For most baseball fans and players, 1994 is a black mark on the timeline, being the year that the MLBPA strike cancelled the last half of the season and all of the postseason. For Montreal Expos fans, it’s the last time their team was mentioned in the same breath as the word playoffs.
The 1994 Montreal Expos were sitting pretty with the best record in baseball, and a six-game lead on the defending division champion Atlanta Braves.
Then, on Aug. 12, 1994, the strike hit, and players and fans alike were left to wonder “what if?”
That Expos team was reunited and honored at a pregame ceremony in their old home of Olympic Stadium, prior to the second of a two-game series between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets.
Former Expos manager Felipe Alou was on hand, along with 19 other members of the ’94 club, and he pondered the question that has haunted many in Montreal for nearly 20 years.
From MLB.com, “I know it’s what-if, but I can only say what we saw, that we were superior,” Alou said. “We were the best team in the National League, there was no question about that. In our league, we were kings. We were legitimate to win it.”
Legitimate is probably an understatement, with an outfield of Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou, and pitchers John Wetteland and Ken Hill on the roster, they were loaded with All-Stars. The Expos were tearing up the rest of the league, and had the city of Montreal in a rarely-seen baseball frenzy.
The 1994 Expos were dismantled the following spring when Grissom, Wetteland and Hill were all traded and Walker left via free agency to sign with the Colorado Rockies. The team moved and became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
Several of the former Expos went on to eventually win rings; Grissom with the Atlanta Braves in 1995, Moises Alou and Cliff Floyd in 1997 with the Florida Marlins, and Wetteland with the New York Yankees in 1996.