wilkerson

A forlorn Brad Wilkerson exits the field with Claude Raymond following the final Expos home game in 2004.

I sure as hell am happy to take this excuse to go party in Montreal for the weekend, as are, I’m confident, a veritable metric shit-tonne of Ontarians who are also making the trip down the 401 — or, in cases like mine, the Quebec-Windsor corridor — in order to revel in nostalgia for a team they didn’t ever really care as much about as they want to believe they did.

Holy shit, that’s cynical!

But I do count myself among those, and do look forward to genuine enthusiasm for the sport that we’ll both bring and be surrounded by this weekend, as Montrealers open up their arms to our team and dream big about what might lay ahead for them, if ever the numerous and not-insignificant obstacles that stand in the way of that aspiration are somehow surmounted.

Sorry if that sounds like I’m pissing on the parade a little bit — fuck me, and at the joyous apex of it to boot! — but as much as I think a return of Les Expos would be a great, great thing — not only for a jewel of a city that has certainly shown (albeit not while being dicked around at the end) that it can support it, but for baseball in Canada, and baseball in general — in the back of my mind I can’t help but think of Hamilton’s doomed courting of the NHL, and other eager, team-less cities simply being used as leverage by ownership groups looking to extract public money for stadium projects in the places they actually want to be.

Paul Beeston says that he believes he’ll see a team return to Montreal in his lifetime, which, since he’s entirely full of shit, doesn’t exactly bode well.

The hope is that it doesn’t go that way, of course, and Montreal at least knows that their only current MLB-sized facility is entirely unable to host games on a regular basis, and that the stadium issue looms large over any remotely realistic discussion of this project ever actually coming to fruition — as does the whole in-excess-of-a-billion-dollars-of-someone-else’s-money thing — but… well… supporters there can want it all they want, making it happen is a different thing.

But I don’t think I’m telling anybody anything they don’t know, and the other side of this coin is, without the conviction and the passion of the fans there, they don’t have any hope of a team returning. The fact that this is even a conversation so soon after the departure of the team for Washington D.C. in 2005 is itself beyond remarkable — an effort worth celebrating perhaps as much as the great players and the great teams of the past we’ll see feted this weekend, and a testament to the near-universal feeling that Montreal is truly a special place, and that the game deserves the city as much as the city deserves it.

Getting a bit maudlin here, but I suppose that’s appropriate given everything that this weekend represents. It’s the celebration of a dream, and of the rekindling of foggy memories that no one was ever really ready to let go. That itself is seems reason enough to shelve the sort of cynicism I started this piece with, about phoniness, grim realities, bullshit and economics. For a lot of people it isn’t phony in the slightest, and if this all goes off the way it should, right now — before the dubious hand of Rogers starts milking it, year after year, for all it’s worth until it’s fucked to death, like you and I both know that they will — I’m happy just to bask in that for a bit. And then go get shitfaced and do it again tomorrow, bleary-eyed, dry-mouthed, and uninterested in being anywhere in the world other than where I exactly am.

Comments (89)

  1. Nicely done Stoeten. With all my family in Montreal I’ve seen more ball games at the Big Owe than anywhere but our own concrete pile. This weekend should be fun.

    If you’re going, where’s everybody sitting? Won’t be there tonight but in the upper deck on Saturday. Impromptu meetup/drinking beer thing anyone?

  2. “Paul Beeston says that he believes he’ll see a team return to Montreal in his lifetime, which, since he’s entirely full of shit, doesn’t exactly bode well.”

    That made me laugh.

  3. Good to see the game is on the teams TV channels.

  4. Another great post! You really are a gifted writer.

  5. Do you hate Christmas and Easter too?

  6. are you on the 640 VIA Train?

    • I accidentally (read: frugally) ended up on the one that makes the milk run to Ottawa, but if that’s the train that just passed Kingston, yeah. Car 3.

      • The leg through Smith Falls is particularly depressing.

      • So you’re on my train too. How quaint. I thought it seemed extra cynical in here. ;)

      • I’ve made the direct Cobourg -> Montreal trips direct a few times and it seems like it takes forever, going via Ottawa can’t be fun.

        That said, the trip there is always better than the (sick, dehydrated, exhausted, wish I was dead) trip back. Montreal is awesome.

      • As a kid …. Maybe 45 years ago, we took the train regularly …called the Rapido i think ….to montreal to Jarry Parc…..that was a party ….fiddle player up & down the aisle behind home plate …the announcer introducing Jogn Boccabella (sp) … Never forget it

  7. Howard Bloom also guaranteed the return of baseball to Montreal on CTV this morning, saying the Rays will move there.
    And he’s also entirely full of shit so there’s no way it’s gonna happen.

