Taking a suggestion from Facebook, I’m trying a popular challenge as a side project and becoming the Montreal Expos general manager following the strike season in 1994. The goal, keep the Expos competitive for the next decade. Who knows? Maybe another team might end up calling Washington home
My first decision is to stop the offseason fire sales. No trade of Marquis Grissom to Atlanta. No trade of John Wetteland to the Yankees. No trade of Ken Hill to the St. Louis.
Larry Walker is off to Colorado as a free agent, but an outfield of Moises Alou in left, Grissom in center and Rondell White in right should be potent enough as the Expos wait for Vladimir Guerrero to develop in the minors. Right?
Well, Montreal fans enjoyed watching that starting outfield play together for a little more than a month. After nine games, Alou suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for 4-to-5 weeks. Two games later, White’s season come to an end. After a sizzling start that saw him hit .419 with two home runs and a 1.118 OPS, the Expos right fielder suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament. Team doctors said White will need between 8 and 9 months to heal.
At the time of the Alou injury, the Expos and Phillies were tied for first place with matching 7-2 records.
Seeing a need in the outfield to bridge the gap before Alou’s return as well as a weakness at first base, I made a call to John Hart in Cleveland. Based on a commitment to do everything possible to keep both Wetteland and Grisson beyond 1995, Mel Rojas was ruled expendable. A poor start with an ERA over 8.00 and getting tagged with both of the Expos losses in relief helped to push what may have been an impulsive decision. When the Indians offered Jeromy Burnitz, Herbert Perry, and minor league catcher Einar Diaz
for Rojas, Shane Andrews and Jon Saffer, I pulled the trigger on the deal.
Instead of hoping for F.P. Santangelo, Curtis Pride and Lou Frazier to hold down the fort for a month, the belief was Burnitz’ power and left-handed bat would offer similar production to that of Alou. At the same time, Perry, who had impressed in a limited role in Cleveland but had little opportunity to displace Jim Thome at third or the Paul Sorrento/Eddie Murray platoon at first, would find a chance to prove himself in an everyday role with Montreal. Manager Felipe Alou felt Cliff Floyd wasn’t ready for full-time duty at first base, and his decision to open the season with Andrews at first base led to little production.
The feeling was short lived. When White was lost for the year, Burnitz moved to right field and the Santangelo-Pride-Frazier trio were left to try to salvage the job in left.
The Expos forged on, staying atop NL East standings, even after more crushing news on the injury front. While trying to add to a six-game winning streak in late April, Pedro Martinez suffered a torn rotator cuff. His expected return…13-to-14 months.
Martinez was 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA prior to the injury.
And still, the Expos found themselves battling for first place, sitting one game behind Philadelphia in the NL East on March 1 and rated No. 6 in the MLB power rankings to start the month.
Here are a few reasons why the Expos managed to weather the injury storm:
- Wil Cordero was on fire all month long. While his 22-game hit streak finally ended in an April 28 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the Expos shortstop finished the month with a .358 average.
- Grissom was happy to be back in Montreal for the start of the 1995 season, hitting .352. His four homers matched Sean Berry for second on the team.
- And who leads the Expos in home runs heading into May? Herbert Perry, whose spectacular debut in Montreal earned him NL Rookie of the Month honors. Perry hit .328 with five home runs and .328 after taking over at first base.
- Wetteland suffered one blown save while taking his only loss of the month. Other than that blip on the radar, he recorded 9 saves in April with a 2.84 ERA.
- Carlos Perez’ first month in the majors saw him go 1-2 as the team’s fifth starter, but with a 2.05 ERA. Butch Henry enjoyed a solid month with a 2-0 mark and a 2.37 ERA.
- Jeff Fassero suffered four of Montreal’s 10 April losses, but he still posed a 3.23 ERA.
- Manager Felipe Alou will go with four lefties in the starting rotation following the injury to Martinez. The fourth left-hander is Kirk Reuter, who exits the bullpen for a spot in the rotation after going 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA in long relief.
- To fill the need for a lefty in the bullpen, the Expos added Marc Wilkins in a trade with the Pirates. They also picked up minor league reliever Kevin Tolar in exchange for Luis Aquino and Pete LaForest.
Here’s a look at some of the May numbers: