Named after the Expo 67 World’s Fair, The Montreal Expos (French: Les Expos de Montréal) were a Major League Baseball team located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from 1969 through 2004, holding the first MLB franchise awarded outside the United States. After the 2004 season, MLB moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. and renamed them the Nationals.
The Expos started play at Jarry Park Stadium under manager Gene Mauch. The team’s initial majority owner was Charles Bronfman, a major shareholder in Seagram. Following the 1976 Summer Olympics, starting in 1977 the team’s home venue was Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. After a decade of losing seasons, the team won 95 games in 1979, finishing second in the National League East. The Expos began the 1980s with a core group of young players, including catcher Gary Carter, outfielders Tim Raines and Andre Dawson, third baseman Tim Wallach, and pitchers Steve Rogers and Bill Gullickson. The team won its only division championship in the strike-shortened split season of 1981, ending its season with a 3 games to 2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
In May 1992, Felipe Alou, a longtime member of the Expos organization since 1976, was promoted to field manager, becoming the first Dominican-born manager in MLB history. Alou would become the leader in Expos games managed while guiding the team to winning records, including 1994, when the Expos, led by a talented group of players including Larry Walker, Moisés Alou, Marquis Grissom and Pedro Martínez, had the best record in the major leagues until the strike forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. After the disappointment of 1994, Expos management began shedding its key players, and the team’s fan support dwindled. Brochu sold control of the team to Jeffrey Loria in 1999, but Loria failed to close on a plan to build a new downtown ballpark, and did not reach an agreement on television and English radio broadcast contracts for the 2000 season, reducing the team’s media coverage.
In November 2001, MLB’s owners voted 28–2 to contract by two teams—according to various sources, the Expos and the Minnesota Twins, both of which reportedly voted against contraction. However, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, operator of Minnesota’s Metrodome, received an injunction requiring the Twins to play in the Metrodome during 2002, so MLB could not eliminate the Expos alone while preserving its 162-game schedule. In December, the Boston Red Sox accepted a purchase bid from a group led by John W. Henry, owner of the Florida Marlins, and so Henry sold the Marlins to Loria, and MLB bought the Expos from Loria. In the collective bargaining agreement signed with the players association in August 2002, contraction was prohibited through to the end of the contract in 2006.
On September 29, 2004, the date of Montreal’s last home game of the season, MLB announced that the Montreal franchise would move to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season.The Expos played their final game on October 3, 2004 at Shea Stadium, losing by a score of 8–1 against the New York Mets, the same opponent that the Expos first faced at its start, 35 years earlier. The Washington team was named the Washington Nationals, and retained all the Expos’ records, player contracts, and minor league affiliates, as well as their spring training complex in Viera, Florida.
The rebirth of the Montreal Expos might look like this: a relocated ball club bought for $525 million playing in the American League East, its new home a $500-million open-air downtown stadium, an average attendance sitting at roughly 28,000 keeping it healthy.
That’s the vision described by Ernst and Young in a feasibility study conducted for the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Montreal Baseball Project, concluding that a new team “would be financially viable under a set of realistic assumptions, including a modest but competitive payroll.”
The findings were unveiled Thursday and a copy of the impressively thorough 62-page report was forwarded to Major League Baseball, where officials were reviewing it. Last month, commissioner Bud Selig said “I am paying close attention to it, it’s great,” when asked about the study.
Still, by no means is a return of “Nos Amours” to La Belle Province imminent – far from it actually – but the document offers a potential starting point for the pursuit of a team, and a baseball-only venue to house it.
“What we’re looking for in the next weeks is to see if the private sector is up to the task,” Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the board of trade, said in an interview.
That this is being discussed seriously at all as the 10th anniversary of the Expos’ departure to Washington nears is remarkable, underlining exactly how much the environment has changed in a decade.
