Diamond Dirt: Was baseball wrong to leave Montreal?
Back in 2005, as a college student making my way through journalism school, I was ecstatic about the Montreal Expos packing up and heading to Washington, D.C.
It just made perfect sense. The fans weren’t coming out in Montreal, and if there was any city that needed a baseball team, it was Washington. After all, baseball is the national pastime, the national game should be in the nation’s capital.
But the untimely death of Gary Carter this offseason made me wonder if moving the Expos out of Canada is something baseball should have thought twice about.
When Carter passed, Canadian flags for the former Expos star were lowered to half staff. To this day on the Montreal Olympic Park website a salute to Gary Carter is hard to miss. It shows baseball, and the years the major leagues called Montreal home, still lingers in the hearts of Montreal sports fans. It shows they sure did love their baseball.
And Carter isn’t the only reason why I think there should’ve been a second thought at leaving for D.C.
At one time the Expos had the best record and attendance in all of baseball, and the fans loved it. Problem is — in short — on the business side of things the investment in the Expos faltered. No one wanted to buy them when Major League Baseball took over. They couldn’t get quality players to sign, and their aging facility, Olympic Stadium, didn’t really have much appeal anymore. Add that to a team of poor players and you have very few fans in the stands. About 10,000 a game. That’s fewer than some minor league games.
Looking back on it all and seeing how it is today, I think baseball should have considered the love, the history and the excitement the fans had for their Expos. There was a proposed LaBatt Stadium, a new outdoor, baseball-only facility for the Expos, but there was no push, no drive to get it going. Instead, baseball vacated and brought the game back to D.C.
In hindsight the effort to keep two teams in Canada, continuing a comfortable legacy north of the border in Quebec, was poor. Baseball should have stayed and found a way to make it work. Washington should have an expansion team, and since in baseball there are even numbers, a team in Indianapolis or Nashville, Tenn., would be a nice fit.
Dominic Genetti writes for the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post.