September 29, 2004

The Washington Expos? Senators Redux? Maybe the Beltways or Bureaucrats?

Well, it is a done deal. After 35 years, the Montreal Expos are no more, heading to the Fedroplex; will they be the Senators again? Probably not, as Tom Hicks and the Rangers still own the rights to that name. How do I feel about this? I haven’t quite figured out yet.

I do know I feel bad for the baseball fans in Montreal. Do not listen to what Selig and his stooges tell you, there are actual fans in Montreal. Granted, most of them have been chased away due to nearly criminal mismanagement over the last 10 years, but they certainly exist. Still, listen to the other owners, they will tell you how bad Montreal was for baseball. It is too cold. They are too obsessed with hockey. French Canadians are just too, well… French. Most importantly, the city never got around to building a ludicrously overpriced palace for whatever hapless owner happened to be in control. Swap out hockey for football, and rainy for cold and you… you get Seattle, Washington circa 1976-1995. Baseball hated being in Seattle more than they hate being in Montreal. Too much to do in Seattle, people don’t need baseball. Funny thing, ironic really, is that the Mariners came within an eyelash (and a taxpayer supplied stadium) from becoming the Northern Virginia Fury back in ’95.

The Expos were never the glamour team in the NL, but up until 1994, they were a solid major league baseball franchise. They had a lousy stadium, but so did half the teams in baseball. They had a lousy owner, but again, so did half the teams in baseball. What they did have was the best team in baseball at the time of the strike, but when the game returned in 1995, they had barely a shell. During the strike, owner Claude Brochau, a thoroughly unlikable man, stripped his team bare, shedding talents like Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, and Moises Alou. The Expos had little chance to recover.

Of course, it got worse from there. Despite great young players like Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero, the Expos floundered. They went from a horrid owner, to a rather stupid and evil one named Jeffrey Loria. His first exceptionally bright idea was to get in a giant snit with his local broadcasters and take the Expos off TV and Radio. From there it gets comical, with Loria and Bud Selig conspiring to get Loria a different troubled franchise, the Marlins, and the Marlins owner in Boston. Montreal becomes a ward of the state, with the other MLB teams sharing ownership. With this appalling state of affairs, the situation spirals into absurdity. The Expos play some home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the baseball establishment spends the entire 2003 season promising a new home by 2004. Of course, that does not happen. We spend all of 2004 doing what should have been settled the year before. Only now, the Expos are just that, the Expos. The world Montreal has been removed. Where will they end up? Where will the roulette wheel land? Who knows? Possibly Washington, or Portland, or Charlotte, maybe even Vegas. Wouldn’t that be cool? Selig seems excited by Monterrey or Mexico City, but that never goes anywhere. This escapade brings back memories of the ABA.

Now it is over, and the Expos are head to Washington. Will it work? Maybe, this is baseball. You still get three strikes. Of course, DC is at 0-2. An original member of the AL, the first Senator team moved to Minnesota. The expansion Senators headed out for Arlington, Texas at the first opportunity. And we do have a few questions for this team. Things like who is going to own it or run it or even the damned name. I still vote for the Grays, but that’s waaaay to classy for baseball to do. There are also lawsuits to deal with, from those screwed by Loria when he moved to Florida.

I guess what really bothers me is that someday, some little kid in Montreal is going to ask his dad what happened to the Expos, and that father is going to get that slightly sad, far-away look that my dad did when I asked him who the Pilots were.

I usually don’t like Jim Caple much, but this article pretty much wraps up how I feel about what happened to the Expos. He raises a good point: Considering all the money baseball has spent running the team, and the guaranteed revenues promised to Orioles owner Peter Angelos, wouldn’t it have made more sense to use that money to build a stadium in Montreal?

Posted by Frinklin at September 29, 2004 05:50 PM
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