As the study notes, the business of baseball is much different now with increased revenue sharing among owners plus new revenue from national TV deals, advanced media and merchandising, not to mention a much stronger Canadian dollar, which ranged from 62-84 cents against the American dollar from 1994-2004 (the study is based on exchange rate at par but adds a decline to 90 cents “shows little impact on the viability of the study”).
Plus, the metropolitan Montreal area’s population of 3.8 million makes it the 15th largest market in North America, and the biggest without a baseball team.
Those and other factors – like an ownership that won’t alienate the fan-base – led the study’s authors to draw a parallel between a new team and stadium in Montreal and the Minnesota Twins and Target Field, describing both as “a good model” for the endeavour.
Both franchises were once pegged for contraction by Major League Baseball, but a new stadium and better business conditions have helped the Twins become stable and profitable. The same could happen for a new team in Montreal under similar circumstances.
Some of the key numbers underpinning the viability of a new club include the $525 million purchase fee, based on various valuations and conversations with eight current clubs to test ideas, the $500 million cost of an open-air stadium (a retractable roof adds $150-$180 million to the price) and an average paid attendance of 28,742 with a season-ticket base of 60 percent.
To anyone who remembers the dismal crowds in the Expos’ final years, those last figures seem particularly ambitious, but Leblanc says “Ernst and Young experts are convinced that number is realistic for Montreal.”
An online survey conducted by Groupe Leger of 1,589 Quebecers (with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 percent) and a telephone poll of representatives from 392 Montreal-based corporations gave credence to those projections, predicting an average attendance of 27,600-31,600 with a willingness to pay $25-$75 for tickets.
Additionally, 69 percent of Quebecers favoured baseball’s return to Montreal while 11 percent were opposed, 81 percent of businesses approved and 24 percent of businesses expressed interested in buying advertising, along with season tickets.
A downtown stadium near the corporate core is key to that, explained Leblanc, a lifeline the Expos couldn’t tap into because of the inconvenience of getting to Olympic Stadium.
Funding for the entire project would be a hybrid of private and public funds and a baseball-only venue is crucial because the study notes that Major League Baseball “has made it clear that a team returning to play at the Olympic Stadium would not be acceptable.”
The study envisions the club’s owners contributing 67 percent of the projected $1.025 billion cost to buy a team and build a ballpark, with governments providing the remaining 33 percent, while retaining ownership of the facility.
How the government receives the study will be worth watching.
Leblanc said preliminary discussions with various levels of government urged him “to do the work thoroughly” and then “they said, ‘We’ll look at this seriously.’”
Still, the plan is to start with business engagement before pursuing the political track and finally, trying to work with Major League Baseball. Leblanc explains the plan is to put every step in place progressively and for the moment, “we’ve got more homework to do.”
“We need to have a project that unites Montrealers and Quebecers in a positive way,” he added. “We want this to be something that gives Montreal some oomph.”
All those various pieces must be in place to get baseball officials onside, something that must happen since the stadium plans and the team acquisition must go hand in hand. No one’s building a baseball-only stadium without a real commitment.
There is no shortage of people in baseball who’d like to see it happen, and super-agent Scott Boras weighed in Wednesday at the winter meetings, naming New Jersey and Montreal as two possible homes for teams.
“I think Montreal would be a tremendous environment for baseball,” he told reporters. “I remember in 1994 — when you look at the attendance rates and the Canadian rivalry in baseball, I really think baseball was in a good place. Players enjoyed playing there. It’s a beautiful city.”
Last month, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston told Sportsnet that he’d “love to see baseball back in Montreal. It’s good for us, it’s good for Canada and the fans would really love it.”
Later he added, “The timing has to be right – if a team wants to leave, OK, or the league wants to expand. To be honest, 30 isn’t the ideal number of teams, 32 is a much better number. Because you play every day, 32 would really make it nice. And Montreal is a big market and a great city, it’s a world-class city and it’s got a history of baseball.”
