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Montreal Baseball Deserves Another Shot

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball should put another team in Montreal to replace one of the struggling ones.

Major League Baseball needs to bring a franchise back to Montreal, a city that hasn’t seen one since 2004. Montreal only has the Canadians in the four major sports, despite having over 1.5 million people in the city alone. The Greater Montreal area actually has just fewer than four million people, leaving it as the most populous North American metropolitan area without an MLB team. With a few franchises struggling in attendance, now would be a good time for commissioner Rob Manfred to look into it.  

Just adding an expansion team in Montreal would be impossible, as a second team would need to enter the league to balance the schedule. Relocating one of the struggling franchises makes the most sense.  

A few teams come to mind with low attendance who could be on the move in the near future. The Tampa Bay Rays have finished last every season since 2012 in attendance, and haven’t averaged more than 20,000 fans a game since 2010. The highest they ever finished was 14th during their inaugural season in 1998, when they averaged just fewer than 31,000 a game. For a few seasons, the Rays were fun to watch, even reaching the World Series in 2008, but haven’t been able to capitalize to form a strong fan base. It just hasn’t been the baseball city that people had hoped for. 

The Rays moving was just a speculation at first, but has picked up some steam once the team was granted permission to look for a new stadium outside of Tampa Bay. Keeping them in Florida would be ideal for the organization and fans, but a move to Montreal might be the best overall. Montreal does have experience with an MLB team, but hasn’t won a World Series. 

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another team that could possibly move is the Oakland Athletics. They averaged 21,829 fans a game in 2015, which was down from 25,045 in 2014. It is more fans than some teams in the sport, but they are no longer the force they were in the 1970’s and late 1980’s. The fan base has taken a hit, with some mediocre and poor seasons.  

The Athletics could see a move from Oakland in the future, especially with the Raiders’ Oakland future in doubt. Both teams want new stadiums and have wanted it for years. The Raiders appear to be staying put for now, but could be gone next season. It wouldn’t be as quick for the Athletics, but is still possible. San Jose and Las Vegas are nearby locations that could get in on the action as well.  

Moving the Rays would make the most sense for a few reasons. Most notably, a division shakeup wouldn’t be necessary, as they could remain in the American League East. It would just be a different league than the Expos used to play in. Also, imagine a rivalry between Montreal and Toronto. Baseball has some really good rivalries already, New York vs. Boston, Los Angeles vs. San Francisco, but a Canadian rivalry in one division would be different. Eighteen games a year plus possible playoffs would be great for the sport, the teams, and country.  

A move to Montreal would be tough for MLB to pull off, but could be worth it down the road. MLB Network recently aired a documentary about the Expos, showing the team’s rise and fall in professional baseball. It was nostalgic and showed that the city deserves and wants another chance at a franchise.  

Montreal can still draw a crowd for baseball, as they brought in over 96,000 people during a two-game exhibition last season and in 2014. It was such a positive sign that MLB decided to do it again in 2016, this time between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. In the 2014 preseason, 96,350 people came out for the games, and 96,545 showed up last season.  

Olympic Stadium can hold almost 46,00 people, but would most likely not be the home for a new Montreal team, as it was one of the reasons for the relocation. A new stadium would cost over half a billion dollars, something Montreal would really need to invest into. They wouldn’t build it with the threat of relocation again. 

With the Canadians being a force in the National Hockey League once again, Montreal has become a more popular sports town. They do have 24 championships, all from the Canadians, but have won in other sports like the Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer. The city has even added five professional teams in multiple leagues since the Expos left in 2004.  

Montreal is also a great tourist location, as it saw 9.6 million travelers spend $2.9 billion in 2015. Imagine how many more people would visit to see a Major League Baseball team play or even come to watch their own favorite team play in the beautiful city.   

Some will argue that Montreal lost their shot at an MLB team and should wait a little more than a decade. At that time the move was necessary, as the team was failing, unprofitable, and just a mess. Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, and Larry Walker were some of these players traded away to save money. It was something the Expos could never recover from. 

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Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Instead, they went down to Washington, became the Nationals, and have two National League East championships. MLB did the right thing and were rewarded with a young, competitive team in Washington.  

If Montreal were to get a team back, they wouldn’t be the first in the sport. Milwaukee, Baltimore, Seattle, and Kansas City all lost teams and received another years later. 

The Expos played in Montreal for 35 seasons, reaching the postseason just once in 1981. They were well on their way to another playoff berth in 1994, but the strike ended the season short. It was considered the beginning of the end for the Expos, as they began trading away and letting their best players walk.  

After seeing this happen, the morale of the fans dropped off completely. They felt betrayed by ownership and stopped attending games, which hurt attendance. This hurt everyone involved at the time, but time heals. A reunion will speed up the process.  

Nothing is set in stone, but Manfred has been more interested in bringing baseball back to Montreal than former commissioner, Bud Selig. It’s something that has sparked the interest of politicians, former players, and fans alike. It won’t happen this season, but could be a possibility by 2020, if not earlier. For now, teams like the Rays and Athletics need to win to get fans, or else it could be Montreal circa 2004 all over again for Tampa or Oakland.

Edited by Jeremy Losak, Jaidyn Hart.

SQuiz
How many players were inducted into the Hall of Fame with Montreal Expo caps?
Created 2/6/16
  1. none
  2. 3
  3. 2
  4. 5

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