Family ties could steer Vaughn here

June 04, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

Mo Vaughn's father grew up in Baltimore and once tried out for the Colts. His grandmother still resides in Pimlico, and his Baltimore relatives also include an uncle and several cousins.

Interesting.

Vaughn's parents, Leroy and Shirley, live south of Richmond, in Midlothian, Va. They fly to almost all of Mo's games in Boston. They could drive to Camden Yards in less than three hours.

Even more interesting -- especially to Vaughn.

Calling Baltimore "definitely one of my top spots," the potential free agent spoke yesterday of playing closer to his family and said he could be flexible in his contract negotiations if the Orioles maintained their reluctance to pay a position player more than Cal Ripken.

Vaughn, 30, would be a perfect replacement for first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, a player the Orioles seem unwilling to re-sign. Vaughn's a slugger. He's a leader. He would be the Orioles' best African-American star since Eddie Murray, strengthening the team's appeal in a large segment of the community.

"I want my family to stop traveling, my father to take it easy -- he has been sick," Vaughn said before going 2-for-4 last night in the Orioles' 3-0 victory over Boston. "The ballpark is one of the best for my type of swing. It would be nice."

"I'm great friends with Rafael Palmeiro. I would never want to put pressure on our situations. We're both free agents. But it's a great place to play. My family seems to has all gravitated to that area.

"If it comes down to it being good for my family, that's what I worry about more than anything. I'm trying to take care of them in this situation. The whole quality of the situation is very important."

A free-agent stump speech? Perhaps. Vaughn also could be comfortable in Toronto with Red Sox refugees Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco and manager Tim Johnson. The New York Yankees also could be a possibility. Vaughn grew up in Connecticut and attended Seton Hall.

Still, his family ties make Baltimore probably his most attractive destination if he leaves Boston. The Orioles are going to need a first baseman if they lose Palmeiro. At the moment, none of their in-house options is especially appealing.

Cal Ripken could wind up at first eventually. Chris Hoiles could serve as a bridge to Double A prospect Calvin Pickering. But forget the Ryan Minor experiment -- he's not hitting well enough to merit a Triple A promotion, much less start at an infield corner for the Orioles next season.

The question is, would owner Peter Angelos embrace a player with a history of weight and off-the-field problems? The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Vaughn is in the best shape of his career and remains a terrific asset in the community. But Red Sox management appears to have soured on him.

Vaughn turned down the team's most recent proposal -- $20 million for two years. The deal reportedly would have included additional years if he had agreed to enter the Red Sox's employee assistance program. But Vaughn, offended by that request, declined.

Anything new with Boston, Mo?

"Nothing," Vaughn said. "It's fine like that. Everyone has a right to their opinion. The organization has a right to do what it has to do. I'm not upset. All I can do is go put numbers up, do all I can to help the team win."

He is batting .310 with 15 home runs and 40 RBIs, but the Red Sox rebounded from the public-relations nightmare of Clemens' departure by signing Pedro Martinez. Perhaps they believe they also could overcome the loss of Vaughn.

The Orioles also might need a PR score if they lose general manager Pat Gillick, but that doesn't mean they would pursue Vaughn. Angelos, a stickler for physical condition, once declined to sign Will Clark after examining his medical reports. But he approved five-year deals for Brady Anderson and Scott Erickson, two of the Orioles' best conditioned players.

Perhaps the bigger obstacle to signing Vaughn would be the team's unwritten rule that no position player can exceed Ripken's average annual salary of $6.3 million -- though club officials seem to be softening on that stance.

The Orioles rejected a Vaughn-for-Palmeiro trade last winter, apparently fearing Vaughn's future contract demands. They might have been right -- Vaughn rejected $10 million before even entering the open market. But the Orioles could resolve the issue NFL-style, giving Vaughn a massive signing bonus, and keeping his salary below Ripken's.

"Getting an opportunity to play with Cal Ripken would be great. I would never want to upstage his situation," Vaughn said. "That's something you could work out. I don't think it would be a hold-up point. I'm not trying to break the bank. I just want to be in a place where someone wants me to be there."

The Orioles would be crazy not to want Vaughn, who is three years younger than Palmeiro. Surely, they're aware that the 1995 American League MVP has hit 11 home runs in 126 career at-bats at Camden Yards, his best ratio at any road park.

Vaughn said he "loves" playing at Camden Yards but when discussing the possibility of joining the Orioles yesterday, he kept coming back to the proximity of Baltimore to his parents' home.

"My parents like to see me play," Vaughn said. "They see every home game. They travel as much as I do. I'm tired of that. My whole entire family has given to the Red Sox, not just me. I'm trying to lighten the load on everyone."

The load would be lighter if he played in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 6/04/98

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