The Blue Jays will play a pair of spring games against the New York Mets in March, the first action at Olympic Stadium since the Expos’ 9-1 loss to the Marlins on Sept. 29, 2004. It will be yet another chance to spur the process along.
“We heard about those comments (from Beeston) and were happy to hear the positive signals from him,” said Leblanc. “The two spring games are a great opportunity for Montrealers to show their love for baseball.”
The goal of having a team of their own once again remains way, way off in the distance, but maybe the feasibility study is the guide that helps get them there.
Hmmm… sleep with one eye open Tampa Bay Rays fans.
Well, Congrats to Barry Larkin, the singular inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2012.
Now comes the hard part. The 2013 Ballot will be flooded in worthy, clouded and questionable candidates. Of the first year candidates hitting the ballot for 2012, only Bernie Williams, @ 9.6%, earned enough votes (above 5%) to remain on the ballot for next year. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell made fairly significant increases in their percentage numbers, however a few of those numbers will look to drop as ‘hold-overs’ tend to dip when big name newbies hit the ballot. Those names will include;
- Barry Bonds: OF Pittsburgh, San Fransisco
- Roger Clemens: RHSP Boston (A), Toronto, New York (A), Houston
- Mike Piazza: C/DH Los Angeles (N), Florida, New York (N), San Diego, Oakland
- Curt Schilling: RHSP Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia (N), Arizona, Boston (A)
- Kenny Lofton: CF/OF Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago (A), San Fransisco, Chicago (N), Pittsburgh, New York (A), Philadelphia (N), Los Angeles (N), Texas
- David Wells: LHSP Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New York (A), Chicago (A), San Diego, Boston (A), Los Angeles (N)
- Sammy Sosa: OF/DH Texas, Chicago (A), Chicago (N), Baltimore
- Craig Biggio: C/2B/OF Houston
Now, looking at the list, one doesn’t see a first ballot inductee (as opposed to the 2013 ballot and Greg Maddux’ 1st year of eligibility). Both Bonds and Clemens carry the statistics of greatness but are deeply embroiled in the PED issue due to various and on-going reasons. Piazza, arguably one of the greatest offensive catchers in the game, played in the Steroid Era and, like Bagwell, will have to endure. Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton were big-name stars but are on the bubble at best. Sammy Sosa, like McGwire and Palmeiro, will probably earn enough votes to stay on the ballot as voters continue to judge the Steroid Era for its’ fact and fiction. David Wells, well who knows. He’ll probably survive to the next ballot but with Schilling taking some votes away and Jack Morris still on it, who can say for sure?
So let’s take a look at what appears to be the next great debate; Curt Schilling versus Jack Morris.
Some say that Curt cannot get into the Hall if Jack Morris is excluded and vice-versa. Others believe that a few of their average to just above average regular seasons give way to their post-season efforts, while experts contend that the HOF isn’t based wholly on post-season theatrics. As Brian Kenney of Clubhouse Confidential put it, “Many people mistake Jack Morris for being the post-season pitcher Curt Schilling actually was.” So, let’s see where this takes us.
- Luis Tiant (19) Jack Morris (18) Curt Schilling (20) David Wells (21)
- Wins/Losses(%): 229/172 (.571) 254/186 (.577) 216/146 (.597) 239/157 (.604)
- ERA: 3.30 3.90 3.46 4.13
- ERA+: 115 105 128 108
- Strikeouts: 2416 2478 3116 2201
- K/BB: 2.19 1.78 4.38 3.06
- WAR: 60.1 39.3 69.7 50.7
Well, those are the basics. Wells is eliminated on ERA alone. At 3.90, Morris has the highest ERA of any legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and if elected, would have the highest ERA for a starter. Wells played for some great teams and Championship teams to accumulate that winning percentage, including some great personal accolades and 3 All-Star appearances, but he’s out.
Now let’s take a look at the post-season stats in the three-horse race.
