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7/19/2007 08:51:00 AM

NL East: Catching up with Mo

By Ben Reiter

Four years later, the man who remains the face of the overspending, underperforming pre-Minayan New York Mets is in many ways even more upset about the abrupt end of his career than is the legion of long-suffering Shea-goers.

For a story that appeared in SI’s recent “Where Are They Now” issue, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Mo Vaughn . Vaughn could write a primer on how an athlete ought to live his life once the cheering stops; he’s the antithesis of Everybody’s All-American. Shortly after he realized in 2003 that the arthritis and chronic pain in his left knee would never again allow him to play baseball effectively -- let alone at an MVP level -- he turned his full attention to Omni NY, the company (which he formed with his former lawyer, Eugene Schneur) under whose auspices he rehabilitates and manages long-neglected low-income housing developments.

Business is booming: Vaughn’s company already owns 10 developments containing thousands of apartments, and provides clean, secure housing for residents desperately in need of it while, yes, making a profit. And they have plans to expand rapidly, to places such as Las Vegas, Miami and Massachusetts. However, all that hard-earned and socially-conscious success doesn’t mean that Vaughn has completely moved on from his days on the diamond.

“I grew up 40 miles north of New York City, in Norwalk, Connecticut, and I came to the Mets -- back to my hometown -- to win a World Series,” Vaughn, who was traded to New York in December 2001 for Kevin Appier, told me as we drove in his new black Range Rover from one of his developments in Yonkers to another in the Bronx. “All of a sudden, it doesn’t work out like that. As great as what I’m doing now is, I don’t think it’ll ever be like baseball -- but like I’ve always said, you have to know when to get out.”

Although Vaughn, who looks as if he’s gained not an ounce of fat nor lost an ounce of muscle since his playing days, says that he remains in regular contact with former teammates and opponents (including Garrett Anderson, Cliff Floyd, David Ortiz and Frank Thomas), he hasn’t been able to bring himself to attend a game since his retirement. “I haven’t come up with a way to go just yet, I think I would miss it too much,” he explains. “I watch [the Mets] on TV, but I haven’t actually been to a ballpark. I don’t think I’m ready to do that yet, but I might go to the playoffs at Shea this year.”

Vaughn bristles at the notion that he might feel guilty about earning so much money while he sat on the bench (some $34 million in `03 and `04, according to baseball-reference.com, when he totaled 79 at-bats and three homers). "You can’t take away from me what I did do," he says. At the same time, he's surprisingly honest in assessing his place in baseball history. He admits, “I think Albert Belle should have won MVP” in 1995, when Vaughn nipped the Indians' slugger by one first-place vote. "Fifty home runs, 50 doubles. Maybe I was a little bit nicer."

Here’s his equally realistic view of his chances of election to the Hall of Fame, for which he’ll become eligible in 2009: "Never make it."

While fans in Flushing, with those elephantine memories of theirs, may never fully get past the fact that Vaughn hit only 29 homers and drove in less than 100 runs in an ephemeral Mets career for which it only seems as if the team’s still paying, it might come as some solace to know that Vaughn’s just as devastated about how things turned out as they are -- and that he’s now contributing to their community in ways that are likely deeper and longer-lasting.

  • Capitol Punishment links to a DC Optimist post all about how Manny Acta deals when his life gets flipped, turned upside down. Yo, last place: smell you later!

  • Bill Lyon sounds as if he could use a good dose of the Carlton dance: the venerable Philadelphia Inquirer columnist offers a tribute to those who’ve endured the Phillies‚ 10,000 losses.

  • The "Start Salty" movement we’ve been championing here at the NL East Fungoes for the past several weeks is really getting legs — and the 14-lettered man himself has noticed.

  • Meanwhile, another long-named NL East Fungoes favorite -- Rick “Vicious Henricius” Vanden Hurk -- is making us eat our snarky words.

  • Note: when we say "us," we mean "me." Could be worse; we could start referring to ourselves in the third, rather than the second, person, as the Mets' new first base coach is wont to do.


    posted by SI.com | View comments |  
  • Comments:

    Posted: July 20, 2007 10:12 AM   by Anonymous
    us/we isn't second person, it's first person plural. "You" is second person.
    Posted: July 20, 2007 10:40 PM   by Anonymous
    i agree that it's first person plural but "you" is still first person as it is from the speaker's point of view.

    second person (the inactive listener)narrative cannot exist as the moment they become active, they are speaking in the first person.
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