August 12 is a very bad anniversary in the history of baseball, for it was on that date in 1994 when the lights went out on baseball, leading to the cancellation of the World Series and a delay in the start of the 1995 season.
Just how much damage that strike did to the game is an ongoing subject of debate. But one sure casualty was the sport of major league baseball in Montreal.
We cannot say for certain there would still be a franchise in Montreal had there never been a cessation of play 16 years ago, but I maintain things would surely have been a lot different up there had nature run its course and the Montreal Expos fulfilled their apparent destiny that season, which was to win the National League pennant and then defeat the Yankees in the World Series. There would have been a far different climate for baseball in Quebec had the Expos emerged as the champions of the known baseball world.
On the day the strike began, the Montreal Expos, long lauded for having a superior farm system, had the best record in baseball. Les Expos were a gaudy 74-40. Do the math. They would only had to have gone 26-22 in order to win 100. They would more than likely have won 108 or more. They had a helluva team, with a great manager in Felipe Alou.
The basic lineup:
LF-Moises Alou (22 HR, 78 RBI, .989 OPS)
RF-Larry Walker (.322, 19 HR, 86 RBI, .981 OPS).
Ken Hill (15-5, 3.32)
Pedro Martinez (11-5, 3.42, 142 K, 45 BB and --- you'll love this -- 11 hit batsmen)
Jeff Fassero (8-6, 2.89
Butch Henry (8-3, 2.43)
Kirk Reuter (7-3, 5.17)
The closer was John Wetteland. The excellent setup corps consisted of Mel Rojas, Gil Heredia, Jeff Shaw and Tim Scott.
Key subs included Lenny Webster, Lou Frazier, Rondell White, and Randy Milligan.
They always needed a real ball park up there, and a championship team might have produced one. Interest would have soared. Instead, there was anger and disillusionment. One thing led to another, and then I believe a backlash against baseball as an Anglo pursuit took root among the Quebecois. But will we ever know for sure? No, of course not.
Now I am forced to borrow a page from the Shaughnessy book, asking you to see if there is anything interesting about the makeup of that roster. Give up?
Floyd, Lansing, Cordero, Fassero, Henry, Berry (one game, 0 for 4) and, of course, Pedro later played for the Red Sox. Borrowing a second page, this one from colleague Nick Cafardo, that is all apropos of nothing, but it's still fascinating.
The 1994 Montreal Expos. The champions that never were.