- Luis Tiant (3 Series) Jack Morris (7 Series) Curt Schilling (12 Series)
- Wins/Losses (%): 3/0 (1.000) 7/4 (.636) 11/2 (.846)
- ERA: 2.86 3.80 2.23
- Innings Pitched 34.2 92.1 133.1
- Strikeouts: 20 64 120
- K/BB: 1.82 2.00 4.80
Tiant broke through in 1968, after he altered his delivery so that he turned away from the home plate during his motion, in effect creating a hesitation pitch. According to Tiant, the new motion was a response to a drop in his velocity due to an arm injury. Twisting and turning his body into unthinkable positions, Tiant would spend more time looking at second base than he did the plate as he prepared to throw. In that season, he led the league in ERA (1.60), shutouts (9, including 4 consecutive!), hits per nine innings (a still-standing franchise record 5.30, which broke Herb Score’s 5.85 in 1956 and would be a Major-League record low until Nolan Ryan gave up 5.26 hits/9 innings in 1972), strikeouts per nine innings (9.22, more than a batter an inning), while finishing with a 21–9 mark. Beside this, opposing hitters batted just .168 off Tiant, a major league record, and on July 3 he struck out 19 Minnesota Twins in a ten-inning game, setting an American League record for games of that length. His 1.60 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 mark during the dead-ball era in 1919, and second lowest in 1968 only to Bob Gibson’s 1.12—the lowest ever during the Live Ball Era.
Known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in 1972 Tiant regained his old form with a 15–6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. He would win 20 games in 1973 and 22 in 1974. Though hampered by back problems in 1975, he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7–1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6–0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski’s single for the first of those six runs. Tiant won Game 4 as well (throwing 163 pitches in his second complete game in the series) and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning.
In his 19-season career, Tiant compiled a 229–172 record with 2416 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games, and 49 shutouts in 3,486.1 innings. Tiant is one of five pitchers to have pitched four or more consecutive shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale (six, 1968), Bob Gibson (five, 1968), Orel Hershiser (five, 1988) and Gaylord Perry (four, 1970) being the others. He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, leading the league twice.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league 3 times.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
3 All-Star Games. 4 time 20 game winner. 3 times appearing on the American League Cy Young balloting, twice finishing in the top five. 4 times appearing on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top ten.
Jack Morris played in 18 big league seasons between 1977 and 1994, mainly for the Detroit Tigers, and won 254 games throughout his career. Armed with a fastball, slider, devastating splitter and a fierce competitive spirit, Morris played on three World Championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays). While he gave up the most hits, earned runs and home runs of any pitcher in the 1980s, he also started the most games, pitched the most innings and was the winningest pitcher of the decade. On April 7, 1984 Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. In 1986, Morris racked up 21 wins, but was overshadowed by eventual Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox. Despite a sub par season in 1989 when he won only 6 games, he still finished as the winningest major league pitcher of the 1980s, with 162 wins during the decade.
In 1991, Morris signed a one-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed another great season, posting 18 wins as Minnesota faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Morris started for the Twins three times, with his final outing being Game 7. In a postseason performance for the ages, the 36-year-old hurler, known throughout his career as a clutch “big game” pitcher, lived up to his billing by throwing 10 innings of shutout baseball against the Braves as the Twins won the World title on a 10th inning single by Gene Larkin that scored Dan Gladden. Morris was named the World Series MVP for his fantastic performance. Following the 1991 season, Morris spurned the Minnesota Twins, his hometown team, and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He earned 21 wins for the second time in his career (and the first ever 20-win season for a Blue Jays pitcher), though he rode the wave of superior run support from his offense, given his 4.04 ERA that year. The Blue Jays reached the 1992 World Series against the Braves and despite a sub par World Series performance, he won a third championship ring as Toronto beat Atlanta in six games. He won a fourth in 1993, as the Blue Jays repeated as World Champions with a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Morris did not pitch in the postseason, however.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league in 1986.
