Baseball romantics and market researchers say conditions are right for Major League Baseball to return to Montreal — but others argue it’s a waste of time to bring back Expos 2.0.
Hardcore baseball fans have fond memories of the Montreal Expos because the team, its players and its ballparks never fit within the stifling conformity that has become Major League Baseball. Maybe it’s the colorful uniforms (pinwheel hats! an M logo that’s barely recognizable as a letter!), maybe it’s the team name (even by 1969 the notion of a World’s Fair was a dying one; anyone remember where Expo ’74 was held?), and maybe it’s the quirkiness of Jarry Park and Olympic Stadium. No matter: no baseball team was marketed and outfitted like the Expos were. Still, when owned and run by Canadians, the Expos could draw on a well of parochial support. But when the local quirkiness ended after a purchase of the team by Jeffrey Loria, Les Expos de Montréal ceased to exist.
Today’s Montreal, though, is a much different city than it was when the Expos moved to Washington, D.C.: the economic both locally and nationally is in good shape, the corporate scene is much improved, and Montreal is a thriving international hub. At the Winter Meetings agent Scott Boras argued that MLB should return to Montreal sooner rather than later, prompted by a study from Ernst & Young indicating how MLB could work in Montreal, using the Minnesota Twins and the financing of Target Field as an example.
Not so fast, says the Washington Times’ Thom Loverro, pointing to the fact that the upcoming exhibitions at Olympic Stadium are not sold out. The Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets are set to play two games in Montreal before the start of the regular season, and so far organizers have only sold 68,000 tickets to the two games. Only 68,000! He writes:
Look, I come not to bury Montreal. It’s a city I fell in love with when I would go up there every September for about five years to write about the death of the Expos.
But don’t do this. Don’t spend people’s time and money with committees and feasibility studies and meaningless exhibitions games as a declaration of the city’s commitment to baseball, because it will last for years, probably decades. You’ll waste perhaps millions of dollars begging baseball to return, and you’ll wind up disappointed time after time, as if the Expos were leaving all over again.
Don’t be a patsy for Major League Baseball.
That’s an awfully defeatist stance to take: Montreal, throw in the towel now because you might fail later! Of course, nothing would get done in this world if folks like Warren Cromartie were told to stand down before making their best effort. This sort of attitude makes us cheer doubly loud for Cromartie and the folks working to bring MLB back to Montreal: passion defeats cynicism every time.
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