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Montreal: a successful weekend, but what did it get them?

Apr 1, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.24.43 AM AP

The Expos drew over 90,000 people to two exhibition games involving two pretty pedestrian teams over the weekend. That has Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post assessing where that places Montreal on the continuum of cities without Major League Baseball. He notes that MLB officials were quite pleased with what they saw, but …

And for the foreseeable future, moving beyond the stalking horse phase — the phase where baseball can use Montreal’s name to shake money from cities nervous about losing their teams — will be difficult for Montreal.

That’s the real takeaway here, I feel. At least from baseball’s point of view. Gaining a city that can serve as a plausible alternative for current teams if and when they want to try to shake sweet stadium deals away from their cities. Washington D.C. served in that role for years, but eventually did get a team. Las Vegas, Portland and various places in North Carolina aren’t nearly as attractive as that, or as Montreal could be, in the event someone needs to bluff a move.

Most people in Montreal,I imagine, don’t want to play that role given how their team was taken away under such circumstances. But there’s no escaping that this past weekend — in addition to being an enjoyable one for a lot of baseball-staved folks in the city — put it on the map for such uses.

  1. campcouch - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Ah,the ‘Spos leave and now the absent fans regret it. MLB would be silly to move a team there again.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:34 AM

      I agree. Not a baseball city. They talk hockey in July for chrissake.

      • bronco58lb - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        In 1983, Montreal was second to the Dodgers among National League teams in home attendance.

      • thebadguyswon - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        31 years ago. They aren’t a baseball city today. Just because a couple novelty games sold out means nothing. Major League baseball screwed the fans there. No question. But MLB got embarassed by the attendance numbers from 1998 onward and they aren’t getting burned like that again. Never going to happen.

        Montreal’s best bet is to bring Double-A or Triple-A ball in there.

      • nolanwiffle - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        1983? The Orioles were World Series champs……that was a lifetime ago.

      • nolanwiffle - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        1983? The Orioles were World Series champs……that was a lifetime ago.

    • raysfan1 - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      Yeah, the demise of baseball in Montreal had nothing to do with having the same incompetent owner that is now ruining the Marlins. The stadium was substandard 20 years ago. MLB and Loria essentially systematically drove the fans away.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        But..but..but TRUE fans stick around, and pay rising costs, funneling money into incompetent ownership’s pockets, no matter how badly the owner screws them over! Then when the owner has successfully run the team into the ground and MLB leaves for greener pastures, blame the fans! It’s all their fault!

        Funny how fans are told to vote with their wallets, then when they do, they are chastised for not supporting their team.

  2. chill1184 - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    In my opinion there are other cities that should be explored first (like cities who have teams from the other three major sports but don’t have an MLB team) before seriously considering bringing the Expos back.

    • Liam - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      By my count, exactly zero cities have three major sports teams and no MLB team.

      • chill1184 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM

        Ok I worded that wrong I meant cities that have a team in one of the other three sports. For example, Nashville TN has the Titans and the Predators. Why not explore there first or other similar cities (Portland, Salt Lake City) before going back up to Montreal

      • zzalapski - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        As of 2010, the Nashville metro area has a population of just under 1,600,000, with about 625,000 in Nashville proper.

        As of 2011, Montreal proper has a population of just under 1,650,000; the Montreal metro area has over 3.8 million people.

  3. 2131andbeyond - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    I was up there for these games and while the excitement was there, it did not seem like there were truly 45,000+ each day drooling for a baseball team to come back. There was a heavy excitement for these games, but the passion to bring a full time team back was questionable in my opinion.

    Also, they have crappy metal seating and all the fans there do to cheer is bang the seats repeatedly. 20,000+ metal seats banging is not enjoyable for anybody.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      That place is a total dump.

  4. missthemexpos - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Bottom line: a new stadium, hopefully downtown, needs to be built before MLB would even consider coming back to Montreal.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Believe me, as much as I naysay the possibility, I wish they would come back. I live one hour south of Montreal. I’d love to go back there.

    • cultureworksvt - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:43 AM

      True, but MLB Executive VP John McHale was pretty clear that the Big Owe would suffice as a temporary home.

      Montreal proved through and through this past weekend that it’s a first class baseball city. The Expos were done in by a series of events, including intentional sabotage by Omissioner Selig. Here are just a few examples:

      1. Despite playing in the worst of the 33 MLB parks that I’ve visited, the Expos when well run by Charles Bronfman drew well. The Stadium, it’s location, and the difficulty of accessing it by car is the first reason.

