5 Montreal Expos A team teetering on the brink of extinction is pondering what might have been

March 25, 2002

There have been, what, dozens of them by now? Young,
up-and-coming Expos who, because of Montreal's financial
straits, were traded or otherwise let go and went on to become
stars elsewhere. John Wetteland and Delino DeShields. Marquis
Grissom and Moises Alou. Ken Hill and Larry Walker. Worse,
there's that guy in Boston, the one with the indomitable circle
change, ice-melting fastball and three Cy Young Awards. Before
the Expos relocate or disappear, will they have the decency to
apologize to their 14 remaining fans for trading Pedro Martinez
to the Red Sox?

The deal haunts Montreal in more ways than one. Over the same
four seasons that Martinez ran up a 67-20 record in Boston,
righthanded starter Carl Pavano, the player the Expos demanded
from the Red Sox, has had one bad moment after another. As a
rookie in 1998 he sat out the first seven weeks of the season
with shoulder tendinitis. In '99 he made 18 starts before
landing on the DL again, with elbow tendinitis. In 2000 he was
8-4 with a 3.06 ERA when tendinitis in his triceps cut short his
season. Last year he missed all but eight starts while
recovering from elbow surgery to remove bone chips. "I look at
it this way," says Montreal catcher Michael Barrett. "If Carl is
hurt, we're hurt. If he remains healthy, we have a shot."

Barrett seems to mean a shot at the National League East title,
which, frankly, isn't going to happen. The four other teams in
the East have far more talent than the Expos. However, if Pavano
can make 30 or so starts, he and fellow righthanders Javier
Vazquez and Tony Armas Jr. (the player to be named later in the
Martinez-Pavano swap) could meld into a formidable starting trio.
None of the three is older than 26. "These guys haven't gotten
much airtime, so they're unknown to the world," says Dick Pole,
Montreal's new pitching coach. "But if you're in my position,
you're thrilled. These are three young men with the potential to
be terrific major league pitchers."

For years Pavano has heard such praise. After all he has been
through, it's starting to ring hollow. When he was taken by
Boston in the 13th round of the 1994 amateur draft, it was a
heartwarming story of a local kid--Pavano grew up in Southington,
Conn.--staying home to pitch for the good ol' Sox. Pavano cruised
through the minor leagues with such ease and poise that the Expos
believed the trade had netted them their ace for the next decade.

When at his best, Pavano can eat up hitters with a mix of three
above-average pitches: a mid-90s fastball that he locates with
NASA-like precision, a slider that handcuffs righthanded batters
and a deceptive changeup. "He's one of the best at establishing
both sides of the plate," says Barrett.

Like Pavano, Vazquez, who last year struck out 208 batters and
walked only 44, has above-average stuff and a veteran's
composure. Also like Pavano, Vazquez has struggled at times. As
a rookie in 1998 he went 5-15 with a 6.06 ERA. "I learned a
great deal from that," says Vazquez, who has since gotten much
better command of his pitches, as his 16-11 record showed. "I
was hit hard, but it was a good education. Sometimes you just
have to learn from being out there."

Pavano knows that all too well. --J.P.

COLOR PHOTO: KIRBY LEE/THE SPORTING IMAGE The 26-year-old Pavano, the main man for the Expos in the Martinez trade, has the ability, if not the durability, to dominate in the majors. COLOR PHOTO: ELIOT SCHECHTER/GETTY IMAGES GUERRERO

In FACT
The last team to draw fewer fans at home in a nonstrike year
than the 2001 Expos (619,451) was the 1979 A's (306,763).

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Expos

"No fans, no revenue, little talent. I feel bad for G.M. Omar
Minaya. It's a terrible position to be in. Can he make a deal
or--since the team is now operated by Major League
Baseball--does he have to get permission first?... Peter
Bergeron is a huge disappointment. I've watched him from the
beginning, and he was a more disciplined hitter three years ago
than he is now. He's their leadoff guy, but he hacks at bad
pitches; he swings at stuff way outside the zone. He needs to
work the count and hit the ball on the ground.... Vladimir
Guerrero is tremendous on every level. If he were on a
first-division club, we'd be talking about one of the biggest
superstars around. He's overaggressive sometimes at the plate,
but big deal.... I've never been a Fernando Tatis fan. He's a
dog. He can hit a fastball, and that's about it. He had one
dream season, and the rest have been true indicators of what he
can do. It never seems like he wants to be out there.... Lee
Stevens's bat has slowed. He looks like he's on the downside....
Jose Canseco as an outfielder? No way. He hasn't played much out
there in five years, and even when he was at his peak, he was
bad.... Scott Strickland is a second-division closer. He's more
of a setup guy, but in Montreal they have to use what they have.
He's no-nonsense, though, and he's not afraid to come in and
pound the strike zone. He just doesn't have that one pitch that
says, Game over.... Guillermo Mota has closer's stuff, but his
performance never lives up to his talent."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

CF Peter Bergeron L-R 213 .211 3 16 10
2B Jose Vidro S-R 102 .319 15 59 4
RF Vladimir Guerrero R 9 .307 34 108 37
1B Andres Galarraga*[1]R 219 .256 17 69 1
3B Fernando Tatis R 200 .255 2 11 0
SS Orlando Cabrera R 116 .276 14 96 19
LF Brad Wilkerson L 272 .205 1 5 2
C Michael Barrett R 282 .250 6 38 2

BENCH

IF Lee Stevens L 176 .245 25 95 2
OF Jose Canseco[1] R 294 .258 16 49 2
IF Chris Truby[1] R 311 .206 8 23 1

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

RH Javier Vazquez 16 16 11 7.0 1.08 3.42
RH Tony Armas Jr. 77 9 14 5.8 1.38 4.03
RH Carl Pavano 208 1 6 5.3 1.76 6.33
RH Tomokazu Ohka* 197 3 9 5.0 1.52 5.47
RH Britt Reames 214 4 8 4.9 1.57 5.59

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Scott Strickland 100 2 6 9 1.33 3.21
LH Graeme Lloyd 249 9 5 1 1.35 4.35
RH Guillermo Mota 279 1 3 0 1.39 5.26

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player Value
Ranking (explanation on page 154)

*Combined AL and NL stats

Manager
Frank Robinson
first season with Montreal

2001 record
68-94
fifth in NL East

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Guerrero
Cabrera
Vidro
Vazquez

Good Leather

Wilkerson
Bergeron
Galarraga
Stevens
Tatis
Barrett

Iron Hands

Canseco

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)