Been a long time since I did one of these as I got discouraged after flushing my 1991 Mariners entry by accident. But after doing the 80's tournament figured I might as well do one on the team that won it, the 1980 Expos. I normally try to focus on teams from the last 20 years since many of the players I at least have memories of seeing play but there are a quite a few interesting players from this club and I hadn't done one on the Expos yet.
Expos were in a heated three team race with the defending World Champion Pirates and eventual World Champion Phillies for the N.L. East title much of the second half. The Pirates faded down the stretch but the Expos and Phillies were tied for first going into the final weekend of the season and just happened to have a series against each other Montreal. Phillies won on Friday 2-1 and then the next day the Expos heart was broken when Woodie Fryman couldn't close it out in the 9th as the Phillies tied it 4-4 on a two out Bob Boone RBI single and then in the 11th Mike Schmidt hit a two run homerun off Steve Bahnsen to win it.
C: Gary Carter (.264/.331/.486, 34.9 VORP, 30 Win Shares) – “The Kid” at age 26 had already established himself as one of the best catchers in the game and finished a distant 2nd to Mike Schmidt in the MVP voting. Like most Expos stars they didn’t hang on to him and he was traded to the Mets following the 1984 season for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans. He would hit the catcher wall in 1987 and was released following an injury plagued 1989 season. Picked up with the Giants where had a decent year as a platoon catcher. Signed with the Dodgers for 1991 and then returned for nostalgia to Montreal in 1992 where he retired. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
1B: Warren Cromartie (.288/.345/.430, 19.8 VORP, 17.4 Win Shares) – Cromartie was a highly touted prospect who never quite lived up to the hype and he hit for very little power for a first baseman. Played in Montreal thru 1983 and then headed to Japan where he became a big star for Yomiuri Giants. He’d write a book about his experience in Japan which would inspire the movie “Mr. Baseball.” He returned to the States in 1991 where he played for the Royals as a back up.
2B: Rodney Scott (.224/.307/.293, 9.8 VORP, 13.2 Win Shares) – Scott was all speed and little else. He stole 63 bases and led the N.L. with 13 triples in 1980 which would lead to someone giving him a throw away 10th place MVP vote. For his career he hit just 3 homeruns in 2487 plate appearances, all of them in 1979. Most notable thing about him was in 1982 he walked off the Expos team in protest for them releasing Bill Lee and the Expos were more than accommodating in releasing Scott the next day. He was picked up by the Yankees who would also release later that year and would mark the end of his MLB career.
3B: Larry Parrish (.254/.310/.427, 9.2 VORP, 12.6 Win Shares) – Parrish had come off what appeared to be a breakout year offensively where he hit .307 with 30 homeruns and finished in the Top 5 in the MVP voting but it turned out to be a fluke, although part of his struggles in 1980 were due to a wrist injury. Dealt right before the 1982 season to Texas for Al Oliver. Played almost the rest of his career with the Rangers before being released in his final year of 1988, then picked up by the Red Sox to finish out the season. Had a brief but forgettable run as manager of the Tigers in 1999.
SS: Chris Speier (.265/.351/.330, 15.0 VORP, 12.5 Win Shares) – Speier was in the middle of a decent 19 year career although much of the rest of his career was spent as a back up. Traded to the Cardinals late in the 1984 season he’d then sign with the Cubs for a two year stint. Signed with the Giants from there where he played out the rest of his career, retiring after 1989. His son Justin currently pitches for the Angels.
LF: Ron LeFlore (.257/.337/.363, 17.0 VORP, 18 Win Shares) – LeFlore was a very interesting player because he was an ex-con and was discovered in prison by Billy Martin. After robbing people of their money for several years, LeFlore was robbing bases! Yeah I didn’t put too much thought into that. Stole a career high 97 bases in 1980 and is the only player to ever lead both leagues in steals. He signed as a free agent with the White Sox following the season but struggled there for his final two years in the Majors.
