There has been a lot of talk about the 1994 season, in this, the 20th anniversary. From the start of the season, and when the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets played in Olympic Stadium, Montreal has been at the forefront of the baseball psyche.
Back in June when the Blue Jays and the Washington Nationals were in the playoff picture, there were thoughts that the Blue Jays good karma from bringing games in Montreal would lead them to the playoffs. That didn’t work out. However, for the Nationals, beating the Atlanta Braves 3-0 yesterday in Atlanta’s Turner Field, was fitting.
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The team that was the Montreal Expos beating the team chasing them in 1994 to clinch the division the Expos never could due to the season ending strike. It is their second division title since moving to Washington. They also won in 2012.
Now, I know the Nationals and their fans don’t care about what Montreal thinks of them – and I know a lot of Expos fans who hate the Nationals – but to me I like the symmetry.
I am a Nationals fan, not so much for the team as what it means to me. I know that the Nationals don’t care for their history in Montreal except for a couple of honoured numbers, some pages on their website and F.P. Santangelo and Ian Desmond. And, if Montreal gets a team, I will leave the Nationals in a heartbeat.
To me, right now they are the closest thing to the Expos and that is for me. I don’t have any illusions that the Nationals will suddenly honour the Expos. I wasn’t always cheering for the Nationals. I tried it when the team first moved, but when Jim Bowden seemed like it was his mission to trade any connection to the Expos, I decided to change.
I found myself cheering for a group of several teams I wanted to do well, and found a group I wanted to lose. The Nationals were always in that group I had a soft spot for. And, really, how can you not like this team objectively?
Bryce Harper is basically the P.K. Subban of baseball. He’s really good yet people always tend to focus on when he fails or what he does poorly. And then there’s the whole attitude thing. Stephen Strasburg is one of the brightest pitching prospects but he’s only the third or fourth best pitcher in their rotation.
A bullpen of Rafael Soriano, Storen, Tyler Clippard among others brings to mind the Expos bullpen of 1994 which had John Wetteland, Mel Rojas, Tim Scott and Jeff Shaw. Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark look an awful like Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero, Pedro Martinez, Butch Henry and Kirk Rueter.
This Nationals team does have some unique Expo connections. Desmond, as mentioned, is the last remaining player in the organization when it moved. Santangelo – a broadcaster with the team – played for the Expos and its where he started his Major League career. Drew Storen was an Expos bat boy when the team played in Cincinnati and St. Louis. Tony Tarasco, a former Expos outfielder, is the team’s first base coach.
I will always love the Expos, and I see just enough of them in the Nationals that it can tide me over until baseball returns here.