  8. “The fact that this is even a conversation so soon after the departure of the team for Washington D.C. in 2005 is itself beyond remarkable”

    Or an indicator that Canadian journalists sell anything and everything Canadian forever and forever

    • Actually more than a Steve Simmons-like non-story. Viability Study and a campaign called The Expos Project underway…

      • Things will have had to change, then. Montreal remains an event town and the fans failed to show up even though it was evident for years that the team was in danger. That’s not to excuse inept ownership and management, but the fans only have themselves to blame.

        • Reductive much?

          • If you only draw 642,000 fans FOR A WHOLE SEASON (2001), what else am I supposed to say?

            • I’m old enough to remember Jarry Park & what a wonderful experience baseball was in that venue.
              I really believe (as it happened with the Alouettes) – that a move back into a more baseball friendly venue would have worked wonders for Les Expos.

    • what did they avg at Olympic the last few years 8k a game?? AA teams pull in better attendance.

  9. If I had to bet, Vancouver has the best chance of every bringing another Canadian team to the MLB. It would be the only other place in Canada with a foreseeable chance at it happening.

    • Those granola-eating yoga mat carting new agers could never support a baseball team. The die hards go to Seattle. PLUS – no stadium, and no decent place to put one, outside Burnaby. Never gonna happen.

      Ever been to a Canucks game? It’s like church. First time I went I was bewildered. SO QUIET. Fuck Vancouver.

      • You sound like you’re describing a Leafs game in that last paragraph. I don’t think the noise level at a hockey game counts as a black mark against the viability of a baseball team in that market, particularly when you’re talking about a team that’s been consistently selling out games for over a decade now. Unless, you know, you think the MLB should be looking at putting a team in Edmonton or Vancouver.

        • That last “Vancouver” should be “Calgary”.

        • I’ve never been to a Leafs game. I am a diehard Habs fan. But you are right, fan noise levels do not equate to anything, really. It’s all about the numbers.

      • I live in Van, and as much as I would love to see a team here, it is highly unlikely. There is no place to put a stadium downtown (at least not without costing an obscene amount of money). There would also be a probably, not definitely, be a problem with corporate sponsorship, given the lack of major head offices in Vancouver.

        With respect to the “fuck Vancouver’ comment, I’d only point out that BC – the lower mainland in particular – has the best baseball culture and development in Canada. Larry Walker, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Jeff Francis, Brett Lawrie, Rich Harden, Adam Loewen – BC natives all.

        • Honestly I am just jealous of the lovely weather and plentitude of hot Asian chicks – Van is cool.

    • I think its too close to Seattle and would fall by the wayside like the grizzles unfortunately.

      • I am originally from Vancouver and now live in Ottawa. Canucks games are way louder than Senators or Maple Leafs games. I held half season tickets for a few years in the 300s and watched the fights.

        BC is a baseball culture. You grow up playing teams and good teams from the US. There is a reason why the vast majority of Canadian players come from BC. Hockey is bigger, but baseball is a close second and in terms of actually playing, many people play more baseball than hockey. There is a vast cultural difference from Ontario.

        Many of my managers in high school had played professional baseball.

        Baseball has been held in BC Place before for MLB exhibition games.

        There is also way more money in BC than Québec.

      • Not sure I’d quite characterize the Grizzlies’ departure as “falling by the wayside.”

        • I was going to 20 Canucks games a year when the Grizzlies left and they’d announce the last chance to get tickets. The chant was “Good Ice! Good Ice!”

          BC is not a basketball culture, but it is the strongest baseball culture that Canada has. If you are athletic in BC as a teenager, it’s strange for you not to play organized baseball.

  10. I’d love to take the 7 hour trip up north, but I got a DUI last year and Canada’s strict ass boarder doesnt allow Americans with dui’s in the ocuntry until like 7 years after it occured which hurts. The reason Im a jays fan is my dad ran the USA ops of a business out of Toronto, so I spent my summers up there alot when I was a kid and being born in 85 it was during the early 90′s glory years. Still remember going to the Sky Dome multile times and cherishing every second. This news I found out about not being allowed in beautiful Canada really has upset me, but its still my fauly for using poor judgement in getting a dui.

    • At least you’re on the right blog!

      • this is true :), and I still get to see them a few times a year between Yankee Stadium being a half hour from where I live, and the occasional Orioles game. But I love Toronto as a city and after college considered moving there, so this situation really SUCKS!

    • 200 bucks and some paperwork and you’re in:

      http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/rehabil.asp

      • No Shit!? wow thanks I just book marked it. I just got a whale of a tax return, now maybe I can plan a long weekend homestand! thanks bro.

