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San Diego Padres
Greg Vaughn's middle name isn't "You Suck!" but Padres fans sure made it sound that way at Qualcomm Stadium, where the once potent slugger ran up Buddy Biancalana-sized numbers last season. At his best, Vaughn, 32, is a 30-home-run guy who, during his seven years with Milwaukee, regularly launched lunar shots. At his worst, he is the '97 Edsel, a player who batted just .216 with 18 homers and a measly 57 RBIs. With improved pitching, the Padres are talking pennant, but for that to happen, they need to see Vaughn's slugging percentage jump to .493up 100 points from last season.
What They Needed: The Padres haven't had a true ace in 18 years. Bullpen depth. A catcher.
What They Got: Kevin Brown, the world champion Marlins' No. 1 starter, is as good as it gets. Mark Langston may also start. There might be a good arm or two among Brian Boehringer, Dan Miceli, Ed Vosberg and Don Wengert. Catcher Greg Myers is new and unproven.
What it All Means: With Brown, the Padres instantly leap into the playoff race. And if Langston has anything left, that gives them two quality starters. Throw in a bunch of new relievers, and San Diego has improved its pitching staff by leaps and boundssomething many teams desperately wanted to do this off-season but few were able to accomplish.
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