Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Montréal Expos

The Expos could be the favourite in the NL Newbie division, which consists of expansion cousin San Diego, the Milwaukee Braves-Brewers and the trio that began play in the 1990s, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins.

For starters, since a guideline was, when in doubt, put a player with the team which needs him more, Pedro Martínez (pictured), is on the Expos instead of the Boston Red Sox. The starting staff should be strong, although it leans right more than Steven Harper.

Offensively, how does Tim Raines-Andre Dawson-Vladimir Guerrero outfield (with Rusty Staub at DH and Gary Carter batting cleanup) grab you? Granted, manager Jonah Keri might have to get creative to optimize this lineup.

The infield is a weak spot. It still sucks that Hubie Brooks went down with a season-ending knee injury in 1986 when he was batting .340 and OPS-ing .956; otherwise he would have had the best season by a Montreal infielder. (The arbitary cutoff being observed here is 500 plate appearances for an everyday player, 400 for a utiltyman, 350 for a catcher. Brooks batted 338 times that season.)

  1. LF Tim Raines,# 1985 (7.5). For the Rock, we'll pick a quintenessential Rainesian season where he on-based .405 with some power, had 52 net stolen bases (70-for-79), scored 115 runs and played a lights-out left field. All that and he didn't crack the top 10 in MVP balloting. C'est la vie.

    In the present, of course, as a Raines supporter, it was gratifying that he is halfway to the Hall of Fame after garnering 37.5 per cent support in the 2011 Cooperstown voting. We all knew it would be a long process.

  2. RF Vladimir Guerrero, 1998 (7.1). The age-23 version of Vlady would provide plate coverage nonpareil out of the 2-hole, along with power and speed. He might have to come out for late-inning defence.

  3. DH Rusty Staub,* 1969 (5.9, 6.7 oWAR). Le Grand Orange was traded a lot during his career, but had his best three seasons with the early Expos.

  4. C Gary Carter, 1982 (7.8). Remember when he trying to get a a major league managing job? This space did have some fun with that. Here is hoping it will not have to be reenacted during the 2012 U.S. election.

  5. CF Andre Dawson, 1983 (6.6). One of his two seasons as runner-up for MVP; he was better in both than he was when he actually won with the last-place Cubbies in '87.

  6. 1B Andrés Galarraga, 1988 (5.1). It was a tough call to go with The Big Cat over Scoop, Al Oliver, but the .302/.340/.502 line Galarraga put up in '88 tops Oliver, who couldn't take a base on balls or field by the time he came to Canada.

  7. 2B Jose Vidro,# 2002 (4.6) / 2B Ron Hunt 1971 (4.9). Contrary to how some older writers remember it, the Expos did employ some decent second basemen after Rodney Scott was released in 1982. Vidro , who hit almost the same for his career from each side of the plate, was the best of the lot.

    Hunt was once described by Bill James as "being as bad a player as you can be with a .400 on-base percentage." He holds still holds the record with 50 hit-by-pitches in a single season.

  8. 3B Tim Wallach, 1985 (5.5). Was the National League's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger third baseman in 1985. Now you know when Michael Jack Schmidt moved across the diamond.

  9. SS Orlando Cabrera, 2001 (3.3). Every organization has that one black hole; the pool at shortstop was a little thin. Cabrera was good, as evidenced by the fact he's always with a team that makes the playoffs.
  • RHS Pedro Martínez, 1997 (8.2). One would imagine it was a tough call whether to place Pedro with the Expos or with the Boston Red Sox, where he had his two best seasons according to WAR (10.1 in 2000, 8.4 in 1999). Then again, if you've ever met a Red Sox fan, you would know it was not a hard decision at all.

  • RHS Steve Rogers, 1982 (8.4). One of the better pitchers to never receive a single Hall of Fame vote. This is also a good time to remind people of Blue Monday. Yours truly once had the misfortune to work with an ex-Montrealer (know how you know someone is from Monreal? They tell you) who whenever the Expos came up in conversation, would say they had the tying run on third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning in that game. Nope; not true. The Expos never even got a runner past second base after the first inning that day.