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Complete Games, leading the league in 1990.
- 12 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league twice.
5 All Star Games. 3 Time 20 game winner. Appearing on the AL Cy Young ballot 7 times, 5 time finishing in the top five. Morris appeared 5 times on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top 15. 4 Time World Series Champion including the 1991 World Series MVP award.
During the Phillies’ pennant run in 1993, Schilling went 16–7 with a 4.02 ERA and 186 strikeouts. Schilling led the Phillies to an upset against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Although he received no decisions during his two appearances in the six-game series, Schilling’s 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts (including the first 5 Braves hitters of Game 1, an NLCS record) were enough to earn him the 1993 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award. After losing Game 1 of the WS to the Toronto Blue Jays, he pitched brilliantly in his next start. With the Phillies facing elimination the day after losing a bizarre 15–14 contest at home in Veterans Stadium, Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout that the Phillies won, 2–0. Schilling was named to the NL All-Star team in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and started the 1999 game.
With Arizona, he went 22–6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001, leading the majors in wins and innings pitched. He also went 4–0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. In the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with teammate Randy Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2001 “Sportsmen of the Year” award. During the World Series Schilling received two other honors, as he was presented that year’s Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards, the first Arizona Diamondback so honored for either award. In 2002, he went 23–7 with a 3.23 ERA. He struck out 316 batters while walking 33 in 259.1 innings. On April 7, 2002, Schilling threw a one-hit shutout striking out 17 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.
On September 16, 2004, Schilling won his 20th game of 2004 for the Red Sox, becoming the fifth Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the team, and the first since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1978. Schilling ended his regular season with a 21–6 record. On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS. These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”. Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana. Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice. For the 2006 season, Schilling was said to be healthy. He began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA. On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat. On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. On June 7, 2007, Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter. Schilling gave up a two-out single to Oakland’s Shannon Stewart, who lined a 95-mph fastball to right field for the A’s only hit. He earned his third win of the 2007 playoffs in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series leaving after 5 1/3 innings, striking out four while allowing only four hits. With this win, he became only the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game (Kenny Rogers became the first just one year prior). As Schilling departed in the 6th inning, fans at Fenway Park gave Schilling a standing ovation.
Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez.
- 1 time finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league in 2004.
- 2 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Wins, leading the league in 2001.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Strikeouts, leading the league twice.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in ERA (1 time in the American League).
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Complete Games, leading the league 4 times.
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Shutouts (1 time in the American League).
6 All Star Games. 2 time 20 game winner. Schilling appeared on a total of 4 Cy Young Award Ballots (3 National/ 1 American) finishing second 3 times. He appeared on the Most Valuable Player ballot 4 times (3 National / 1 American) finishing in the top 10 twice. 3 time World Series Champion including a 1993 NLCS MVP award and 2001 World Series MVP award. A Roberto Clemente Award/Branch Rickey Award/Babe Ruth Award winner in 2001.
At the end of the day, it becomes a two-horse race, my sentimental favorite Mr. Tiant dropping off. But as we have seen, there are questions, answers and some of the numbers are deceiving. Yes, Morris has some great numbers but has negatives to go along with them. For all the experts who tout Jack’s big game post-season prowess, Curt buries him. Sure, Morris has four WS titles, but pitched below average in one and didn’t even pitch in another. The big 1991 performance against the Braves? The Bloody Sock game in 2004. Looking past Morris’ wins and the fact he has more losses, Schilling sports a higher win percentage. Who played for more perennial contenders? Who played for better run producers? And on and on…..
The questions will wage on, but the timetable is fairly limited, adding more fuel to the fire. This year marked Morris’ 13th on the ballot, leaving two more attempts. In two years, this could be a battle for the ‘Golden Age’ Committee or Veterans committee or whatever the guys who keep deserving but still breathing players out of the hall, therefore keeping their divided annual shares in tact, call themselves.