Unquestionable Talent

April 03, 1994

Manager Felipe Alou, outfielders Moises Alou and Larry Walker, and pitcher John Wetteland shot a print ad this spring for the Guess? clothing line. In that spirit. Guess...

What team has the best outfield in baseball?

The Expos, with Walker in right, Marquis Grissom in center and either Alou or rookie Rondell White in left. Last year Montreal led the major leagues in runs batted in (305) by outfielders. This group might do even better.

What team has the most underrated bullpen in the NL?

The Expos, led by closer John Wetteland, whose 1.37 ERA was the lowest of any pitcher with 30 or more innings last year. Wetteland, who pitched 85‚Öì, averaged 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings and had 43 saves, yet he remains relatively uncelebrated. "Anonymity never bothered me," he says.

What club is the team of the 90's?

The Expos—because that's 90's as in mph. They have six pitchers who consistently throw 92 mph and harder: Jeff Fassero, Ken Hill and Pedro Martinez in the rotation, plus Wetteland, Mel Rojas and Tim Scott in the bullpen. No other team has as many pitchers throwing that hard.

What is the population of pitcher Kirk Rueter's hometown Hoyleton, Ill.?

Five hundred and fifty. "No traffic lights," he says. "[Montreal's] Olympic Stadium is bigger than the whole town." Hoyleton posted a HOME OF KIRK RUETER sign after the 23-year-old lefthander went 8-0 in 14 starts as a rookie last season. (The major league record for wins without a loss by a starter at the beginning of his career is 12, by Hooks Wiltse in 1904.)

What team got the most wins per dollar out of its payroll?

The Expos, for the second straight year. They went 94-68 with a payroll of $14.6 million. (Only two teams had smaller total salaries.) It's up to $19 million this year, which means that Montreal still spends approximately $20 million less on players than the Braves do.

What team has played Atlanta the toughest in recent years?

The Expos, who share a spring training home with the Braves, are a combined 20-16 against Atlanta over the last three years. "The Braves don't like playing us because they know we're not afraid of them," says Montreal infielder Mike Lansing. "They intimidate other teams with their starting pitching and their hitting. Not us."

What team has gone the longest without drawing two million fans in a season?

The Brewers and the Expos, both of whom last did it in 1983. Note to Montreal fans: Get with it.

Who will replace Delino DeShields at second base?

Lansing. Drafted out of college by the independent Class A Miami Miracle in 1990, he came from nowhere to earn a spot with the Expos last spring. After leading the league in batting average, hits and RBIs through April 21, he finished at .287 with 23 stolen bases. Lansing is no DeShields, who was traded to the Dodgers for Pedro Martinez, but he's a solid player.

What is the only NL team since divisional play began to twice win at least 94 games in a season and miss postseason play both times?

The Expos, in 1979, when they went 95-65, and last year. They can win 94 again this year, but this time it might be enough to at least reach the playoffs as a wild-card learn.

[originallink:10691241:711033]

PHOTORONALD C. MODRAIt was a breakthrough spring for White, the rookie leftfielder.

THE LINEUP

CF

Marquis Grissom

Could get first 100-steal, 11-homer season ever

2B

Mike Lansing

Patience at the plate will allow Grissom to run

LF

Moises Alou

Slowed by ankle surgery; it won't affect his hitting

RF

Larry Walker

NL's "best rightfielder," says Atlanta's Bobby Cox

C

Darrin Fletcher

Calls a good game; coming on as a hitter

1B

Cliff Floyd

Poor spring, but still Rookie of the Year candidate

SS

Wil Cordero

Had more extra-base hits in '93 than Will Clark

3B

Sean Berry

They're looking for another third baseman

Ace

Ken Hill

Nasty stuff, and it's time he won 18 to 20 games

Closer

John Wetteland

Hitters would rather face a firing squad

INSTANT ANALYST

The youngest lineup in the majors last season? It wasn't even close. With all of last year's position players weighted by number of plate appearances (so, for instance, Marquis Grissom has an appropriately greater impact than Cliff Floyd), the Expos' lineup was nearly a year and a half younger than that of any other club. And of the five youngest, Montreal's was the best.

Team

Average Age

'93 Record

Expos

25.9 years

94-68

Astros

27.3 years

85-77

Padres

27.3 years

61-101

Angels

27.6 years

71-91

Indians

27.7 years

76-86

PREDICTED FINISH: SECOND

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)