  • RHS Dennis Martínez, 1991 (5.5). El Presidente, El Perfecto. That is all.

  • RHS Bill Stoneman, 1971 (5.4). No need to remind people Stoneman pitched the Expos first two no-hitters or that he was general manager of the Angels when they won the World Series in 2002. He almost he three no-nos; in his career-best season, 1971, he had a one-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout game. Considering he led the NL with 146 bases on balls that season, a one-walk game was pretty extraordinary.

  • RHS Javier Vazquez, 2003 (5.4). How often does a NL pitcher throw a nine-inning complete game and lose? Vazquez did so in yours truly's last visit to the Big Owe. Mark McGwire couldn't even get a ball in play (three strikeouts and a pop foul) against him that night. And the Expos still lost.

  • RHS Liván Hernández, 2003 (5.3). Of indeterminate age and weight, but keeps on keeping on. Gave the Expos their last hurrah with a push for the wild card in '03.

  • CF Marquis Grissom, 1992 (5.6). Former stolen base champ is the answer to a great trivia question: who was in centrefield when the 1995 and 1997 World Series ended? Grissom was on the winning Atlanta Braves in '95 and on the losing Clevelanders in '97, who lost on Edgar Renteria's 11th-inning walk-off single in Game 7.

    Grissom would provide some late-inning fielding insurance in place of Guerrero.

  • 4C Larry Parrish, 1979 (4.7). There will be some PAs at either infield corner or as the designated lefty-masher.

  • 2B Delino DeShields, 1992 (4.0). Apparently Delino was a demigod to first-gen gamers. He had an awesome name, so of course he passed it to his son, now a Houston Astros outfield prospect.

  • C Barry Foote, 1974 (2.2). Gary Carter would catch 95 per cent of the games, so it's not a worry there's no good alternative.
  • CL John Wetteland, 1993 (4.6). He was out there. He is still out-out there.

  • RHR Tim Burke, 1987 (4.2). Made the Expos in '85 as a non-rostered player and wound up becoming their relief ace within two years; during that Year of the Homer in 1987, he gave up only three in 91 innings. Actual quote: "If Jesus were on the field, He'd be pitching inside and breaking up double plays."

  • RHR Jeff Reardon, 1982 (3.5). Gary Carter beat him to the trend of former Expos earning World Series rings by a season; Reardon got his with the 1987 Twins. Having him here is just an excuse to bask in some Steve Rushin brilliance the SI Vault, writing on the development of the closer:
    Baseball's closers have, historically, come from a can of mixed mustachioed nuts. And Reardon has closed more often than the most prolific of Century 21 agents: Through Sunday, Reardon's 339 career saves left him three short of breaking the alltime mark held by Hall of Famer-elect Rollie Fingers. Fingers, you'll recall, carried his teammates on the waxed handlebars of his curlicue mustache. Remember, too, the road-kill beards of Bruce Sutter (300 saves) and Gene Garber (218), the hood-ornament-steer-horns 'stache of Sparky Lyle (222) and the fearsome Fus of Goose Gossage (308) and Mike Marshall (178).

    Long before the invention of the Gillette Atra twin-blade razor, these flamboyant relievers were causing heads to pivot. But few got the attention, adulation or remuneration afforded today's premier closers. In fact, the term closer doesn't do justice to the glamorous head-liners of the 1990s. Does Sinatra close for Steve and Eydie? No. They open for him, much as starter Tom Browning opens for stopper Rob Dibble in Cincinnati. (Sports Illustrated, June 8, 1992)

  • RHR Mel Rojas, 1992 (3.5). Felipe Alou's nephew, Moises Alou's first cousin. You know that. Did you know the family business has reached a third generation? Mel Rojas Jr. is an outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Mel Sr. was an efficient right-handed reliever on some contending Expos teams in the first half of the 1990s.

  • LHR Woodie Fryman, 1980 (2.5). The well-remembered 'Spos southpaw left this mortal coil recently; he was good for them in iterations as a starter on some bad teams and as a reliever on some good ones.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

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