Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

1994 Montreal Expos

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Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, Marquis Grissom, Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill, Jeff Shaw, and John Wettteland: these talented players formed the nucleus of the 1994 Expos -- the team that never got a chance.

The Expos raced out to a 74-40 record, best in the majors, and a six game lead in the National League East. The 'Spos looked to be headed to the post season for the first time since, ironically enough, the strike shortened 1981 season -- but on August 12 the players went on strike and the season never resumed. By the time the 1995 season started the Expos had an entirely different look, baseball has never been the same in Montreal.

Entering into the 1994 season the Atlanta Braves were everyone's pick in the National League East. They were, after all, the three time defending division champions. But, the young Expos were lurking, waiting for their shot at dethroning the champs.

Young stars Larry Walker and Moises Alou were among the league's best hitters: Walker posted a .322 average with 19 homers and 86 RBIs in only 108 games. Alou, the son of the manager Felipe Alou had a breakout season leading the team with .339 average and 22 home runs. The Expos also had speed, stealing a League leading 137 bases. Seven players posted at least 10 thefts led by Marquis Grissom's 36.

Ken Hill who posted a 16-5 record with a 3.32 ERA led the pitching staff. Rising star Pedro Martinez went 11-5, and Jeff Fassero led the team with 2.99 ERA which gave the Expos a formidable 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation. The team also had a solid bullpen with Mel Rojas, Jeff Shaw, and Gil Heredia. John Wetteland posted 25 saves and gave the Expos the dominating closer that every championship team needs.

Because of the team's strong start it was well represented at the All Star game, sending five players: Alou, shortstop Wil Cordero, Grissom, Hill, and catcher Darrin Fletcher. Back home in Montreal interest in the team was picking up steam the attendance was at 1,276,250 when the strike hit and the stretch run of the pennant drive was just beginning.

Yes, things were good in Montreal, but on August 4 the Expos lost 7-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals before 39,044 fans at Olympic Stadium. Little did the hometown fans know, but it would be the last time that they would see Larry Walker, John Wetteland, Ken Hill, and Marquis Grissom in Expos red, white, and blue.

After that game the Expos went on the road and eight days later the season ended for good. The remainder of the season, the playoffs, and eventually the World Series were all cancelled while the players and owners bickered.

Today we can only wonder how the 1994 Expos would have fared in the post season. Major League baseball explored that concept in its 64 team "SimSeries."  The '94 Expos, touted as the NL East champions, were pitted against the 1946 Red Sox in a best two out of three computer simulated series. The '46 Sox won 2-0 outscoring the '94 Expos 19-6. Montreal fans will undoubtedly see it as yet another slap in the face by MLB.

The "SimSeries" may not give us any more answers, but one prominent member of that team, Larry Walker, offered his take: "When I talked to my teammates about that 1994 team, we always say what if. Would I be wearing a World Series ring right now? I think so."

During the next three years the talented Expos were systematically dismantled. Larry Walker went to Colorado were he won the 1995 NL MVP. Moises Alou went to Florida where he help the Marlins win the World Series in 1997. He remains one of the game's best hitters with the Houston Astros. Cliff Floyd is currently an All Star with the Marlins. John Wetteland won the 1996 World Series MVP with the New York Yankees. Pedro Martinez was traded to the Boston Red Sox after winning the NL Cy Young in 1997. He has won two more in Boston and is regarded by many as the game's best pitcher. Today we look at that collection of talent and can only wonder what would have happened if they all would have remained in Montreal.

-David Zingler, January 2002


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