Rumors circulated all winter that the only Expo with any seniority, Andre Dawson, might be dealt. "I was sure I would be gone," said Dawson, whose teammates were so happy to see him at camp this spring that they lined up to shake his hand. But after nine years as the star, Dawson may have to adjust to playing a supporting role. "You do have to have recognizable people to draw out the fans," he says in his own defense.
With a left knee that could qualify for social security, Dawson, 31, now plays second banana to Tim Raines, who seems to get better every year. Raines led the Expos in hitting (.320), runs (115) and steals (70) last season.
The rest of the cast isn't too shabby, either. Hubie Brooks became the first NL shortstop in 25 years to get 100 RBIs. Third baseman Tim Wallach hit 22 home runs and earned his first Gold Glove. And centerfielder Mitch Webster is no longer an unknown. When he first showed up in the middle of last season, his teammates thought he was a reporter. Now the Expos recognize him as a man with speed and power.
Rookie Andres Galarraga had been ordained as the starting first baseman by manager Buck Rodgers early in the spring, but after he hit .145 the Expos traded for Jason Thompson. Now, the two of them will platoon.
The Expos hope a revamped pitching staff will carry them past mid-August this season. At that point in '85 they were in the race with the Mets and the Cards, but Montreal disappeared when three starting pitchers went down in four days. "There was nobody waiting in the wings," said ace Bryn Smith, 18-5.
So the Expo front office went shopping for more arms. Bill Gullickson (14-12) was traded to the Reds for pitchers Andy McGaffigan, Jay Tibbs and John Stuper (21-24 combined last year). Stuper has already been cut. As protection for the starters, Montreal has the best bullpen in the NL with Jeff Reardon and Tim Burke.
Brooks and Dawson were sitting in the dugout recently arguing about their rookie first baseman, playing a variation on the old to-MAY-to/to-MAH-to routine. While Dawson said the name was pronounced "Gala-RAY-ga," Brooks said "Gala-RAH-ga."
"I'll just call him Babe Ruth," said Brooks. "It's easier."
The Expos are praying he's not a Babe ruse.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
Expos were 17 games above .500 in games he started, 10 games below with other catchers-
Walked in 11 consecutive games, four short of Darrell Evans's NL record.
Committed six errors in 36 games on grass, six errors in 111 games on artificial turf.
Batted .647 (11 for 17, 4 doubles, 2 homers) with bases loaded last season.
Led NL third basemen in games started (152), putouts (148), assists (383) and DPs (34).
Yearly batting averages in LIP situations since 1981: .372, .376, .360, .283, .348.
Has hit .303 for his career batting righthanded, .234 lefthanded.
Batted .332 in day games last season, .207 at night.
Batting support: 5.44 runs per start, the highest average in the NL.
Has allowed only one home run in 131 career plate appearances by lefthanded batters.
Dig in, boys: Total of 1,331 batters faced without an HBP is highest among active pitchers.
No decision in seven starts with an ERA of 1.91 in those games.
Winning percentage of .200 (2-8) lowest ever by a league leader in saves.