Savvy Sportster readers surely remember the Montreal Screw Job. No, not that one! I’m talking about the real Montreal screw job—the one that the Montreal Expos endured from 1994 to 2004. In an angle that even Vince McMahon would be ashamed to have worked up, the Montreal Expos were stopped in their tracks toward a division crown, stripped of their core players, experienced an ownership swerve, threatened with team contraction, stripped of more key players, played part time in Mexico and then moved to a new city. Screw job? That sounds like a Game of Thrones plot!
Founded in 1969, the Expos were already nefarious for dumping great players to keep costs down. Win the Cy Young award—you’re gone! Average 60 stolen bases a year—get outta’ here! Blast 234 home runs before age 27—not sure there’s a spot in the lineup. Players such as Pedro Martinez, Marquis Grissom, Vladimir Guerrero, Moises Alou and Larry Walker were shipped out causing Expo fans serious consternation. The Expos even had that Randy Johnson guy—as if Expo fans weren’t prickled enough!
However, let’s not dwell on past misgivings. Let’s pay homage to several notable members of the final Montreal Expo roster who in 2004, in addition to improving on team wins, batting averages, on base percentages and fielding, were surely exceeding career highs for scores on the Perceived Stress Scale. More importantly, let’s catch up and see what and where their Montreal experience has brought them today.
15 Brian Schneider (C)
Brian Schneider ended the 2004 season on a high note leading the major leagues in Caught Stealing Percentage as well as leading the team in overall Fielding Percentage. Moreover, he set career highs in runs (40), hits (112), and home runs (12). He’d be the last Expo catcher to experience a winning game during the team’s 6 – 3 victory against the New York Mets on the second to last game of the season. Schneider remained with the team during their move to Washington in 2005, nearly matching his 2004 offensive output. He continued with the Nationals until 2007 and was traded to the New York Mets in 2008 to provide backup catcher duties. After 13 seasons in the Majors, he retired from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012. Schneider is currently the catching coach for the Miami Marlins.
14 Brad Wilkerson (1B)
Brad Wilkerson split time with Nick Johnson at first base and played the outfield as well during the 2004 season. Wilkerson enjoyed a career year at the plate with 146 hits, 112 runs scored and 32 home runs, the latter tying for the team lead. He hit the last Expo home run in a game with his three-run shot off Braden Looper during the Expos’ last team win against the New York Mets. Wilkerson followed the team to Washington for the 2005 season. However, he was unable to replicate the previous year’s career highs. He was traded to the Texas Rangers in 2006 as part of the Nationals’ ongoing fire sale and rebuilding. Wilkerson retired from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. He now coaches high school baseball for King’s Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida.
13 José Vidro (2B)
A three-time former All Star, Jose Vidro was a slick fielding second-bagger with pop. Vidro averaged a .313 batting average, 162 hits, 16 home runs and 73 runs batted-in from 1999 to 2004. In 2003, he won the National League’s Silver Slugger award for second baseman. Unfortunately, the 2004 season was not as kind as previous seasons. Recurring knee problems shut Vidro down in late August, allowing newly acquired Brendan Harris to assume second base duties. Vidro’s last hit as a Montreal Expo was a home run off pitcher Joe Kennedy in a road loss against the Colorado Rockies. In 2005, he and his balky knees transferred to the Nationals where he only played 87 games due to injury. He retired as a Seattle Mariner in 2008. Vidro currently lives in his native Puerto Rico and runs baseball camps for the region’s youth.
