Wednesday, February 03, 1999

Vaughn makes Reds contenders

Allen: 'We're showing our fans we want to win'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Baseball's oldest franchise moved closer to building a new tradition Tuesday, adding one of baseball's top home-run hitters.

        In a five-man deal that capped a busy offseason, the Reds sent outfielder Reggie Sanders to San Diego for Greg Vaughn.

        “It's like Christmas in February, to a certain extent,” said Reds Managing Executive John Allen. “We're showing our fans we want to win and compete in 1999.”

Tell us what you think
Vaughn pleads to keep goatee
Vaughn era could be short or sweet
Infographic: New lineup
Sullivan column
NL Central, look out
Larkin happy now
Questions remain in OF
Sanders glad to move on
Reds page
        The Reds, known more in recent years for their eccentric owner and their flavorless stadium than for onfield performance, are undergoing a makeover.

        They're due to move into a state-of-the art ballpark in 2003, are on the brink of new ownership and just sharpened their on-field look with new uniforms.

        Now the Reds promise to look different where it counts most — between the foul lines — by trading for Vaughn, one of only four players to hit 50 home runs last year.

        During this offseason, Cincinnati appeared to improve its roster vastly from the club that finished 77-85 a year ago.

        People may have noticed. A mere two hours after the trade was announced, Allen gave an interview to a Lexington, Ky., radio station, and was told that the station had received more calls about the ballclub in one day than it had in any week.

        Maybe it's an indication that the Reds are on their way to reclaiming their status as the region's team, not just Cincinnati's.

        So much of the team's fortunes, literally and figuratively, have been tied to the opening of the new stadium. In an effort to cut costs, the Reds had one of Major League Baseball's lowest player payrolls last year and weren't planning on spending money to obtain top talent until the park was about to open.

        “I heard this was the organization that uses both sides of the paper,” Vaughn said, referring to the team's reputation for being cheap.

        But, wonder of wonders, the Reds actually increased their spending by acquiring Vaughn, who's due to make $5.75 million this year, and outfielder Mark Sweeney for Sanders, infielder Damian Jackson and minor-league pitcher Josh Harris.

        Because of Sanders' $3.7 million salary, Cincinnati's projected payroll will increase by about $2 million and will hover in the $30 million to $31 million range — still one of the sport's lowest, but high enough to make the team's accountants shudder.

        After visiting with fans in recent days and hearing them wonder aloud how the team would generate home-run power — the commodity the lineup most obviously lacked — the Reds are counting on Vaughn to help them win more games and accelerate their timetable for success.

        “These are smart baseball fans,” said Reds General Manager Jim Bowden. “These are the best baseball fans in the world. We need to give them a reason to come down.

        “Getting a 20-game winner (pitcher Denny Neagle, who came from Atlanta in November's trade involving second baseman Bret Boone) and a 50-home-run bat to go along with the direction we're going in ... I think it's going to be an exciting team.”

        Blueprints for better days surround the franchise.

        Having launched the new stadium's design phase, team officials and architects are soliciting as much advice as possible to ensure a better ballpark.

        On the baseball side, Bowden and his lieutenants have renewed efforts to improve the team's minor-league and player-development systems, which suffered under the reign of owner Marge Schott, who is being forced by Major League Baseball to sell her interest in the team.

        “I don't see how you can find much fault with what they're doing,” said announcer Marty Brennaman, the team's voice since 1974.

        CF Mike Cameron, 26
        Outstanding defensive player acquired from White Sox
        1B Sean Casey, 24
Looks to be an emerging star; hit .300 after the All-Star break.
        SS Barry Larkin, 34
Still NL's best shortstop, hit .340 after the All-Star break.
        LF Greg Vaughn, 34
Only 10th NL playuer to hit 50 homers
        RF Dmitri Young, 25
Hit .310 and was second in majors with 48 doubles
        C Brian Johnson, 31
        Likely starter for Ed Taubensee, who is recovering from wrist injury
        2B Pokey Reese, 25
Replaces Bret Boone, who was traded for pitcher Denny Neagle
        3B Aaron Boone, 25
Hit .282 in 58 games; it's his job to lose
        SP Denny Neagle,
Former 20-game winner acquired for Bret Boone; 16-11 last year

Reds Stories
Tell us what you think
Vaughn pleads: Let me keep my goatee
Vaughn era could be short or sweet
Infographic: New lineup
Reds hit homer with Vaughn trade Tim Sullivan column
NL Central, look out
Larkin happy to stay now
Questions remain in outfield
Sanders glad to move on
Payroll pushed past $30 million
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• '98: .272, 50 HR, 119 RBI
Career stats

• '98: .234, 2 HR, 15 RBI
Career stats

• '98: .268, 14 HR, 59 RBI
Career stats

• '98: .262, 1 HR, 10 RBI