Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Founded: 1969 as a National League expansion team, the first major league team outside the United States.

Ownership: Major League Baseball (2002-present); Jeffrey Loria (1999-2002); Investor group led by Claude Brochu (1991-1999); Charles Bronfman (1969-1991).

Stadiums: Jarry Park, 1969-76; Olympic Stadium, 1977-present; Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Puerto Rico, 2003-present (part-time home).

Attendance: Peaked in 1983, when the team drew 2,320,651 for an average of 28,650. It was the team’s seventh year in Olympic Stadium and the Expos finished 82-80, third in the National League East. The Expos went five straight seasons (1998-2002) without drawing a million and since 1998 have ranked last in the NL, averaging slightly more than 10,000 a game.

Minor league affiliates: Class AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, Class AA Harrisburg Senators, High Class A Potomac Cannons (Woodbridge, Va.), Class A Savannah Sand Gnats, Short Season Class A Vermont Expos, Rookie League Gulf Coast Expos.

Successes: The Expos never have won a World Series, and the only season the team finished first didn’t count: 1994, when the Expos had a six-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East when the season-ending strike began. In 1981, the season was interrupted by a strike, and the Expos won the second-half title in the NL East to make their only playoff appearance. Montreal beat the Phillies in five games to win the best-of-5 division series before losing in five games to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

Top all-time players: The Expos have one player, catcher Gary Carter, wearing their hat in the Hall of Fame (inducted in 2003). Carter won three Gold Gloves and played on seven All-Star teams before the Expos traded him to the Mets after the 1984 season. The Expos retired Carter’s No. 8, as well as the No. 10 worn by Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub. Dawson played 10 seasons with the club before leaving as a free agent after the 1986 season. Dawson won the 1977 Rookie of the Year Award as an Expo in addition to earning seven Gold Gloves, playing in three All-Star games and hitting 225 homers for the club. Staub, “Le Grand Orange,” was the Expos’ first great player and was a fan favorite (a New Orleans native, he spoke French) even though he only played 3½ seasons for the club. Pitcher Dennis Martinez resurrected his career with the Expos in 1986 on the way to becoming the winningest Latin American pitcher of all time. He made three All-Star Games as an Expo, including 1991 when he led the National League with a 2.39 ERA, threw nine complete games and pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers.

The ones who got away: After the 1994 strike, the cash-strapped Expos had trouble holding on to top talent. The talented 1994 team had only one player older than 30 (pitcher Jeff Fassero), but none of them finished their careers in Montreal. Outfielders Larry Walker and Marquis Grissom, closer John Wetteland and ace Ken Hill were gone the next season, Sean Berry the season after that. Moises Alou also departed after the 1996 season. And after he won the Cy Young Award in 1997, the Expos traded Pedro Martinez for Carl Pavano. Pavano, now a Marlin and a Cy Young contender himself, was one of four former Expos playing in the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston. The others were Alou, Randy Johnson and Vladimir Guerrero — a 28-year-old outfielder with 270 career home runs who is one of the best young players in baseball.

Top current players: Jose Vidro is the Expos’ best all-around player, a three-time All-Star second baseman who batted .294 with 14 homers before getting shelved by knee surgery this season. … Former Yankees prospect Nick Johnson has struggled with injuries throughout his career; he has played in only 169 games over the last two years, and has 36 homers over the last three seasons (298 games). … Versatile Brad Wilkerson has played all three outfield positions and first base since becoming a regular in 2002 and has a career-high 31 homers this season. … Former Orioles third baseman Tony Batista has had a surprisingly successful season, hitting 32 homers while knocking in 110 runs. He’s a free agent after the season. … The Expos need the most help on the mound but have two solid building blocks: former World Series MVP Livan Hernandez and young closer Chad Cordero. Hernandez, an All-Star for the first time this season, has 95 career wins and has started at least 30 games each season since 1998. Cordero, a rookie, has 13 saves this season since inheriting the job as closer in early June.

Top prospects: Left-handed pitcher Mike Hinckley, 22, won 11 games between Class A and Class AA this season. … First baseman Larry Broadway, 23, is finally batting for power and a decent average in the same season. … Clint Everts and Shawn Hill, both right-handers, are also top prospects, but both have had Tommy John surgery and should miss next season.

John Taylor

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