12 Maicer Izturis (SS)
Then Expo shortstop Orlando Carbrera’s trade to the Boston Red Sox opened up playing time for Maicer Izturis in early 2004. The scrappy switch-hitter finished the season playing shortstop and was the last shortstop to experience an Expo win. On the other hand, Orlando Cabrera was the first Red Sox shortstop experience a World Series win since 1918. Izturis didn’t make the move to Washington as he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels shortly after season’s end. In a strange twist of irony, Izturis became a utility infielder for the Angels as the shortstop position was already manned—by newly acquired Orlando Cabrera! Izturis retired from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014. He currently runs the Academia Izturis baseball academy with his brother in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
11 Tony Batista (3B)
In 2004, third baseman Tony Batista brought his power stroke and unorthodox batting stance to the Expos on a one-year deal. Batista started slowly but ended up tying for the team lead with 32 “Batista Bombs” and led the team with 110 runs batted in. Batista didn’t re-sign with the Nationals at the end of the season but instead signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese League. There he would belt 27 home runs and drive in 90 runs. Batista returned to Major Leagues signing with the Twins as part-time player in 2006. Ironically, Batista would play his last game as a pro with the Washington Nationals in 2007. Batista currently lives and is involved in politics in Mao, Dominican Republic. Sadly, Batista was in the news recently for witnessing his father’s suicide by self-inflicted gunshot in August of 2016.
10 Terrmel Sledge (LF)
Terrmel Sledge was promoted from the minors to man left field with Brad Wilkerson’s shift to first base in 2004. Sledge, a then 27 year-old rookie, was used primarily against right-hand pitching and platooned with other Expo outfielders. He hit 15 home runs and drove in 62 runs batting in different spots throughout the lineup. Sledge is credited with the last Expo run-batted-in and the last hit in a game with the Expo’s 8 – 1 loss to the New York Mets during the last season game. He would play for the Nationals in 2005; however, he was traded twice in the same off-season to the Texas Rangers and then to the San Diego Padres. He retired from baseball after five seasons in the Japanese league. Sledge is currently the hitting coach for the Tulsa Drillers, a Los Angeles Dodgers Double-A affiliate.
9 Endy Chavez (CF)
The Montreal Expos claimed Endy Chavez off waivers in 2002. In 2003, he became the club’s starting center fielder. Chavez led the club in stolen bases during the 2004 campaign while hitting five home runs and driving in 34 runs from the leadoff position. With regard to defense, Chavez was tied for the major league lead in double plays turned as an outfielder with five. He was part of the last Expos play ever with his groundout to end the game during the Expos 8 – 1 loss to the Mets on the final game of the season. The Nationals would trade Chavez to the Phillies in 2005. He played part-time with five other major league teams until 2014. Chavez currently plays for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Independent League where he led the league with a .345 batting average during the 2016 season.
8 Juan Rivera (RF)
Expos fans, please welcome Vlad Guerrero’s replacement in right field—Juan Rivera! If Rivera’s stats from the 2004 season were doubled—48 runs, 12 home runs, 49 runs batted in and six stolen bases—he wouldn’t have come close to Vladimir Guerrero’s MVP numbers for the Los Angeles Angels that same year! Seeking to fill the void in right field by Guerrero’s departure, the Expos acquired Rivera in a trade with the New York Yankees before the 2004 season’s start. Rivera led the team with a .307 batting average and tied for the major league lead in outfield assists (14). Rivera would get to witness Guerrero’s greatness in person as he was traded by the Nationals to the Angels before start of the 2005 season. Rivera retired in 2012 and now runs a baseball academy in his native country of Venezuela.
7 Liván Hernandez (SP)
The Expos acquired former 1997 World Series MVP Liván Hernandez from the San Francisco Giants in 2003. After two down years for the Giants, he rebounded in 2003, leading the Expos in wins (15). Hernandez led the team in both wins (11) and losses (15) during the Expos’ final season. Additionally, he led the majors in innings pitched (255), in batters faced (1,053) and in pitcher assists (61). Hernandez would pitch well for the Nationals in 2005, however, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for two pitching prospects. Hernandez bounced around the majors until retiring in 2014. No stranger to trouble, Hernandez was recently in the news for a paternity and child support suit filed against him in Miami, Florida. Oddly, both Hernandez and the woman who filed the suit against him are being sued for fraud by a man claiming Hernandez and his girlfriend borrowed money from him for business purposes. Yet, Hernandez allegedly used the money to pay off his mortgage.
