Mo Vaughn, the charismatic and sometimes controversial former Red Sox slugger who won the 1995 American League Most Valuable Player award, is among 10 new names on this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
Vaughn, a native of Norwalk, Conn., hit .293 with 328 home runs and 1,064 RBIs for the Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, and New York Mets in 10 full major league seasons and parts of two others.
In his eight seasons with the Sox (1991-98), he hit 230 homers, good for sixth in franchise history. Vaughn and Jim Rice — who is on the ballot for the 15th and final year — are the only players in club history to have multiple seasons with over 200 hits and 40 homers.
Vaughn’s breakthrough season came in 1993, when the 25-year-old first baseman batted .297 with 29 homers, 101 RBIs, and a .915 OPS. Two years later, he won his only MVP award, putting up a .300-39-126 line with a .963 OPS as the Red Sox won the American League East. But his season ended on a down note –the Red Sox were swept by the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, with Vaughn going hitless in 14 at-bats.
He returned in ’96 to post perhaps his finest statistical season (.326-44-143, with a 1.003 OPS), good for fifth in the MVP voting.
In ’98, his final season with the Red Sox, Vaughn batted a career-best .337 with 40 homers and 115 RBIs, and he redeemed himself for his previous postseason failure, batting .412 with two homers and seven RBIs. But the Sox again fell to the Indians, this time in four games.
Vaughn, a clubhouse lightning rod whose outspokeness and occasional off-the-field issues caused tension with then-general manager Dan Duquette, departed as a free agent following the ’98 season, signing a six-year, $80 million deal with the Angels. While he had some productive seasons after leaving Boston — he hit 69 homers in two seasons with the Angels — he was plagued by injuries and retired as a Met following the ’03 season.
Vaughn isn’t the lone candidate on the ballot with deep connections to the Red Sox. Rice — the last great Red Sox slugger before Vaughn’s arrival — is the top returning vote-getter. The 1978 AL MVP received 392 votes last year (72.2 percent), 16 short of election. A candidate needs 75 percent to make the Hall.
The most noteworthy newcomer is Rickey Henderson, who played 25 seasons in the majors (1979-2003) with nine teams, including the Red Sox in ’02. Henderson, who never formally announced his retirement, is the all-time leader in runs scored (2,295) and stolen bases (1,406), and as the most accomplished leadoff hitter of all time, should be a lock in his first year on the ballot.
There are just 23 players are on the ballot, the smallest group ever. Andre Dawson, who spent two seasons with the Red Sox in the early ’90s and received 65.9 percent of the vote last year, is joined by the following holdovers: Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Alan Trammell, and Lee Smith.
The newcomers besides Vaughn are David Cone, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Jesse Orosco, Dan Plesac, Greg Vaughn, Jay Bell, and Matt Williams.
Reporters who have been in the BBWAA for 10 or more consecutive years are eligible to vote. Totals will be announced Jan. 12.