      • a dui is a misdemeanor in the us, is it stricter in canada?? I assume so.

        • We’ve got a lot of those wipe-your-record- type places up here. My 1st question would be: “Can a Canadian outfit wipe an American’s (or duel citizenship?) record clean?” Just guessing but I would say no. If they can’t, check for an American company that does the same thing. And good luck!

      • I’d prefer you don’t help clowns like this into the country

    • From all your typos, I see you’re still in the sauce quite a bit.

    • @ NJJF
      Look into it.The border guards are following protocol but getting the proper paperwork should allow you access ( as long as you leave the guns at home).

      We have all made some sort of serious mistakes in the past. It can become an emotional issue which will get peoples backs up.Understandably.You didn’t glorify or promote it.As you said,a case of poor judgement.Hopefully a sobering experience ( your insurance premiums will be a reminder).
      Good luck.

  11. I hate to be that guy, but there is something I am missing in this “revenez les Expos!” thing and that is historical attendance. In 1994, as the best team in Baseball, they had less than 25,000 a game and were 11th out of 14 in the NL. The Expos weren’t out of the bottom third of the NL in attendance since 1983, when Montreal was quite different demographically. They had a good run of attendance from 1979-1983, and other than that their attendance was never that good.

    The irony I find is there is a parallel in Washington which had lost two teams only to become the beacon for franchise movement and then after getting their third MLB franchise their attendance has not been so impressive; very similar in context (league attendance rankings) as Montreal had been historically.

    Look at the numbers yourself:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/attend.shtml

    I don’t want to be a douche, but I would honestly like someone to tell me how one overcomes this hurdle.

    • No problem. Before the Jets came back to Winnipeg, the NHL (and I’m guessing ownership too) got everyone who wanted season’s tickets to buy 5 years’ worth. Not only did it give them a good financial footing but it established just how serious the fans were.* Turned out the fans were VERY serious and the place sold out for 5 years in a day. If that doesn’t happen (or a reasonable facsimile) in Montreal, just can the idea.

      *They also have a very lucrative TV deal with TSN that blacks out most games unless you subscribe.

      • Lack of fan support wasn’t the problem in Winnipeg. The Expos literally rotted in Montreal for years without a real owner (meaning that they were doomed) and the fans refused to show up. They showed up in Minnesota when the Twins threatened to leave/contract.

        • @Matt. Was just pointing out one way of getting fans to commit. If they don’t get it, up front under the plan the Jets used, there’s no team and no harm done.

          • See, I don’t even know about that. There’s a good chance that the fans will stop showing up after five years, even, if the team isn’t winning. The support wasn’t good enough before, and I think a lot has to change in order for it to be viable for the long haul.

            • Well you can’t go much further than that. And they can’t be money morons either. It would be significantly more difficult to get sellouts there but again, the idea is solid and if they don’t have that support, what’s the point? Unless of course you get the Molson’s to turn their fortune over to the team…oh wait..they’re Habs fans.

      • They just are maxed out in attendance but sit at 25th in the league. They’re a different story.

        http://espn.go.com/nhl/attendance

        • Just wanted to swoop in to say the Jets may sit near the bottom of the league in total attendance due to seating capacity, but ticket pricings (like, fuck me expensive) put the Jets in the middle of the league revenue wise. In fact, were not on the giver not taker end of the revenue share deal the NHL has last season.

          Also, first set of renewals have come and gone (some seats had a 3 yr commitment), and renewal rate was 96%.

          More importantly. Go Jays. Pennant. Etc.

          I will go back to fucking off now, thanks.

          • …should clarify… all this to say, past attendance woes not necessarily indicative of future attendance potential. Need the right park in the right location with the right owners and business plan, etc.

            (also, meant to say Jets were givers not takers in revenue sharing)

            But the Jets success (financially) should provide at least some hope for baseball in Montreal, however circuitous the logic connect between the 2 situations is.

          • @ack. No don’t fuck off, stay. This helps. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass about that seating capacity (MTS Centre 15,000) but that and high ticket prices were obviously the plan all along. They were cognizant of the limited fanbase and decided to make it THE place to be for Winnipeggers.

            • I don’t think the Jets attendance was ever the issue. In the 1990′s it was the stadium, right?

            • MTS Centre is probably the right size for the market. Lots of folks complain it should have been built at 17,000 (or whatever)… but the day you see more than a handful of empty seats in the place is the day the “I told you so” crowd goes nuts.

              Keep the demand tight and max out season tickets. Even when the resale market is plentiful… the tickets are already sold at full nut.

