Monday, December 27, 2010

Lost in Time: 1994 Montreal Expos

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-Digger's Daily-

1994 Montreal Expos. The team time forgot. One of the 1990's best teams had their dreams crushed by the '94-'95 players strike. Baseball's eighth work stoppage canceled the World Series for the first time since 1904. As a result, Montreal's place in history never was left incomplete. No one will ever know for certain how good these guys could have been.

Montreal's success led to a MLB best 74 victories in 114 games (74-40). The starting rotation was led by Ken Hill (16-5, finished 2nd in Cy Young) and a young Pedro Martinez (11-5). Jeff Fassero (8-6), Butch Henry (8-3) & Kurt Rueter (7-3) rounded out the staff. A flame throwing bullpen provided near lights out relief. John Wettleland (25 saves), Mel Rojas (16 saves), Jeff Shaw, Tim Scott and Gil Heredia were called on often to protect Expos leads. Expos pitchers posted NL best 3.56 ERA, fewest free passes (288) & top of the heap 1.214 WHIP.

Montreal took care of business on offense. 2nd in team average, 3rd in runs and hits. Larry Walker and Moises Alou swung big sticks in a lineup including Darrin Fletcher (C), Cliff Floyd (1B), Mike Lansing (2B), Wil Cordero (SS), Sean Berry (3B) & Marquis Grissom (CF). How many of those names are remembered out there? They weren't head turners but proved to have valuable careers nonetheless.

Manager extraordinaire Felipe Alou skills transformed a so-so club into a winning contender soon after taking the reigns midway through the 1992 season. After the strike ended, so did Expos success. Alou's top guns were either traded away or lost to free agency. Montreal's winning ways soon turned into struggling seasons before the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.

1994 Expos thrilled local fans while frustrating opponents. We'll never know how good they truly were. Or, if they could have held off division rival pitching rich Atlanta Braves for the NL East crown? Some may argue for or against their potential greatness. Baseball's strike of 1994 left many questions unanswered and prematurely ended the best season in Montreal Expos history.


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