6 John Patterson (SP)
John Patterson was first drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1996. He instead signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after a technicality voided his Expo contract. Ironically, Patterson was traded to the Expos at the start of the 2004 season. He served as the Expos’ third starter, starting 19 games, recording 99 strikeouts in 98.1 innings pitched while posting a 5.03 earned run average (ERA). John Patterson would match up with Tom Glavine for the last game of the season and the Expos’ franchise. Mets third baseman David Wright would tag Patterson for a two run home run and a sacrifice fly, cushioning Glavine’s win and giving Patterson the final pitching loss in Expos history. Recurring injuries would force him to retire in 2009. Patterson—who recently became a dad— is currently an instructor at the Collin County Baseball Academy in Prosper, Texas.
5 Chad Cordero (CL)
Rocky Biddle assumed the Expos’ closer role and saved 34 games in 2003. However, he would relinquish that role to “The Chief” Chad Cordero after imploding during the first few months of the 2004 season. Cordero would go on to save 14 games by season’s end. But it was his last game as an Expo that had historical implications. Cordero recorded the last win for an Expos pitcher in a 6 – 3 win against the Mets. In 2005, he entered the Nationals’ record books and subdued opponents by saving a whopping 47 games with a 1.82 ERA. Cordero averaged 33 saves for the next two years until suffering a season ending injury in 2008. After several unsuccessful comebacks he would finally retire from baseball in 2010. Cordero recently finished his second season as Cal State Fullerton’s pitching staff and bullpen assistant coach.
4 Gary Majewski (RP)
Why is a player with a career 9 - 13 record, a 4.75 ERA and two saves being highlighted for the 2004 Montreal Expos? It’s because that player, Gary Majewski, recorded the very last Expo save. The newly acquired Majewski was getting more work as the season came to a close in 2004. On the second to last game of the season, he relieved team closer Chad Cordero who had entered during a tied game and was pinch hit for when the Expos went up by three runs. As a result, Majewski received the opportunity to close out the game and earn what would be the last save in Expo history. He was traded to the Reds in 2006 and retired from the major leagues in 2008. Today Majewski resides in Houston, Texas, where he’s a pitching instructor for the D-BAT Baseball and Softball Academy.
3 Luis Ayala (RP)
Luis Ayala started his career as a relief pitcher for the Saraperos de Saltillo (The Cloak Wearers of Saltillo) in the Mexican League. In 2003, the Expos purchased Ayala’s contract and brought him up after a minor league stint for spot relief where he compiled a 10 – 3 record, 19 holds and a 2.92 ERA. Ayala would pitch well in 2004; however, he suffered 12 losses—second on the team—while posting 21 holds and a 2.69 ERA. He would record the last hold for an Expo pitcher in the team’s 6 – 3 win against the New York Mets. Ayala bounced around the majors, playing for the Mets, Twins, Marlins, Yankees, Orioles and Braves. He currently pitches for the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) del Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
2 Omar Minaya (GM)
With the Expos under MLB ownership in 2002, Omar Minaya had the unenviable task of administering the team’s final few seasons as team vice-president and general manager. Minaya tried making the team competitive—tried. In 2002, he channeled his inner “Eric Bischoff” and traded away future stars Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and a serviceable Lee Stevens to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon. Colon was traded the next season for what amounted to a 5.83 ERA and 45 saves from Rocky Biddle. In 2003, Minaya was prevented from calling up prospects by the other MLB owners, thus keeping money from coming out of their pockets for operational and player costs. Minaya resigned from his post during the final week of the 2004 season after learning the team would move to Washington. After management stints with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, Minaya is now the Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of the MLB Players Association.
1 Frank Robinson (M)
There’s no denying Frank Robinson’s player and historical achievements. But the managerial job he did for a team that was on the verge of contraction, having its farm system gutted and its operations strapped by MLB control was remarkable! Robinson took the team’s managerial reigns in 2002 and guided the Expos to an 83 – 79 record, finishing second in the division. He would match that record the following year. However, the loss of Vladimir Guerrero and pitcher Javier Vazquez was too much to overcome in 2004 and the team finished with a 67 – 95 record. Robinson moved with the team and managed the Nationals’ inaugural season finishing with an 81 – 81 mark. He managed one more season before moving on to various MLB front office positions. Robinson is currently the Honorary American League President.
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