I once tweeted toÂ Jonah KeriÂ the idea of relocating the Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal and calling them the Expos,Â to which I got a response that, at the time, took me aback. He outright shot it down without a second thought, stating that as someone who’d had his team ripped away, he would never want another fan base to endure that very same pain.
It awakened the fear I felt as a Twins fan not so long ago when the word “contraction” was being bandied about by the suits of major league baseball, and the outright anxiety I experienced when the deadline for the collective bargaining agreement drew nearer and nearer in the summer of 2002. I knew that if an agreement was reached, the Twins would qualify for October for the first time in eleven years, and have life beyond that season. If there was a stoppage and yet another word we no longer speak of, the Twins would cease to exist. Maybe go off and win a title in another city like the North Stars did.
So when Kendrys Morales signed with Minnesota yesterday, my reaction was not unlike the one I’d had upon Keri’s response on Twitter — I was taken aback. Why would a team that probably wouldn’t reach postseason play sign a player like Morales?
Then I began to think. Morales gives them protection for Josh Willingham, and if Willingham goes down again, there’s an experienced run-producer in the middle of the line-up to take pressure off of Oswaldo Arcia. And with the cluster of teams still in contention for a playoff spot. maybe the Twins could make a run. I mean, after all, how else would Morales’ new mates take the acquisition other than as a sign that the front office not only thinks they have a shot, but are willing to take steps to make sure they have a shot?
And if the Twins aren’t in the race come the end of July, Morales can be moved for prospects. It’s a win-win.
And that’s where Montreal comes in.
For the Expos, that agreement Minnesota was fortunate enough to get twelve years ago never happened. They lost their shot and their team, years later, of course, but as we all know, the Expos didn’t live between 1995 and 2004 — they survived.
Minnesota lost players like Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan to free agency because the franchise could no longer afford them. Not because they were lied to by the organization about rebounding from a “tough break” before Marquis Grissom, Ken Hill and John Wetteland were ripped away by opportunistic “haves” that turned around and taunted Montreal with Grissom snagging the final out for an Atlanta championship, Hill pitching in that very same Fall Classic and John Wetteland being hoisted by his mates just one year later as the World Series MVP.
‘Spos fans never got to see more talent develop and build another winner. There was some promise with Vlad Guerrero and Jose Vidro, but that dissipated pretty quickly.
Twins Territory got to revel in the the organization’s rebirth led by A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Kosie, Jacque Jones and Hunter. And then gleefully watched a new core made up of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Johan Santana win MVPs and Cy Youngs and contribute to more divisional banners — all of whom had a hand in Target Field being built.
Now, the Twins are a borderline .500 baseball team with a lot of promise. Brian Dozier should be an All-Star and Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes are coming around as the pillars of the rotation Terry Ryan had hoped they would be, Kyle Gibson is pitching to potential, while Arcia and Josmil Pinto are the first arrivals of a new class which promises Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton in the very near future.
Minnesota is a alive and well and may find that American League Central domination is just around the corner once again.
As Twins fans, we should be happy about that, but as baseball fans, we owe it to a legion of Expos faithful — who have been “treated” to a pair of Mets / Blue Jays exhibition games in a decade — to be grateful.
Even if somehow the Twins lose 90 games for a fourth consecutive year, at least we can hope. At least we still have them. Never forget that. I won’t.
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