Friday, July 23, 2004


Just in time

According to this story, officials from the Major League Baseball Players' Union met with Montreal Expos player reps yesterday to inform them that there would be no baseball in Montreal next season. The team's new home hasn't been decided, but it appears that it will be either Washington, DC, or northern Virginia.

Since one of the main reasons Jim and I are taking this trip is to see the Montreal Expos, I'm glad we didn't put the trip off a year.

But before the Expos leave us, one more thing needs to be said: Major League Baseball killed baseball in Montreal. Though baseball in Montreal was never a good bet to be as big as in baseball's best cities, the Expos were popular in the past, and there's no reason to think that, with a winning team and smart ownership, they couldn't be popular in the future.

Take a look at this chart of Expos home attendance through the years. From 1979-1983, when the Expos were winning at a .543 clip (picking up their one division title along the way and finishing second (to the Pirates) twice), the Expos averaged nearly 28,000 fans per game. Attendance fell along with the Expos' winning percentage throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, but it didn't utterly collapse until the late 1990s, on the heels of two fire sales and the loss of the 1994 postseason, which cost the best Expos team in 15 years its chance at a World Series.

If this were any other business, some smart young rich guy would look at those figures and decide to take a crack on turning baseball around in Montreal. But in the Seligian fiefdom that is MLB, the 30 owners thought they were better off with wrangling another taxpayer-funded stadium, depressing salaries for a few years, and trying (and failing) an experiment in Puerto Rico. And as for the remaining Expos fans, well, tough merde.

So enjoy your new Senators or Swamp Rats or K Street Killers or Suburban Sluggers or whatever, [insert name of Expos new home city or region here], in the new stadium you built them. But you might want to get started drawing up the paperwork on those bonds for 2035, when Zombie Selig will reveal that the stadium is antiquated and will keep the team from ever succeeding, and if you don't build a new one, he might just have to authorize a move to . . . . Montreal.

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