If anything, it would be a consolation prize to Steve Phillips after Lupica totally trashed him in today's issue!!! Maybe Piazza can now move over to 1B where he can throw the ball into LF instead of CF, as usual.
Slimmer Vaughn Is Frustrated, and Hints at Retirement
By RAFAEL HERMOSO
ST. LOUIS, April 30 - Mo Vaughn took two pitches from the Cardinals' Matt Morris for strikes in the first inning on Tuesday night and later waved over a curveball, beginning what must have seemed like an endless walk back to the dugout. Vaughn felt nauseous during that at-bat, the result, he said, of taking supplements on an empty stomach before the game, and he became sick in the dugout runway. He was removed from the game.
The Mets went on to lose by 13-3 after another embarrassing chapter in what was to be Vaughn's comeback season. Tonight, they were trounced by 13-4, with Vaughn hitting a home run into the upper deck in right field in the ninth inning, when it didn't matter.
Vaughn spent much of the off-season pulling sleds and changing his diet. He arrived in spring training showing off a leaner, tighter waist.
But Vaughn's production has been so feeble this season that before tonight's game he indicated that he would rather retire than continue playing this way.
As Vaughn expressed frustration in his play, he was asked if he had contemplated the thought that the end of his 12-year career may be near.
"Oh, yeah," Vaughn said. "You don't evaluate until it's time. I'm not going to sit here and do that now. But I'll tell you what, I'm not the kind of person that's going to go out there and continue to play this way. I have too much pride in myself."
Vaughn repeated that he would re-examine his career at the end of the season. When asked directly if he was considering retirement, he said: "That's not on my mind right now. I just want to put a solid month together, a solid year. You know how things can change."
Vaughn was careful to say he would have lengthy discussions with several key people before deciding whether to retire. His parents are two of his closest confidants, and Vaughn said he has not discussed that option with them.
The Mets' owner, Fred Wilpon, ordered Vaughn to lose weight at the end of last season, citing a conditioning clause in players' contracts, and Vaughn complied. Vaughn said that neither Wilpon nor General Manager Steve Phillips have asked him for help in escaping from his contract, such as an arrangement for deferred money.
"That's for me to do," Vaughn said. "Not to take the initiative, but it's my choice and my choice alone."
The Mets have not discussed releasing Vaughn, Phillips said today, and such a decision would come from ownership. The Mets owe Vaughn $29,377,049 through the end of next season, and releasing him anytime in the next year would be groundbreaking. The Tigers set a record by releasing Damion Easley this spring while still owing him $14.3 million.
Wilpon has told Manager Art Howe not to make his lineup based on what players earn. Howe has kept Vaughn at first base over Tony Clark, whose four home runs lead the Mets.
"The fact is we have to get him going and he's not going to do it sitting on the bench every day," Howe said Tuesday. "His offense is what we're looking for. His defense, he has limitations, but we knew that going in."
The Mets are a frustrated team, having lost four straight games, their pitching rocked in St. Louis, their defense shoddy and their hitting anemic. They have an 11-16 record, and catcher Mike Piazza was out of the lineup tonight with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Vaughn is supposed to protect Piazza in the lineup. But both players have struggled. Vaughn, 1 for 4 tonight and in a 5-for-32 slump, is batting .205 with 3 home runs and 15 runs batted in, which leads the team. But only 5 of his 15 hits in 73 at-bats have been for extra bases, and he has struck out 20 times.
If possible, he has been worse defensively, making 5 errors, second on the team to Piazza's 6, although the two play positions not know for generating high error totals. Tonight he couldn't catch up to a foul pop in the second inning.
"It's frustrating after putting in all that time; to not get results at this course is tough on me," Vaughn said as he sat by his locker this afternoon. "I'm a realist. I don't beat around the bushes. It's tough. You got to keep plugging, keep working, whatever. My timing is not coming out the way I want it to come out."
Vaughn is 35 and has played most of his career carrying a heavy body frame. He reported to spring training weighing about 265 pounds.
He said he should not be losing his skills at his age, and many of his errors are not from physical mistakes. He said soreness in his left knee, the result of a change to his batting stance that put more weight on his back leg, has limited his range. But he said the bulk of his errors were inexcusable: a bunt thrown away, another errant throw and, on Sunday, a dropped throw.
"I don't know what it is," Vaughn said. "Right now, to me, it's one month into the season. You can't evaluate a whole season. You can turn around and be tremendous the rest of the way. I don't want to say the season's lost. I'm going to try, and at the end of the season I'll be able to give you a better evaluation of everything that has happened."
The Mets acquired Vaughn in a trade from the Anaheim Angels for pitcher Kevin Appier before last season after Vaughn missed all of 2001 with a biceps injury. Vaughn hit .259 with 26 home runs and 72 R.B.I. and Mets officials, who visited him during the off-season to monitor his conditioning, expected him to build off the .271 average, 16 home runs and 38 R.B.I. he had in the second half. Vaughn also expected more.
"It just didn't work out," Vaughn said, before adding, "up to this point."