What is your last memory of Mo Vaughn? The Hit Dog? Do you remember him as the 1996 American League’s most valuable player? Or, do you remember him as the man who left Boston for a contract worth $80 million with the Anaheim Angels? Or, do you remember him as the injury-plagued hitter for the New York Mets? You likely do not know or remember seeing Vaughn as the high-scale real estate executive he became, once his 12-year career in baseball was over.
Steve Schaefer of Forbes.com wrote, about a year ago, how Mo Vaughn’s career outside of baseball rocketed into success. “His firm Omni New York, co-founded with his business partner Eugene Schneur, started as a three-employee outfit aimed at buying low-income housing with government incentives like tax credits. Today, Omni has more than 400 employees and runs a full-service platform with about 8,000 units, refurbishing the properties it purchases and then installing its own management, security and IT systems” (Schaefer).
The 6’1″ first baseman, from Norwalk, Connecticut, came from a middle-class home, where his schoolteacher parents prepared him for success. “’You are who you’re around,’ he says, harkening back to wisdom his parents imparted when he was growing up” (Schaefer). The Boston Red Sox wanted to have him around, as they drafted Vaughn in the first round of the 1989 MLB Draft. He made his debut in June of 1991, at the age of 23, playing in 74 games. His rookie year was not phenom material, hitting just four home runs with a .260 batting average, but his 32 RBIs were enough to keep him with the big club. Vaughn would spend another seven seasons with the Red Sox, earning three All-Star Game appearances.
His numbers make him one of the best Red Sox players of all-time, at least at the first base position. Vaughn hit .304, with a keen eye to get on base and incredible power, translating into a .936 OPS. Combine that with his plate discipline and you have one of the best hitters in the game. Vaughn swung at less than 50% of the pitches thrown to him and less than 20% of those were out of the strike zone. He hit 230 home runs and 752 RBIs, while using his good hands on defense for a career .988 fielding percentage. His fielding numbers with the Red Sox would rank in the top ten MLB first basemen, if he played last season.
One particular number highlights the rest of Boston’s memories of Mo Vaughn: he was hit 71 times by a pitch. Much of that had to do with Vaughn’s batting stance, with his huge elbow pretty well where a high strike would be, as he crowded the plate each time. This action reflected the crowding Vaughn felt coming from the Red Sox brass against his actions off the field, with well-publicized disagreements with how the team was run and physical altercations outside of baseball. Vaughn felt that Boston’s execs were too conservative and, when he became a free agent, “almost immediately, he signed a six-year, $80-million deal with the [Angels], the highest contract in the game at that time. The Red Sox made little effort to retain him” (Wikipedia).
Still, his huge personality and brash talk, to match his big numbers, made him larger than life, which Red Sox Nation loved. Also, besides teammate Nomar Garciaparra, who else would they cheer for?
At present, Mike Napoli fills the role as the big hitter on first base, but he is not the only one. With David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and now Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, Napoli has a lot of support in the lineup, making opposing pitchers have to pick their poison. In his last two years in Boston, Napoli hit .254, with an OPS of .818, 40 home runs and 147 RBIs. In his nine-year career, including time with the Texas Rangers and the Angels, he hit 186 home runs and 527 RBIs, with a .257 batting average. Not incredible numbers, but important role-player totals on offence. Whereas, on defense, Napoli’s five seasons of first base earned a .992 fielding percentage, which was a bit better than Vaughn.
Napoli also has a brash side, which, like Vaughn, he does not hide from the public. After this year’s Super Bowl, when fellow Bostonian franchise New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks, Napoli took to social media to voice his venom. Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman was his target:
Napoli is hardly conservative and Vaughn, if he were a Patriots fan, would likely approve of the sentiment, based on his actions in Boston.
Let us now leave it to Red Sox Nation: would you rather have Mo Vaughn or Mike Napoli on your present team, with both players in their prime? Are Vaughn’s numbers or Napoli’s numbers skewed because of the types of lineups surrounding them? Or was Vaughn the better player? It seems that his plate discipline makes him better than Napoli, but what do you think?
* All on-field statistics taken from Baseball-Reference.com
** For more information on Vaughn’s Forbes article, check out: