One of our favorite in-person baseball memories is watching the Expos play at Olympic Stadium a few years ago. This was back when Omar Minaya was the GM, during that season when he tried to make a mid-summer wild-card run. We saw the second game Bartolo Colon pitched for the 'Spos after his trade. The Expos won, but the highlight was when Vladimir Guerrero hit a ball off the roof. The stadium was, of course, almost completely empty, and we bought four-buck front-row bleacher seats. We even bought a cute Canadian version of a hot dog, which was 75 percent polyurethane and came in an antiseptic, limp cold styrofoam box. It was an awesome time.
We were feeling bad that those Expos fans still lingering around had no preview to call their own. So we asked Canadian holdover Jason Takefman to take us through how a fictional Montreal Expos season preview would have worked, had they hung around.
So, after the jump, Mr. Takefman takes us through the Expos of 2007, eh?
Seems like the Montreal Expos have been flying just a tad under the radar the past few
years weeks. I keep buying the MLB season preview magazines and waiting on Deadspin to read about my beloved 'Spos, but I can't seem to find anything on them. What, just because we don't give out $100 million contracts to guys who cant even walk up stairs or haven't thrown an important pitch in North America doesn't mean we should get left out of the party. Cmon, a little Spring Training Love never hurt anybody. So, I thought I would take it upon myself to provide the world with my own 2007 Montreal Expos season preview. Madames est monsieurs, vos Expos de Montreal!
Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Expos just don't have the money to spend on the big timers like the rest of baseball. We simply don't have deep pockets like the Mets, Giants or Sox to help hide our mistakes. We do, however, have guys who can rake. We also have (finally), new owners who love the team, the city, and want to see us win. Vladimir Guerrero, Grady Sizemore, Chad Cordero, Cliff Lee are all signed to long-term deals which ensures the core of this team will be wearing blue pinstripes well into the next decade.
For the 2007 Expos to be successful, we need to eliminate two weak links. Firstly, Frank Robinson, our manager. Yes, he was a great ballplayer. and he said all the right things when he first came to Montreal, talked about our prospects and how full of life they were, and even put on entertaining Piniella-esque performances when arguing at umps. Sorry, Frankie, times are a changin'. That stuff was cute when contraction was the main issue, 1,500 people were coming to the ballpark and ownership was up in the air. That stuff has settled. It's time to win NOW. Frobby often gets out-managed. He makes terrible baseball decisions (he gave Endy Chavez 400 at-bats at the leadoff spot in 2003, even though he had a .292 OBP). He has terrible communication skills (alienates many of his starting pitchers and blows off direct media questions), and he holds personal grudges against his players. He's also known to take the odd power nap during games but we won't hold that against him.
Who should replace him? There should be one candidate and one candidate only. His name is Felipe Rojas Alou. He managed us for almost nine full seasons before undeservingly getting the ax during the 2001 season (See: Loria, Jeffrey H.). He managed the best team money couldn't buy in 1994 only to see the season end prematurely when...ah, screw it. You know the rest. It's just too painful. He helped cultivate so much of our young talent into star ball players and is a true Latin-American baseball pioneer. This guy should totally run the show.
The second hurdle is our starting pitching. While the rest of the division has sexy names like Smoltz, Willis, Glavine, Myers, Hamels, and Martinez we just can't match that firepower. A healthy Cliff Lee, John Patterson and Tony Armas Jr. could go a long way but that's nothing intimidating going into a big series. Speaking of sexy, since you have started reading this, our 4th starter, Livan Hernandez, has probably devoured about three sandwiches. He has what doctors call "a little bit of a weight problem."
Screw 'Moneyball,' or big money contracts to random free agents, the Expos have built heir team through trading away whack jobs. Carl Everett, Cliff Floyd (twice), Milton Bradley, Carl Pavano, Javy Vazquez have yielded great bullpen depth in Gary Majewski, Jon Rauch and Sun Woo Kim, starters Zach Day and Claudio Vargas, our fourth outfielder Juan Rivera and baseball's best kept secret, on-base-machine, Nick Johnson.
I can sit here and say that hope springs eternal, throw some other generic jargon and say that Vlad is the best player nobody sees because he is stuck in the Great White North, or look out if we get some breaks, etc.... But that doesn't apply here, because this team does have real potential. What if Guerrero is on fire and just can't be pitched to late in the season? Walk Vlad in years past, and you were safe. But now he finally has some legitimate protection in the lineup in up-and-comer, Ryan Zimmerman. He looks to be the first competent third basemen this city has seen since Big Bad Tim Wallach was in town. Zimbo hit 20 homeruns last year, and, at 22, he isn't even finished hitting puberty.
Hey Mets fans, after what happened in the last year's NLCS, do you feel safe if I told you right now that Nick Johnson is standing on first base, Guerrero's at the plate, and poop-the-pants Wagner is on the mound in the bottom of the 9th? By the way, first place is up for grabs and 55,000 crazy Canucks are banging their chairs in the Big O just waiting to celebrate our first division title since '81? Sure doesn't sound like a warm blanket when the weather gets cold, eh?
The future is certainly bright in Montreal. Thankfully we've survived the fire sales, the poor attendance and the relocation threats. I mean, seriously, could you imagine a team playing in DC....again? What a mess that would have been.