The demise of the Montreal Expos is very well documented and one of the things that affected the team the most as the talent on the team dwindled was that the player development machine that churned out so many top players stopped making an impact.
Well it may have not made much of an impact on the field for the Expos – except when making trades – but there are still players with ties to the franchise before it moved to Washington.
One of them will actually be in uniform this weekend at Olympic Stadium. Maicer Izturis was a player in the final days of the 2004 Expos and remains one of only nine players who have played a game for the Expos and played a Major League game last season. He is now a member of the Blue Jays and is fighting for his spot on the Major League roster.
Luis Ayala and Jamey Carroll were both in camp with the Washington Nationals – players who were on the 2005 Nationals (and henceforth 2004 Expos) – but both were released after they were not going to make the team.
The New York Mets also have a former Expo on their roster, but he will not be appearing in either of the two games at Olympic Stadium. Bartolo Colon has nailed down a spot in the Mets rotation.
Colon also had a major impact on the rest of baseball. The three prospects that the Expos gave up in that trade have all become very good players. Cliff Lee had been one of the best pitchers in baseball and still is the ace with the Philadelphia Phillies. Brandon Phillips is the starting second baseman on a team with playoff aspirations for the Cincinnati Reds.
The third player was a significant factor with the Cleveland Indians after the trade. Injuries forced him to take a step back and now is announced to be the starting center fielder for the defending World Series champions. Grady Sizemore was arguably the most prized player of the three and had been a great player but hasn’t played professional baseball since 2011. Now 31, Sizemore surprised everybody to win the job.
Sizemore said he wasn’t even sure how much he would be able to run again in the wake of microfracture surgeries on both knees and a third knee procedure, as well as surgery on his back, elbow and two operations for sports hernias.
There are other players with connections with the Expos. One of which is still with his original organization. Ian Desmond is the starting shortstop of the Washington Nationals who followed the team to Washington and is the last remaining player with continuous ties to the Expos on the Nationals.
Desmond actually was joined with Roger Bernadina who was signed out of the Netherlands by the Expos but Bernadina was traded to Philadelphia last season and is now battling for a bench spot in Cincinnati.
Of course, there are others who have ties to the Expos. Russell Martin, who grew up in Montreal was originally drafted by the Expos but not signed. A lot of the focus as the years pass is about players who donned an Expos jersey in a regular season game. Don’t forget the players they had found before the team left as well.
The Mets and Blue Jays play the first of two games in Montreal tonight at Olympic Stadium. Despite some snow in the morning, the game is planned to go as scheduled.