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Deep thought: Are the Rangers really the last team to win a playoff series?

Oct 13, 2010, 8:50 AM EST

How many times have we heard it repeated in the last few days that the Rangers are/were the last team to have never won a playoff series? By my count, 1,395, though I may have missed one. Not that it’s not a neat observation or anything. It’s just that, like Shane Victorino being Hawaiian, we’ve heard it before. Many, many times.

But as I heard it repeated again last night, I realized that the only way that observation is accurate is if you count the Montreal Expos 1981 Division Series win over the Phillies on the Washington Nationals’ ledger.  Which I do, personally, because you can’t just pretend the Expos never existed. Baseball-Reference.com does too, and if it’s on there, it may as well be the word of God as far as I’m concerned.

But there are many Nats fans who don’t really claim the Expos. In some cases baseball itself doesn’t either. Someone gave me a book a couple of years, put out by Major League Baseball, highlighting the signature players for each franchise. The Nats’ entry: Brad Wilkerson. Um, yeah.

I also remember a fair number of complaints last summer when the team had the little ceremony honoring Andre Dawson. Whenever the subject of putting up more prominent remembrances of Les Expos around Nationals Park comes up, people are generally sour to the idea. But in order to claim that little slice of playoff glory that makes the Rangers’ feat last night notable, Nats fans have to embrace the Expos.

So I ask the Nats fans: do you?  Do you consider that 1981 playoff win a credit to the franchise, or do you think of your Nats as the last team without a playoff series win, regardless of what everyone is saying today?

I’m not sure how I’d feel about it. I think of the Braves as having three World Series titles, even if two of them came in different cities. But that’s different because (a) the team name and ownership and everything remained constant during moves; and (b) my connection to the Braves has never been a geographic one.

So I suppose I can understand how Nats fans would be loathe to claim the Expos’ legacy. Even if it’s a pretty interesting legacy.

  1. Kevin R - Oct 13, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    I count the Expos. There are a lot of Nats fans that don’t though.
    The Nats mostly ignored the Expos until this year — unretiring their numbers, etc. It was nice to see the Dawson ceremony. And the stadium recently added a display honoring some old players — some Senators, some Expos, and some Homestead Greys (a Negro League team that mostly played in Washington, for those unaware). I believe both Dawson and Carter are up there.
    Ah, here’s an article with some pics: http://www.federalbaseball.com/2010/8/10/1615098/washington-nationals-make-montreal

  2. BC - Oct 13, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    The Expos might have won the World Series in 1994 if not for the strike. Their record was like 77-40 or something ridiculous like that. You have to think they’d have won a playoff series that year.

  3. RichardInBigD - Oct 13, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    The Rangers were not just the last baseball franchise to have won a playoff series. According to Mike Rhyner, on the post game show on the Ticket in Dallas last night, they were the last franchise in the big four pro sports to win a playoff series. He cited the fact that even the LA Clippers have won a series! Talk about holding out! If that is indeed a fact, and given all the circumstances surrounding this season for the Rangers, I don’t see how the baseball gods could allow any other team to win the ultimate prize…

  4. Wooden U Lykteneau - Oct 13, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    Yes, it counts. And the folks that deny it are usually the same ones that knee-jerk with “The Lerners Are Cheap” and are, with few exceptions, as baseball-savvy as Yankee fans are humble.
    It’s typical DC entitlement bullsh!t. These same “fans” decry the lack of a winning team in six seasons, and when you point out the droughts in Baltimore, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh, the first thing they’ll say is “small markets” — completely ignorant to how dominant these franchises once were.

  5. Jonny5 - Oct 13, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    I’m still in the closet with my Nats fandom. I root for them when they aren’t playing the Phills. I’m not really concerned with it myself, but I’ve noticed many fans don’t want to acknowledge the expos as their “mother team”. or anything. They are in the nations capital afterall, maybe it’s the whole foreign team thing? who knows?

  6. RIDERPRIDE - Oct 13, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    That’s not true. If you look at the NHL, there are the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers who have never won a playoff series as well

  7. linfield - Oct 13, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    The Nationals should recognize the past of the Montreal Expos in a museum of sorts, the way I’m told Atlanta does with the history of the Braves. Unfortunately, the reality is, the vast majority of Washington fans never saw Andre Dawson play for them, or any of the accomplishments of the Expos. It’s just the way it is. John McGraw and those New York Giant teams have very little to do with the city of San Francisco, the San Fran Giants are still looking for their first world title.
    If you want to be a causal fan, or someone who doesn’t have any geographic connection to a team, you still can’t claim the accomplishments of that franchise. Why? Because you’re rooting for the one title Atlanta Braves! Boston and Milwaukee are different entities, no matter how you slice it. Warren Spahn doesn’t have anything to do with Atlanta since he never pitched there.
    Having the uniform remaining constant doesn’t mean anything, since the history didn’t take place in that city. The Indianapolis Colts have one super bowl title, and that’s reality. The vast majority of fans in Indianapolis could have cared less about the Colts prior to 1984.
    A perfect analogy to all of this is the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team. It will always mean more to us because we live here, while that event means very little to the citizens of Denmark. It’s just the way it is.

