Wednesday, September 29th, 2004
10:28 pm - The Montreal Expos, R.I.P.  
The Montreal Expos won their division exactly twice in their thirty-five year existence. The first time was in 1981, when the season was interrupted by a midseason player strike. At the time of the strike, the Phillies were in first place, and the Expos were in third. When the strike was settled, the Lords of Baseball decided to restart the season from scratch, and the Expos came in first in the second half, with the Phillies finishing third. Meanwhile the Cardinals finished second in both halves, and had the best overall record of the three teams, but didn't make the playoffs. The Expos beat the Phils in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the Dodgers in the NLCS. (The Dodgers went to beat the Yanks in the Series.)

The only other time the Expos won their division was in 1994, when they had the best record in baseball. Except there was another player strike, and that one wasn't settled. The playoffs and World Series were cancelled. They had no place to go.

That was it for the Expos. They have always had a pretty good development system, and were competitive for a long time because of it, but once free agency began they were never able to keep their best players. They had the worst ballpark in the majors, and they couldn't compete economically with American teams. They became the second team in the modern era to go bankrupt.

So now they're going to move to Washington. Washington has already had and lost two teams. The original Washington Senators were doormats. "Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." Just as they got to be competitive, they moved to Minnesota after the '60 season. The American League replaced them the next season with an expansion team, also called the Senators. So the fans in Washington essentially had their entire team, which had some pretty good young players on it (Harmon Killebrew and Jim Kaat, for two) traded out from under them for a collection of rookies and has beens. The new Senators finished with a winning record exactly once (4th place in 1969) before they moved to Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers.

The big question is what are they going to name the team? I doubt very much they'll keep the Expo name. It's too Montreal centric. They could go with Senators, except that the Senators were an American League team, and this team will be in the National League. Also, and probably more to the point, the Rangers still own the rights to the Senators name. Why would anyone want to pay compensation to another team to use a name that is synonymous with losing. The Senators also occasionally went by the Nationals, or the Nats, which would fit nicely with the National League, and the thought of 30,000 fans all screaming "Go Nats" pleases the twelve year-old in me.
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Current Mood: mourning
Current Music: "You Gotta Have Heart" -- Damn Yankees
 
 
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mearamearagrrl on September 29th, 2004 - 09:31 pm
There's been a lot of discussion on this in the WashPost. Some are voting for the "Washington Monuments". Some are going for more abstract stupid names (like the Freedom and the United, our soccer teams). Others are voting for the "Grays" which I *think* was like, a Negro League team?? Or something. I'm not terribly excited by any of it, but I think the redevelopment of the area where they want to put the stadium would be cool.
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 29th, 2004 - 09:42 pm
The Homestead Grays were indeed a Negro League team. That wouldn't be half bad.

Yeah, Washington has had it's share of really dumb team names - Capitals, Redskins, Generals (the Globetrotters' foils), Wizards, Hoyas... (Sorry, couldn't resist the last one.)
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Herewardhereward on September 29th, 2004 - 10:07 pm
Don't forget their best and most appropriate name (especially for the NBA faux gangsta culture), Bullets.

This is the painful end of a 10 year protest by the people of Montreal. The brainless sportcasters who said stuff like if tonight's 33,000 had shown up all these years, the team wouldn't be leaving, should be send to cover synchro. Those 33,000 could have and would have shown up anytime.
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 30th, 2004 - 06:43 am
The Bullets really don't count though, because they were transplanted from Baltimore, where they were at least alliterative. (And let us never speak of the interim "Capital Bullets" again.)
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Hugh Likes Carrots: bride oftheodosia on September 30th, 2004 - 03:59 am
I fear they could end up being called the Reagans. They're naming everything else they can after him. (Ptuii!!!)
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 30th, 2004 - 06:37 am
It could even get worse than that. Dubya used to own the Texas Rangers, nee Washington Senators.
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Veejaneveejane on September 30th, 2004 - 08:17 am
Poor Montreal. Everybody seems to have played there, and if they are lucky, they escaped. The Washington team (I am partial to the Grays) will at least be in a different league from the Orioles, so the 295 corridor will get to see lots of different teams over the course of a year.

