Apr 1, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets former player Rusty Staub throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of a MLB opening day game between the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
It would seem fitting that the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets are playing their final exhibition games in the old confines of the Big O in Montreal. The Blue Jays due to the obvious nature of being from Canada and the New York Mets for having been the place Gary Carter played most of the second half of his Hall of Fame career and won a World Series with.
So to honour the pre-Washington Nationals here are the greatest players, positions one through nine, that ever donned a Montreal Expos jersey.
1. Starting Pitcher: Steve Rogers (1973-1985)
It’s hard to pick just one guy. Pedro Martinez perhaps? Dennis Martinez? It’s a tough call but for pure longevity I would have to go with the Expos 1st round pick in 1971, Steve Rogers. He spent his entire career with the Expos in 1973 and set a then rookie record with 18 strikeouts in a game. His 158 wins are 1st overall for the Expos.
2. Catcher: Gary Carter (1974-1984)
12 of his 19 years in the majors were with the Expos. He was an 11 time all-star with 3 Gold Gloves and 5 Silver Slugger awards. His career was sure-fire hall of fame and may have been the first player to truly transcend living and playing in Montreal. He was a fiery competitor and great ambassador to the game. It is only fitting the games this week are in his honour.
3. First Base: Rusty Staub (1969-1971)
There was talk giving this to Andres Galarraga but he just didn’t captivate the fans the way Rusty Staub did. La Grande Orange played only 4+ seasons with the Expos but his time there is legendary. He embraced the city and they did so back. He is the only player to have 500 hits for 4 different teams. Staub played with hustle and heart.
4. Second Base: Jose Vidro (1997-2004)
It really is no comparison. The Expos never had a second baseman as prolific as Vidro. One of the anchors of that 1994 shoulda-would-coulda team, he could run, had some pop and got on base to the tune of a .363 OBP during his tenure with the Expos…and later the Nationals. Not many second basemen these days with an OPS over .800 for their career. Truly an underrated major leaguer.
5. Third Base: Tim Wallach (1980-1992)
Tim Wallach was the first ball player I remember as a kid. I had a baseball book and he was the first Expo I ever saw. He wasn’t the greatest hitter but was a great defender and a leader on and off the field. If the team was still in Montreal he would have made a great managerial candidate. He was a cornerstone of the Expos for over a decade and along with Carter, Tim Raines and Andre Dawson.
6. Shortstop: Hubie Brooks (1985-1989)
There was never really much to choose from. After looking over the history of the team, this seemed to be a huge hole every season. Some could hit, some could field but it seemed no one was ever really able to put both together. Hubie was the best of a mediocre group.
7. Outfield: Tim Raines (1979-1990)
Tim Raines was the first super-duper star I recall watching. It was tough back in the day because baseball was a weekly thing on television and you pretty much had to rely on what you read in the papers. Raines was a prolific base stealer, hitter and defender. He was also a 7 time all-star, all with his time in Montreal. His numbers are Hall of Fame worthy and hopefully one day he gets the recognition he deserves.
8. Outfield: Andre Dawson (1976-1986)
There was Rock Raines and there was Andre “the Hawk” Dawson, another one of the core of those amazing Expos teams of the late ‘70s and early 80s. As an Expo he won rookie of the year in 1976, 6 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Slugger awards. If the turf at Olympic Stadium hadn’t tore his knees up he might have done even more. He was ornery and gruff but he played all out and he played hard.
9. Outfield: Vladimir Guerrero (1996-2003)
This is the man most will remember. Vlad the Impaler. The best bad ball hitter I have ever laid eyes on. The man could rake with the best of them. He had power, speed, a plus plus arm in right field and a love of the game that was so endearing. He wasn’t the greatest defender but he made the plays with a big wide grin. When 2016 rolls around he may just answer that call to the Hall of Fame.
There are dozens more I could name from Larry Walker to Warren Cromartie to Dennis Martinez to Bob Bailey. This franchise developed some of the best players in baseball and it is a shame that Bud Selig even let them leave. Cromartie is trying a new grass roots campaign to get the Expos back and I say….give them the Marlins and kick Jeffrey Loria out on his proverbial butt for destroying this once proud franchise. The Expos may be gone but their place in baseball history could never be denied.