What If….The 1994 MLB Strike Didn’t Bench The Montreal Expos?

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It’s one of the greatest “What If” questions for many baseball fans especially in Canada, the 1994 Montreal Expos had the best record in all of baseball. A team that could have possibly won a World Series was denied that chance due to the player’s strike, which cancelled the 1994 World Series. So, what would have happened if the Expos season didn’t end due to the strike? That’s what we are here to find out in this “What If” series. Along with some re-written history, we’ll lay out the evidence and leave you to decide for yourself what might have been. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Evidence:

Back in 1994, the hottest ticket in Montreal was an Expos game – and for good reason. Inside a sold-out Olympic Stadium there was a Cinderella story brewing. The young Expos had talent on the pitching staff with Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero, and Kirk Reuter. They also had a young fire-baller named Pedro Martinez to help round out the rotation. And once the starters ran out of gas, veteran closer John Wetteland would shut the door on the opposing team. That season, Wetteland led the league in saves.

The Expos’ offense was no slouch either including Cliff Floyd, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou, and Larry Walker. The team scored a grand total of 585 runs before the strike, averaging out to nearly five runs a game.

Their manager happened to be Moises’ father, Felipe Alou, who instilled confidence within a group of young players. Before the strike happened, the Expos had the best record in all of baseball at 74-40 and lead the NL East by six games over the Braves.

The Rewritten History:

With new teams joining Major League Baseball in 1994, the playoffs were expanded to include a Wild Card Team.

Assuming that the National League had stayed essentially the same near the end of the season, the Expos would have claimed the top spot and would have faced off against the Wild Card team, but since the Braves finished with the best record for a non-division winner and a Wild Card team can’t face a division opponent in the opening series, the Expos would most likely face the Reds who finished a half game above the Astros.

The series would have been a back and forth affair, leading to a fifth and deciding game in Montreal. Led by an eighth inning home run from Larry Walker, they would have outlasted the Reds (led by Barry Larkin and Reggie Sanders) and headed to the NLCS.

There they would face the Braves. This series would end in six games as the Expos would close out Atlanta at home with a dazzling pitching performance by Pedro Martinez to propel Montreal to its first World Series in team history.

In the World Series, the Expos would face the second-best team in all of baseball, the Yankees. After splitting the series in Montreal, New York would drub Montreal in Game 3 as Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams, and Paul O’Neill all hit home runs in the 10-3 victory.

The Expos were never the same after that game and Game 6, thirty-three year-old Cy Young winner Jimmy Key shut the door on Montreal as the Yankees win the series in six and became the first American team to win a World Series on foreign soil.

However, with the team’s World Series run, a bill is passed by Montreal’s government for the funding of a new stadium. Expos Park is now a new, majestic park that many come to flock and see. Montreal fails to make the World Series in subsequent seasons, but in 2009 the 1994 team is brought back for the 15th anniversary as a sell-out crowd cheer the team that gave them all those memories.

What Really Happened:

Sadly for Montreal fans, the team never bounced back from that season and the following year, the team finished in fifth place in the NL East. The Expos were competitive for the next two seasons but failed to make the playoffs.

Eventually, interest in the team dropped and rumors started that the team might be moved to another location due to low attendance numbers and not being able to find a local buyer. In 2005, the team moved to Washington D.C. to become the Nationals. Montreal has become a baseball after-thought ever since.

Recently, there have been rumors of some Montreal businessmen wanting to bring a team back but for now, Montreal is without baseball and many still wonder what might have been.

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