      2. Incompetent management. The Expos were well run and developed significant talent while under Bronfman’s management. When he sold it to the incompetent Brochu consortium the road to ruin was paved.

      3. The 1994 strike. If any one thing doomed the Expos more than any other, it was the stake driven through the heart of this baseball loving populace when the best team on the planet was deprived of the opportunity of proving it in the post-season.

      4. The collapse of the loonie. In the last years of the Expos, the Canadian dollar dropped to .65 US.

      5. The threat of contraction. Selig and the other owners threatened to contract both the Expos and Twins in 2001. Yet one more reason not to go to the ballpark.

      6. The sale of the team to Jeffrey Loria, the NYC art dealer who has now destroyed two franchises. This sale was the first in a two step process designed to put John Henry in control of the Red Sox. Henry bought the Red Sox, sold the Marlins to Loria, who sold the Expos to MLB.

      7. Baseball’s anti-trust exemption. Once MLB acquired the lame duck Expos, it was pretty clear that a move to give Washington a third chance at failure was in the cards. For the record, now 10 years into their tenure, the Nationals continue to draw fewer fans, relative to league average, than the Expos did throughout the 1980s, despite playing under much more favorable conditions.

  5. El Pollo Loco - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Baseball intentionally screwed Montreal out of baseball.

  6. florida76 - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    Fun to speculate about if the 1994 Expos would have saved that franchise, Montreal just didn’t have the overall team success, they always found a way to screw things up the few times they made the playoffs.

    We really don’t know how far along potential relocation cities are in attracting a team, right now the Rays, with their poor level of support are the number one relocation candidate. The fact Tampa Bay has a successful organization will serve as an accelerator in this process, almost always, the relocated team is a major loser. Looking like a 10% chance the Rays get a new stadium, and the overhyped Trop improvement this year is like putting lipstick on a pig.

    Mark my words, the Tampa Bay Rays will perish by 2022. They will resurface somewhere else, in a new city with a new identity. The new identity will kick in even if the nickname is retained, it’s one of the realities of relocation.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      I agree. The Rays will move – no doubt.

    • raysfan1 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      The date is 2028, when they can get out of their lease. Meanwhile, a new venue has to be built in a viable location. All the most commonly mentioned landing spots–listed in the above post–would make the Rays still a small market team. The Tampa Bay Area has shown itself quite capable of supporting sports teams in good venues (see the NHL’s Lightning’s attendance).

      Yes, they will move–most likely to a new stadium that will eventually be built in St Pete, Tampa or Orlando.

  7. luz56 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Never trust an art dealer from NYC!! MLB and Loria were the final nail in the coffin… They could not complete money wise with the US owners… Fans felt raped with big stars leaving time over time… Fans, Selig then Loria in that order ruined baseball in Montreal… Long live Les Expos

  8. penguins87and71 - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Top 10 cities that deserve a MLB Team: Indianapolis, Indiana. Brooklyn New York.
    Las Vegas, Nevada. Louisville, Kentucky. San Jose, California. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Nashville, Tennessee. San Antonio, Texas. Portland, Oregon. Charlotte, North Carolina.

    • tc4306 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      So you’re going to spend a weekend
      in Montreal or any one of those 10 cities.

      Its really not much of a contest.
      If you cannot have a good time in Montreal,
      you cannot have a good time anywhere.
      You can make an argument for Vegas,
      but live sporting events are not the attraction there.

      Montreal, in the AL East, would have natural rivalries
      (carried over from hockey) with Boston, New York and Toronto.
      And fans of all three teams travel well.
      That’s what, 51 dates when you can draw 8-10K in roadies.

      Its pretty simple: build a downtown stadium that has
      a retractable roof and natural grass. You will prosper.

      • tc4306 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        Oops..guess its more like 24 dates.
        Still pretty good.

    • Reflex - Apr 1, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      I’d like to see a population figure next to each of those. I do not agree that Vegas or Portland are good destinations. Vegas’ business is tourism, unless the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox are in town I don’t see many of those tourists taking in a game. Portland would love a team but again I don’t see it happening. Portland itself is large enough, but the surrounding metro area is just too small, and it would likely harm the M’s as well. I’d love to see it though, especially if it were an NL club.

      Honestly the ‘best’ destinations would be New York, Chicago and LA, all of which could support an additional club. Failing that I’d like to see another team in Canadia or possibly somewhere in the Caribbean or Mexico if the economics could support it.

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