Expos to D.C.? No kidding ...

October 03, 2004|by MARK KELLER

Did Major League Baseball really need three years to decide to move the Montreal Expos to Washington? Was there ever really any doubt that this is where the team was going to end up?

Sure, Bud Selig had to make a deal with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos in order to make it happen, but the whole process should have been completed long before now.

(And by the way, the Expos are not going to hurt attendance for the Orioles ... Peter Angelos will. It's up to him to put a quality team on the field.)

It wasn't fair for the city of Montreal to have a lame-duck franchise for the last three years, nor was it fair to the Expos players to be part of the traveling circus, playing one-quarter of their "home games" in San Juan.


Of course, both the players union and the league are guilty of the demise of the Expos franchise. The 1994 players' strike - the one which canceled the World Series - essentially killed baseball in Montreal.

The real crime in that, however, was that the Expos had the best record in baseball (74-40) when the strike hit. They were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, which means the Braves current mark of 13 consecutive division titles likely would have been stopped at three.

They would have been the favorite to win the World Series that year, with a lineup featuring Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Wil Cordero, Mike Lansing and Cliff Floyd - none older than 27.

The pitching staff was pretty solid, too, with starters such as Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero, Kirk Reuter and a 22-year-old Pedro Martinez, and relievers John Wetteland, Mel Rojas and Jeff Shaw - all of whom have had seasons with at least 35 saves.

In the 10 seasons since the injustice of that strike (and I use the term "injustice" tenuously ... the Expos players voted to strike, too), all of those young players - and those who followed them through the farm system - either left or were traded away because the team couldn't afford to keep them.

It will be several years until the Washington team - whatever it's called - competes for a division title. Who knows if Washington will ever have a team on the level of the 1994 Expos.

But at least they'll have owners willing to put some money into the team. At least they'll be playing in a city that wants them. At least the players will have a place they can call home.

It didn't take baseball three years to make a decision that nearly destroyed baseball in 1994. Why on earth did it take so long to figure this one out?

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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