The 2003 season was one where most Montreal Expos fans felt a glimmer of hope and felt the most betrayed by their owners.
The Expos were in the Wild Card chase by the end of August in 2003. After a four game sweep at Olympic Stadium against the Philadelphia Phillies, they were tied with the Phillies and Florida Marlins for the National League Wild Card. 83,145 people attended the four game stretch – the real last hurrah for baseball attendance in the city.
Expectations were high as the Expos went to Florida to face the Marlins for four games and had a real chance to make some noise. It was already being reported at the time that the Expos wouldn’t be able to recall any players for September when rosters expanded as the owners of the other 29 teams didn’t want to pay extra money for a playoff run.
I remember after the sweep, I asked my mother to order MLB.tv. I wanted to follow the Expos as they went for a playoff spot – who knew if I would ever get to see that happen. As it turns out, it didn’t. I watched as the Expos lost a heartbreaking game, allowing three runs in the final two innings in a 3-2 loss. The next day, they almost came back from a 4-0 deficit, making it a 4-3 game in the ninth.
But, close pretty much defined their season. They lost the last two games of the series, and then got swept in a two-game series against the Phillies. They dropped to five games back and their playoff odds went from 10.1 per cent on August 28 to 1.1 per cent six days later.
The Expos would never be close to a playoff spot again until 2012 when they were the Washington Nationals and they won the National League East. In Montreal, the 2004 season was mostly a disaster and this my last good memory of the Expos in Montreal.
The 2003 season was a lot like the 2002 season, minus the whole “going for it” aspect. You could argue that the big splash that they made in 2002 hurt them from getting the necessary call ups in 2003. It is something that has been talked about a lot but the first two games in the Florida series really was what cost them – and it wasn’t September yet.
To make matters worse, the Marlins surprised the baseball world and won the World Series. It was not the vision that Montreal baseball fans needed knowing they were so close to the Marlins going into the season’s last month.