So Toronto is the last Canadian holdout at this point? Not that they are having a winning season either, nor can they fill their stadium except with wayward Bostonians in search of a cheap ticket behind the plate.
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Herewardhereward on September 30th, 2004 - 08:37 am
Toronto may be going through a bad year, but still leads Cleveland, Florida, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in attendance this season. There isn't the disconnect with the team here that happened in Montreal.

Montreal was a good place for baseball for many years, but got screwed by 1) The 1994 strike, that was really the last straw 2) Bad ownership compounded by 3)MLB ownership and the commissioner's office.

The Blue Jays are still feeling the effects of the 1994 strike, but if they put another good season or two together like last year (many key injuries this year killed their chances -- Where would the Sox have been without Schilling, Manny and Ortiz for big chunks of the season?), things will be fine here.

Toronto has a much higher population base and more of a corporate community to draw from than Montreal did.
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 30th, 2004 - 08:55 am
The Blue Jays also had the advantage of winning the last two World Series before the '94 strike, which meant that the fans had already seen a payoff for everything the club had been through. Montreal fans had their shot at a payoff ripped out of their grasp at practically the last second by the strike. Huge psychological hit. Plus the Blue Jays have a better stadium. On a nice day in the summer you can open the roof. Olympic Stadium has been a disaster from the start, possibly the worst park ever built.
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Herewardhereward on September 30th, 2004 - 09:12 am
Yes, 92 and 93 were great, but in a perverse way, they have also hurt the team somewhat in that expectations have been much higher. I think the fans are coming around to the idea of building from a Moneyball approach.

I agree and would that Montreal losing their shot with the best team in baseball in 94 is what crippled the franchise. The city has essentially boycotted the team since then. Your point about the psychological hit can't be overstated. You can still make almost any Canadian baseball fan (from Montreal or not) physically cringe with the words "Rick Monday".

Olympic Stadium was never designed for baseball and it was always a terrible place to watch the game. I saw a double header there in the late 70s from an obstructed view :( The Expos were better off at Jarry Park as the CFL team eventually learned, and moved their games to the McGill University stadium.
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 30th, 2004 - 09:00 am
Toronto may be going through a bad year, but still leads Cleveland, Florida, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in attendance this season.

I'm surprised that Cleveland is lower, because Jacobs has been such a good draw in the past.

I want to go see a game in Pittsburgh, because I like the new stadium a lot. Also, there are always seats, even though it's Fenway sized.
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Herewardhereward on September 30th, 2004 - 09:19 am
I'm sad to see Minnesota's low numbers, with the excellent team the club has on the field, one of the most exciting young teams in baseball.

Toronto will support a competitive team. They have to be fun to watch. Only the Maple Leafs get a free pass here. The last two games I was at: the 18-6 loss to the Skankees (the Jays won 5-4 on the Sunday) and a 9-1 loss to the Orioles with Ted Lilly pitching. I used to be a lucky charm for attendance. :) My buddy and I are planning on about 12 games next year.

When it was really hard to get Jays tickets, we used to drive down to Tiger stadium and walk into front row seats. These days that situation is reversed.

I'm thinking about a midwest stadium tour with a few friends next summer. Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit are all within a six hour drive. One of the guys wants to go east coast instead and hit Fenway, but that's a longer haul for us.
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Herewardhereward on September 30th, 2004 - 09:20 am
And Pittsburgh, which was the point of my post. :p
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 30th, 2004 - 10:15 am
Minnesota needs a new park, too. The thing about Minnesota is that the fans will show up for the playoffs, and when that building is packed it's loud. It's a huge advantage for the Twins. I'm not sure the Sox realize quite how tough it is to have to play there in that situation. Most of the fans around here are already looking right past the Twins to the Yanks in the ALCS.
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Herewardhereward on September 30th, 2004 - 10:59 am
That might be a mistake, because the Twins are tough, especially, as you say, in the GladbagDome. It is an interesting playoff year.
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