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and once hit 50 home runs for San Diego.
Thanks to Behemoth for reminding me of the 1995 MVP controversy.