              Plus… the intimate size of the place at max capacity makes it a great place to watch a game. Lesson there for the next Jays field… (hoping… fingers crossed… etc)

          • As a Winnipegger all I can say is

            Fuck the Jets, go Jays.

            Im very popular out here.

  12. The more I look into this baseball in Vancouver thing the more I realize it would work:

    http://sportsbusinesscanada.com/should-canada-get-another-mlb-team/

    Better than Montreal, easily.

    Hell, I would not oppose the idea. I’d still cheer for the Blue Jays, but really would not give a fuck either way.

  13. “Paul Beeston says that he believes he’ll see a team return to Montreal in his lifetime, which, since he’s entirely full of shit, doesn’t exactly bode well.”

    You can file that one next to ‘the Jays will make the playoffs 2 or 3 times out of the next five years’

  14. This series is a significant step in getting baseball back in Montreal from a logistical point of view at least.

    By demonstrating that the Big-O can be reasonably recommissioned (which wasn’t necessary a guarantee before this was set up, as it it an old facility), a temporary home is available for a team until A Miller Park type new stadium is built.

    The Hamilton/NHL comp isn’t a fit to me as the NHL was stubbornly set on a US expansion agenda during that time, while MLB is currently on a global expansion agenda. A french language team is a strategic advantage, not something weird in 2014.

    The rest of the argument I’ll let Keith Olbermann explain….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BEjkKsMtpM

    • “By demonstrating that the Big-O can be reasonably recommissioned (which wasn’t necessary a guarantee before this was set up, as it it an old facility), a temporary home is available for a team until A Miller Park type new stadium is built.”

      Except for the fact that if there is 3cm or more of accumulated snow on the roof, the game will need to be delayed until it melts. No joke.

      • I’m aware of that. If a team was to move in there with the roof as is, ironically they’d probably have to play with no roof until May 1st, just to be on the safe side of snow.

        If team was to move in, there is no doubt at a minimum a 50 million refurb/pain job will be needed, of which a solution with the roof would be one. That just the business cost of renting a dump.

        I’m talking about the building being deemed safe by inspectors and stuff like that. That isn’t a given, and can be deal breakers if repairs are too expensive.

  15. From MLBTR: Michael Taylor of the A’s “…figures to be dealt or plucked off of the waiver wire.”
    So, of all the guys involved (or susequently involved) in the Halladay deal only D’Arnaud and Dickey are still in the majors. The Jays still hope that Gose will make it and the Mets will most certainly do well with Syndergaard when he arrives. Brett Wallace signed a minor league deal with the O’s and Drabek might have seen his last MLB game. Amazing how even A list prospects work out. These guys were the best of the best.

  16. I finally found someone who picks the Jays to make the playoffs!

    Ladies and gentlemen, now introducing your AL East dark horse, the Toronto Blue Jays. With little optimism surrounding the club that greatly underachieved only a season ago, expect the Jays to be 2014′s Cinderella story of Major League Baseball. Expect their powerful lineup to bail out their pitching on a regular basis and secure a berth in the sudden death American League Wild Card playoff.

    Team Record Prediction- 91-71

    Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2014/03/27/predicting-where-the-toronto-blue-jays-will-finish-in-the-al-east-standings/?vDfiHIxG4HzFZr2G.99

  17. I was in Montreal for the 1981 post-season….games 3 and 4.
    We were pretty high after the Steve Rogers game, but then got stomped in game 4.
    Good times.
    I had hair.

    • I was there for a summer series in 1979 against the Pirates who they were neck and neck with all season. Saw four games including a doubleheader. The crowd was enormous ~59K each game. Then something rare happened…

      The Friday before the Saturday doubleheader the Expos traded for Rusty Staub. So we got treated to the return of “le Grande Orange”. The huge crowd went bananas when he came in as a pinch hitter. Seriously, the loudest crowd I have ever heard to this day.

      Remember the vendors “CHIP. PEANUT, LIMONADE!”

      Also took the Rapido which was full of drunken yahoos for the big series.

      • I remember about a thousand of us piling onto the metro at the Pie-Neuf station – most of us shit-faced drunk and screaming “We’re numero DEUX”!

  18. It’s a little presumptuous to suggest that fans didn’t really care about the Expos as much we think we did. I grew up in northern Alberta watching Dave Van Horne, Duke Schneider and les Expos on CBC before Toronto even figured out what MLB was. I live in Toronto now (and am a Jays season ticket holder) and decided NOT to go to Montreal this weekend, as it will actually be more nostalgic for me to watch it on TV than to be in the big O (only got to a couple games there).
    Btw, “Numero

    • Sorry – stupid fingers! “Número Huit” is what I heard on TV every time our catcher came up to bat.

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