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COMMENTARY

Montreal Expos can be transformed into something special in Washington

(Published July 15, 2002)

By KEVIN NASH

Staff Writer

Looking for the perfect fit for a new D.C. baseball franchise leaves one obvious choice: the Montreal Expos.

The Expos have taken the necessary steps to ensure that they will be able to compete for years to come. Within the last few weeks they have made two key trades, which have brought pitcher Bartolo Colon and slugging outfielder Cliff Floyd to Montreal.

It is no secret that Bobby Goldwater and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission are hoping to bring a new baseball team to the District as early as 2003. There is talk of the team reclaiming the Senatorsí name and playing at RFK Stadium, at least initially.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wants to contract major league baseball by eliminating two teams, with the Expos and Minnesota Twins being the leading candidates.

Minnesota is a horrible choice for contraction. The Twins have put a winning product on the field the past two seasons and have won two World Series in the past 15 years. Iím sure that residents of the District want to see a winning product on the field from the beginning. They donít want to go through years of waiting for a team to be in playoff contention.

The Twins have young, exciting up-and-coming stars such as closer Eddie Guardado, center fielder Torri Hunter and catcher A.J. Pierzynski. All of these players went to Milwaukee for the All-Star Game.

Minnesota has plenty of young talent to be excited about that has the capability of staying together for years to come. The fans lost interest because their team was doing lousy. The Twins donít have Oriole Park at Camden Yards to keep fans coming in night after night. The Baltimore club has never had four losing seasons in a row, but the Orioles still draw fans even though they don't sell out every night. Since Minnesota lacks this beautiful stadium they need to have a winning product on the field to have fan interest.

The Twins have improved the product and fans are returning to the Metrodome. While the Twins would be a good fit for D.C., they belong in Minnesota. Minnesota currently averages 21,433 fans per home game and the major league average is 27,810.

The Expos, on the other hand, have not won a World Series in recent years. Even with a record of 42-39 and being right in the middle of the pennant race, the fans still do not fill Olympic Stadium. The average crowd is 8,427 per night, which is the lowest in Major League Baseball.

The Expos, under Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as their new manager, have a talented young team that is showing a lot of promise. With the acquisitions of Colon and Floyd and a couple of off-season acquisitions, this team has the potential to be at the top of the National League East, assuming that they are around next year in any capacity.

Floyd brings a batting average of .287 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs from the Marlins. Colon brought a 10-4 record with an ERA of 2.50 over from the Indians.

Along with Floyd and Colon there is all-star right fielder Vladimir Guerrero and all-star second baseman Jose Vidro.

These three players are a good foundation to build around, even though Lee Stevens would have made the team even stronger had they been able to swing the deal with the Indians and keep him.

The other two teams that could be eliminated are the teams from the Sunshine State. The Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays draw, on average, 10,466 and 12,804, respectively. The Expos show more long-term promise than either one of these teams.

Tampa Bay has been in the cellar of the American League for its entire existence and is not showing any signs of improvement, but it has a long-term lease on Tropicana Field.

The Marlins won the World Series just five years ago, but what have they done lately?

The Marlins have a record of 42-40 and are also in the thick of things as far as the pennant race. But, long term, the Expos appear to be the team that has the potential of bringing fans into RFK Stadium for years to come.

The proposed new stadium will draw fans for a year or two. Five years down the road, when the hype of the new stadium wears off, the ballplayers mentioned above will be in their prime. If they are built around, the team would have the ability to put the Washington Senators on the map as a winning product.

One of the Florida teams has to go, but the Montreal Expos can be saved all but in name. The Expos can be transformed into something special with a change of location and with the rebuilding of a promising franchise right here in D.C.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator