LAVAL – Felipe Alou has always been hoping for the return of Major League Baseball in Montreal, but for a long time he thought it was too good to be true. Not anymore.
The former manager of the Expos, now a special advisor to the Giants of San Francisco’s vice-president baseball operations, hears more than ever the name of Montreal circulating around the Americas and he now believes more than ever before the return of the club. .
“I hear rumors of expansion at training camp and I hear that Montreal will get a team. There are rumors of relocation and it is the name of Montreal that is linked to this team. Still Montreal, he said Sunday, on the sidelines of the gala Expos Fest. Then I hear rumors that a downtown land would be available. These are just rumors heard at training camp, but there have been more rumors surrounding Montreal this year than any other year before. That’s what leads me to believe that something is happening. ”
Alou also said he had discussed with several supporters of the club for whom the flame has never wavered.
“This is another important point: the fans have not lost their enthusiasm or desire to see the Expos again, whether in Florida or Arizona. I saw several. When we put all these ingredients together, it makes me believe that there will be a team in Montreal before I die. ”
The one who turns 84 in May is a little diminished by the times due to a replacement of the right knee, suffered a few weeks ago, which forces him to move with a cane and without the righteousness usually knows.
“I was afraid, I did not want to undergo this intervention, he admitted. I had heard that it was very painful. Finally, the operation is not so bad; it is the rehabilitation that is suffering! ”
Aside from this knee, he is in great shape.
“I was afraid I could not go fishing and miss training camp. But I could do both, and I thank God for it. ”
Walker believes it too
Larry Walker, on the spot to sign autographs and attend the gala, agreed in the same direction. But he recalled that the fans will have to be at the rendezvous.
“I think it’s possible and the Montreal Group is knocking on the door of the Majors. That’s why I hope many people will come to these games on Monday and Tuesday. ”
Last year, the Montrealers had pleasantly surprised the authorities of the Major League with the presence of 51 151 spectators for these two meetings at the beginning of the week.
WALKER DOES NOT KNOW WHY THE EXPOSES ABANDONED IN SPRING 1995
LAVAL – Almost 25 years later, Larry Walker still wonders about the spring of 1995. But he is certain of one thing; the Expos never presented him with a contract offer.
“It’s been 24 years now. I do not remember that the organization told me of its plans, said the ex-right fielder on the sidelines of the gala benefits from Expos Fest on Sunday. I do not remember being told that we would be getting rid of the best members of the club and I do not remember anybody bidding me. I often asked my agents if an offer was on the table and the answer was always no. Yet, I have read in the past that management has submitted an offer. So who says true? I have never seen anything, so for me it does not exist. Then when you see what they did, with the departures of (Ken) Hill, (Marquis) Grissom and (John) Wetteland, they probably never intended to make me one. ”
Let’s go back: the best baseball team in 1994, the Expos have their hopes dashed by a player strike, which extended to the 1995 training camp, started by replacement players. Once the conflict is settled, in early April, activities resume and the market of autonomous players opens. Walker, then the highest club employee with an annual salary of US $ 4 million, is eligible for autonomy. Some expect the Expos – President Claude Brochu and General Manager Kevin Malone – to make an offer. But she never came.
“I did not know what management had in mind, as was often the case elsewhere,” added Felipe Alou, then manager of the club. I was rarely informed. I had coached Larry Walker in the minor leagues and I knew he would become one of the best, if not the best Canadian player in history. Everyone knew that. What I did not know was that we were going to leave this player without even making an offer.
“I thought he was going to be with Expos for his entire career. I was shocked when I knew that he had not been offered a decent contract. There are several decisions made by this organization that surprised me. That one is one. I was also surprised when Dan Duquette was sold to the Boston Red Sox, but that’s another story. ”
The fact that Walker was a Canadian seems to have had very little weight in the eyes of the Expos.
“Honestly, and I’ve said it before, so I hope it’s not going to be wrong, it’s that this team was not looking for a Canadian star, but a francophone. That’s why they hoped Denis Boucher became a starter. And that makes sense: we are in Quebec and that must be the priority. I do not disagree with that. I think if I had been French, the story would have been different. ”
Walker does not understand more why the team did not try everything for the while keeping everyone in place in 1995, even if it means making the sale of fire at the transaction deadline.
“I think that’s the way the teams would work today. It seems that they did not have this vision at the time. I think they had financial problems and they had to make the decision to let everyone go. ”
Brochu gave part of the answer in the book he co-authored with Daniel Poulin and Mario Bolduc, “The Saga of the Expos: Brochu Explains”.
“If I had kept all the players in 1994,” he explains, “the team would have ended up in 1995 with an additional deficit of nine million, or 25 million in all. The Expos would have gone bankrupt, simply. ”
“It’s been so long and I’ve heard so many versions, it looks like a soap opera,” says Walker. What I know is that they never made me an offer. ”
Alou believes that letting go of Walker has significantly undermined the confidence of the fans in the team, or even that it can partly explain its decline and its departure. No. 33 appreciates the words of his manager, but does not quite agree.
“I think I was just one piece of the puzzle. You could have said that of several players. I do not think I was the most important piece. We had an incredible team and our success came from all those pieces of equal importance. “