1994 Expos celebrated at Olympic Stadium
Members of NL-best club from strike-shortened year honoured in pregame ceremony
MONTREAL -- With the Montreal Expos consigned to baseball's historical archives, the fate of the 1994 team that fashioned the best record in baseball at the time of the players' strike remains one of the all-time great what-ifs.
Larry Walker teamed up with Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou to give the 1994 Expos one of the most formidable trios of starting outfielders in the game.
He is hardly alone in wondering what Montreal might have achieved if the rest of the regular season, playoffs and World Series had not been cancelled after the players went on strike on Aug. 12, 1994.
The Expos moved to Washington following the 2004 season. Ten years earlier, they were in first place in the National League East with a 74-40 mark, the best record in the Majors, and had a six-game lead on the second-place Atlanta Braves.
"I've wondered that many times, what could have happened," Walker said. "It's all hearsay, just make believe, but I think if the strike lasts two weeks, like it was supposed to, or what we were told, then I don't know if baseball would still be here, but I can tell you right now there would have been some good teams that would have lasted a little bit longer. It seemed that that kind of put a crush to our dream, and after that, the team split up, so it would have been nice to see what would have happened."
Walker, Grissom and Alou were among 19 members of the 1994 Expos who reunited for the first time as a group Saturday since they were in Pittsburgh when the strike was called nearly 20 years ago. Manager Felipe Alou was on hand at Olympic Stadium for the ceremony honoring the team prior to the second of the two-game series between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets.
"I know it's what-if, but I can only say what we saw, that we were superior," Felipe Alou said. "We were the best team in the National League, there was no question about that. In our league, we were kings. We were legitimate to win it."
Closer John Wetteland and staff ace Ken Hill, who went 16-5 and finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting, were also on hand along with the likes of shortstop Wil Cordero, first baseman Cliff Floyd, catcher Darrin Fletcher and third baseman Sean Berry.
"Obviously, it's emotional," said Wetteland, who won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 1996. "A lot of things [are remembered]. We talk and we laugh and we marvel a lot, because '94, there's this lack of reconciliation with everybody and so it's very easy to go back to that point in time and to go, 'Why?' When you have a championship product on the field that exists, a lot of times intellectually that doesn't make sense. And when we go back to that, that's why it's such a poignant moment for all of us. That's why it's such a powerful thing."
The 1994 Expos were broken apart the following spring when Grissom, Wetteland and Hill were traded and Walker left as a free agent. Grissom went on to win a World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 1995. Moises Alou and Floyd won it all in 1997 with the Florida Marlins.
For some other members of the 1994 Expos, that was as close as they would come to a championship.
"It is hard to resolve," Fletcher said. "It's unfinished business, because when I look back on my career, it's one of those what-ifs that's a hole in my career that has never been filled. I never appeared in a playoff game in my whole career, not one playoff game, so that's something that I wish I could have done, and I thought obviously my best chance was '94."
Like so many other members of the team, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan has had a hard time putting the unfinished season in its place. He says he only really came to terms with it within the past five or six years.
"I was a little bitter about it, but now as time has passed and you've seen how the game has grown, the game has probably gotten better for it, for the strike of '94, because we haven't had any work stoppages since then," Kerrigan said. "We learned a really powerful, painful lesson back then, so maybe we were the sacrificial lamb for the game growing and getting better."
Sean Farrell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.