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COMMENTARY

One Mo Year with Red Sox? Perhaps Not for Vaughn

September 18, 1997|PAUL DOYLE | Paul Doyle writes for the Hartford Courant

NEW YORK — As Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco left the Boston Red Sox last winter, each issued a warning to the team and its fans.

Both players said they were convinced Mo Vaughn would flee when his contract expired after the 1998 season. At the time, Vaughn denied he was plotting his escape.

Now?

"I didn't want to believe them," Vaughn said. "But now I do. I wanted to stay, but it changed. That's just bad business on [the team's] part."

After refusing for weeks to talk about his contract negotiations, Vaughn lashed out at management Monday. Before the doubleheader Tuesday, Vaughn repeated what he told the Boston Globe a day before: he does not believe the Red Sox want to keep him, so he would rather leave after the season.

Vaughn's agents have been negotiating with the team since last winter. The team has reportedly offered a long-term contract for about $8.5 million a season. Based on the market, Vaughn's agents have been seeking a contract worth at least $10 million a season.

But the money may be secondary to a personality conflict between Vaughn, General Manager Dan Duquette and chief executive officer John Harrington.

Both sides have said they agreed to keep negotiations private. Vaughn, 29, has not talked about his contract status on the record, while Duquette and Harrington have continually said they will not negotiate through the media.

The past few weeks, Vaughn's animosity toward Duquette increased. Vaughn said Saturday he sensed the team was not interested in keeping him, since it is rebuilding.

Vaughn said he has asked Duquette if the team is sincere about keeping him and did not get a definitive answer.

When there were newspaper references to the negotiations last weekend, Vaughn decided to go public with his complaints. He said the team wants to portray him as a "greedy malcontent," as it did Clemens when he left via free agency.

"We had an agreement and people haven't stood by their word," Vaughn said. "I've given six years of service to this club and to the community. I'm not going to be disrespected and my reputation is not going to be disrespected. We made every effort to do this the best possible way. The main thing is to keep it [quiet].

"But they broke it by leaking stuff. I'm not going to go out like Roger Clemens and be questioned for my integrity, and questioned as a man."

Vaughn said his agent has been to Duquette's house this summer, as they attempted to have a contract secured before the All-Star break.

Duquette reportedly told Vaughn's representatives they would complete a deal with 10 days after the All-Star break.

But they have refused to increase their offer. Harrington, who has said the franchise is financially limited because of Fenway Park, asked Vaughn to stay in Boston for less than his market value. Vaughn has said he would consider a "hometown discount," but not now.

"You do that when they treat you with respect," Vaughn said. "But they're messing around with my credibility, trying to make me look greedy."

Because losing Vaughn could be a public relations blunder, the team has been reluctant to say it cannot afford him. Privately, some in the organization have criticized Vaughn's work habits and increasing weight.

They fear Vaughn's production could decline quickly because he is not well-conditioned. After the 2-0 loss in the first game Tuesday, Vaughn was hitting .317 with 32 homers and 86 RBI.

"I don't feel a need to make our discussions public," Duquette told the Globe. "Back when he was hurt, we made him a formal offer.

"The Red Sox made a fair-value offer, a sincere effort to sign Mo Vaughn."

If negotiations have ended, Vaughn could be traded this winter.

The Orioles inquired earlier in the season and could have interest. So could the Braves and Mets.

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