The 1994 Montreal Expos had their season taken from them before the playoffs 20 years ago this week.
I had the chance back in March to talk with several members of the team about certain things surrounding their season.
This is not an “Oral History” as such, because I didn’t go in depth about the entire season, but they shared some interesting thoughts both about that season and what happened afterwards and here they are, in their own words.
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"RONDELL WHITE: The best part of 1994 was that we had great players with great attitudes. I was a rookie. I came in, they worked me in and [Cliff Floyd] was a rookie and so they made sure you felt good when you came in. Even with the New York Yankees, nothing compared to 94. Even just Montreal itself. Even comparing the city and the people… First class."
The Expos had an interesting bullpen in 1994. The game had already taken a shift towards match-ups between hitters and pitchers with different handedness. However, the Expos had a mostly right-handed bullpen with Gil Heredia, Jeff Shaw, Tim Scott, Mel Rojas and John Wetteland.
There were some left-handed pitchers who pitched for the Expos in relief (Butch Henry, Denis Boucher, Gabe White, Joey Eischen and Brian Looney), however they accounted for only 8.1 per cent of the Expos relief appearances (21 out of 259). Henry, who also started games was joined by Kirk Rueter and Jeff Fassero as starting pitchers.
The Expos bullpen was also very good. Wetteland was the closer for the Expos, but by 1996, Shaw (with the Los Angeles Dodgers), Scott (with the San Diego Padres), and Wetteland (with the New York Yankees) were all closers with other teams. Rojas became the closer in Montreal.
"TIM SCOTT: It’s strange, especially in today’s game and even back then when they did the lefty-lefty, righty-righty type thing. We didn’t have any left-handers in the bullpen. Butch Henry would throw out of the pen but that season he was pretty much a starter. Personally, I got left-handed batters out better than I got right-handers out. Why? I couldn’t tell you but the way our bullpen was with Jeff Shaw and Wetteland, and Rojas and Gil Heredia we got guys out. Either side of the plate, it didn’t matter. I tell people all the time we really revolutionized the game as far as, you see what teams do today and they set up their game plan that if they are winning after six innings and they have a good bullpen, the game’s over. That’s how it was for us. I think we set the standard for that."
The Expos bullpen lost only 18 games all season.
After the 1994 season, and after the strike ended, the fire sale began. Wetteland was traded to New York. Larry Walker signed in Colorado with the Rockies. Ken Hill was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and Marquis Grissom was traded as well. To the rival Atlanta Braves.
"MARQUIS GRISSOM: What I remember from 1990-1994 was that we were always on the back field in West Palm Beach and the Braves always had the stadium field. We didn’t like that too much. ‘Why do they get the front field. We always have to go to the back field.’ But it worked out. We both shared complexes in Spring Training. After the strike was over and we get back to baseball, I think all of us were just happy to be back to baseball. So I was fortunate to be in Atlanta. I’m from Atlanta, born and raised and I was going from one great team to another great team so it wasn’t all too bad. Go down and win a World Series and it worked itself out."
When in Atlanta, Grissom played with a lot of the players who were chasing the Expos in 1994.
"GRISSOM: They reminded me. ‘Y’all had our number that year.’ I heard that all the time. Not only from position players but from [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz. Guys who were warriors out there on the mound. In baseball you just never know. We say we would have won, we had the momentum going our way but in baseball one pitch, one out, one swing can change the dynamics of any game and change the momentum just like that. We won’t say we would have won but we would have had a good chance."