  8. Lukehart80 - Oct 13, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    linfield, if not having seen those players play for the team means that you get to claim no connection, if even wearing the same uniform doesn’t give any sort of connection, would you agree that current yankees’ fans should not claim the titles that happened before their time? i doubt the vast majority of yankees’ fans cared about the yankees before they were born.

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 13, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    I don’t think it matters what the fans think. It matter what the record book reads. And the Nats record book will always contain the history of the Montreal Expos, as it always does for all teams when they move. It’s not a choice. The only exception I can think of was in the NFL…when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore…the Browns kept their history and when the new team came in, they continued the team legacy while the Baltimore Ravens are like a brand-new start-up team, unrelated to the old Baltimore Colts. But that is a rare thing…in most cases, the history moves with the team.

  10. fred117 - Oct 13, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    This seems to be a larger question about team legacy. How do Oriole fans treat their team’s history as the St Louis Browns and HOF’ers like George Sisler, for example? Speaking of Browns, a team can’t ignore it’s history unless they completely disband their roster and start over. Sorry Cleveland fans but the Ravens franchise are the original Browns. This idea of leaving a team legacy when it moves is ridiculous, particularly in the case of the Expos when there is no chance of another team in Montreal in the near future. And in Washington’s case, how do they regard the TWO previous incarnations of the Senators?

  11. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 13, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    The two previous incarnations are now the Twinkies and the Rangers.

  12. linfield - Oct 13, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Lukehart80,
    Yes, current New York Yankees fans either in that area, or relocated, can certainly claim the titles and accomplishments of the past.

  13. RichardInBigD - Oct 13, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    I guess then that he must have said it was the big three, which wouldn’t include the NHL.

  14. linfield - Oct 13, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Chris Fiorentino/fred117,
    Technically, you’re correct about the statistical records moving with a team in most cases. But a club’s history and achievements are also experienced by the fans of that club, with connections to that area, and that’s what’s really important. The new city and 99% of those fans can never have the real history, since they didn’t experience that history. It’s just common sense. How many Nats fans wear any Expos gear in Washington? Very few, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, the city of Montreal failed to keep the Expos, so that’s life. And yes, the two previous incarnations of the Senators should be remembered with more weight than the Expos.
    The Baltimore Orioles should recognize the St. Louis Browns, but George Sisler is barely remembered because he didn’t play in Baltimore. Orioles fans can’t be blamed for not knowing about the Browns since they could have cared less about that team prior to the relocation. It’s the reality and downside of relocating teams, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
    There’s a simple reason why you don’t see many fans in cities like Atlanta with Warren Spahn throwback jerseys, or knowledgeable about the Milwaukee Braves. Being a sports fan has a generational aspect to it, and when a team moves, you lose that connection. Same holds true for a more recent move, like the Colts to Indianapolis, there will always be that disconnect.

  15. Tony A - Oct 13, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    What you say is very true, but the fact remains, you may move a franchise from town to town, even every year, but it is still the same franchise…

  16. StuckOnWords - Oct 13, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    The idea is that it’s the first series win of the *franchise*. The Nats most certainly are the same franchise that was once in Montreal.
    Having said that, it’s also not unfair to acknowledge that any playoff success enjoyed by the Expos brought absolutely *no* enjoyment to the folks in Washington. If they don’t feel like they’ve experienced any playoff joy from their team, who could blame them? They haven’t!
    So both things are true. The Nats franchise has had some success in the past…but the Washington fans weren’t their fans when they did it.
    The Rangers were the last franchise to win a series. Glad they got that monkey off their backs. But the last franchise in its *current city* to win a series? Somebody dig that one up for us. Those folks deserve some love, too.

  17. linfield - Oct 13, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Tony A.,
    Never said it wasn’t the same franchise, but my point is still factual. The achievements of said franchise in one city, don’t bear any relevance for fans in the new city. If you’re a Nats fan with no connection to Montreal, it’s silly to get excited about the era of Andre Dawson. Likewise, it’s absolutely ridiculous for a Atlanta Braves fan without ties to Milwaukee, to look back with pride on the 1957 world champions. The term “franchise” is a general word which doesn’t always correspond with accomplishments if that franchise relocates. It’s just a fact of life, I didn’t make this up. This is one of those subjects which is more complicated than it should be.
    There’s a reason why franchises have city names in front of them, and why millions of dollars of public money are used to build stadiums. Sports are intertwined with the memories of the cities they play in, spanning generations of fans. It’s the way it’s always been, and the way it will always be. Tradition matters, and that’s precisely why franchise relocation is so difficult. If the Nationals were to make the playoffs next season, the reaction in Montreal will be practically nothing when compared to Washington.

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