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MLB - Are the Expos Finished?

By Jon Collins
Saturday, August 25th, 2002
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The year was 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed by James Earl Ray, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, and Lyndon B. Johnson was the President of the United States. In the world of baseball, Hank Aaron hit his 500th career homerun, Bob Gibson pitched 13 shutouts, and Major League Baseball announced the creation of two new franchises: the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos.

The Montreal Expos, headed by Seagram executive Charles Bronfman, reported to Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Florida for the first time on February 24th, 1969. After a great spring, they saw over 29,000 come out to their first home game, in which they played the St. Louis Cardinals. In their infant decade, the Expos and their fans had dreams. Dreams of World Series championships, dreams of spectacular plays, nail-biting finishes, and a legacy to share with future generations.

After years in the inadequate Jarry Park, the Expos set a new club attendance record on April 15th, 1977 in their inaugural game in the new Olympic Stadium. Two years later, the Expos had transformed from an expansion team into a legitimate contender. In the 1979 season, the Expos finished in second place in the NL East, losing the pennant to the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, in 1980 and 1981, the Expos would win the pennant only to fall painfully short of the World Series.

The '90s saw the Expos farm system become one of the most powerful in the game. In the mid-'90s, the Expos called up a young Dominican pitcher who would blossom into a superstar. Pedro Martinez became the first Expos pitcher to win the Cy Young in '95 after winning 17 games and striking out 305. Looking for greener pastures, stars like Martinez departed from the friendly Canadian confines of Olympic Stadium. Players like Larry Walker and Randy Johnson went on to lead teams to success, while the Expos began a dramatic downfall that leads up to the present time.

When Major League Baseball took full control of the struggling Montreal Expos this season, fans and baseball executives across the nation began to speculate on the future of the club. Even though the MLB has not made any official decision, Commissioner Bud Selig has hinted that the team will be contracted at the end of this year, leaving our northern neighbor with only one professional baseball franchise.

The story of the Montreal Expos seems like something straight out of an E! True Hollywood segment. The Expos were the chief competition with the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East in the mid-'90s, but attendance took a gradual nosedive sending the team into a financial collapse. It seems as though this club was a victim of the league not putting a salary cap into effect. They have not been able to compete with free spending clubs like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. The lack of funds and possible contraction has also caused plans for the new Labbat Park to be put on hold.

However, not all Expos fans are throwing in the towel. Dan Arnold, die-hard Expo fan, and webmaster of "Save Our Expos!" says that contraction would be an "absolute travesty."

But wait -- it gets worse -- the Expos are way behind in both the NL East race and the wild card race. Behind to a point where they may be now way for the Expos to gain a postseason spot. To borrow from the poet John Keats, unfortunately, this team may be forced out of existence "not with a bang, but a whimper."

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