Last Friday morning Montreal manager Felipe Alou scanned the box
scores and league leaders, tracking the progress of his former
Expos. He checked out second baseman Mike Lansing and
rightfielder Larry Walker, the 1997 National League MVP, of
Colorado; righthander Pedro Martinez, last year's NL Cy Young
Award winner, of Boston; closer John Wetteland of Texas; and the
rest of a virtual All-Star team of recent Montreal expatriates,
clucking over each one like a proud papa. In fact, one of them,
Houston's Moises Alou, is his son. "I root for all of our former
players to succeed," Alou says. "It gives this franchise
something to brag about. Our team may be moving further and
further away from a World Series, but at least some of our past
players are getting a chance at rings."
When Alou arrived at Montreal's Olympic Stadium later that
afternoon, he had to face the reality of his current roster: a
team with a $9 million payroll that is made up largely of
players who ought to be in Double A; a team that had just
snapped a season-opening string of seven straight defeats, the
longest such streak in club history; a team with the league's
second lowest batting average (.228 through Sunday); a team that
had scored half as many runs as its opponents; a team whose
general manager, Jim Beattie, has admitted that it cannot
contend in the East Division this season.
"For weeks we've been hearing everybody burying us, and we fell
into the trap of trying to prove them all wrong," said Expos
utilityman F.P. Santangelo before last Friday's game against the
Cubs. "We need to stick together so we don't fulfill everybody's
The Exposeven budding star Vladimir Guerreroare
going nowhere fast this year.
On the game's first pitch, Cubs reserve outfielder Brant Brown
launched a home run. The next two Cubs walked before former Expo
Henry Rodriguez cracked a three-run homer in his first plate
appearance back at Olympic Stadium. It was his fourth homer of
the season, which equaled the Montreal team total at the time.
Eight of the first nine Chicago hitters reached base, and six
scored. In the second inning the Cubs' Mark Grace hit a foul
pop, and catcher Chris Widger and third baseman Scott
Livingstone pursued it. When Widger tossed his mask, it hit
Livingstone's shin and caused him to miss the catch. In
Montreal, there's a fine line between comedy and tragedy.
Just 9,982 fans suffered this and more, in a stadium that has
all the cheer of a mortuary. Many were listening to the
Canadiens on the radio, thus missing the theme from Titanic
piped in between innings, a subtle reference, perhaps, to the
Expos' future. Team president Claude Brochu is struggling to
sell $50 million worth of seat licenses he says he needs to
finance a downtown stadium and keep the Expos in Montreal.
"We're gaining momentum as the deadline looms and people begin
to realize the team might move away," said Brochu as the Expos
fell behind 10-0. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary,
Brochu believes "there's a better than 50-percent chance that
the Montreal Expos will remain the Montreal Expos."
Rodriguez finished the game 5 for 5 and received the evening's
only standing ovation. In losing 13-0, the Expos got only three
After the game Rodriguez said he had wanted to stay in Montreal.
But like most of the other current stars who are former Expos,
the club couldn't afford to pay him what he was worth, and he
was traded in December for Miguel Batista, a righthander with 21
appearances in the major leagues. "I was disappointed to leave,
and I didn't come back hoping to put it in their face,"
Rodriguez said. "It makes me feel bad to see old friends go
Alou didn't seem particularly discouraged, the sign of a manager
who has either transcended or surrendered after just nine games.
He chalked up his serenity to his days as a skin diver in his
native Dominican Republic. "Before a dive I would have these
nightmares about being swarmed by sharks, but during the dive I
never thought about them," Alou said. "I worried a lot this
winter about how we couldn't compete, but once the season
starts, you manage the club. You just can't worry about the
Issue date: April 20, 1998