CF: Andre Dawson (.308/.358/.492, 50.9 VORP, 29.1 Win Shares) – This was Dawson’s breakout year at age 25, winning his first Gold Glove and finished 7th in the MVP voting. A free agent after 1986, with his knees already destroyed by the Olympic Stadium turf he signed with the Cubs where he’d win a very dubious MVP award his first year in Chicago. Stayed a fairly productive hitter thru his entire tenure in Chicago but after signing with the Red Sox in 1993 his power disappeared. Spent his final year with the Marlins in 1995. Currently fighting an uphill battle to get into the Hall of Fame and he just barely misses the cut for me.
RF: Ellis Valentine (.315/.367/.524, 23.9 VORP, 15.2 Win Shares) – Valentine was a super talented player but injuries starting this year derailed his career and was limited to just 86 games this year. He was hit in the face by a pitch from Cardinals’ reliever Roy Thomas in a game in late May, suffering a broken cheek bone. He struggled mightily following this season and the Expos traded him during the 1981 season to the Mets for Jeff Reardon which ended being a brilliant trade for Montreal. Played for the Angels in 1983, didn’t play a game in the Majors in 1984, and then played just 11 games with the Rangers in 1985.
Steve Rogers (120 ERA+, 50.6 VORP, 19.7 Win Shares) - Steve Rogers was a scrawny fine arts student specializing in industrialization in the 1940's before America entered World War II. He attempted to enlist in the army only to be turned away due to his poor constitution. A U.S. officer offered Rogers an alternative way to serve his country by being a test subject in project, Operation: Rebirth, a top secret defense research project designed to create physically superior soldiers. Rogers accepted and after a rigorous physical and combat training and selection process was selected as the first test subject. He was given injections and oral ingestion of the formula dubbed the "Super Soldier Serum" developed by the scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine. Rogers was then exposed to a controlled burst of "Vita-Rays" that activated and stabilized the chemicals in his system. The process successfully altered his physiology from its frail state to the maximum of human efficiency, including greatly enhanced musculature and reflexes.
After the assassination of Dr. Erskine. Roger was re-imagined as a superhero who served both as a counter-intelligence agent and a propaganda symbol to counter Nazi Germany's head of terrorist operations, the Red Skull. Rogers was given a costume modeled after the American flag, a bulletproof shield, a personal sidearm and the codename Captain America. He was also given a cover identity as a clumsy infantry private at Camp LeHigh in Virginia. Barely out of his teens himself, Rogers made friends with the teenage camp mascot, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes. Barnes accidentally learned of Rogers' dual identity and offered to keep the secret if he could become Captain America's sidekick. Rogers agreed, and trained Barnes. Roger met President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presented him with a new shield made from a chance mixture of iron, Vibranium and an unknown catalyst. Throughout World War II, Captain America and Bucky fought the Nazi menace both on their own and as members of the superhero team the Invaders, which after the war evolved into the All-Winners Squad.
In the closing days of World War II in 1945, Captain America and Bucky tried to stop the villainous Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. Zemo launched the plane with an armed explosive device on it, with Rogers and Barnes in hot pursuit. They reached the plane just before it took off, but when Bucky tried to defuse the bomb, it exploded in mid-air. The young man was believed killed, and Rogers was hurled into the freezing waters of either the North Atlantic. Neither his body or Bucky's were found, and both were presumed dead.
The Avengers discovered Rogers' body in the North Atlantic, his costume under his soldier's uniform and still carrying his shield. Rogers had been preserved in a block of ice since 1945, which melted after the block was thrown back into the ocean by an enraged Sub-Mariner. When Rogers revived, he related his last, failed mission in the closing days of the war. Rogers accepted membership in the Avengers, and although he soon adjusted to modern times well enough to eventually assume leadership of the team, he was plagued by guilt for not being able to prevent Bucky's death. He also undertook missions for the national security agency S.H.I.E.L.D., which was commanded by his old war comrade Nick Fury. Rogers established a residence in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York and has discovered that Bucky had been held in suspended animation throughout the Cold War performing assassinations as the Winter Soldier.
Recent events have been tumultuous for Captain America. As the passage of the the Superhuman Registration Act drew near, Maria Hill (the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.) propositioned Rogers and the Avengers to join S.H.I.E.L.D. in enforcing the act. When he refused, Hill had her trained "Superhuman Response Unit" attack him. During the scuffle Rogers avoided being tranquilized and managed to escape by lodging his shield in an aircraft and forcing the pilot to fly him to safety. Soon after, at the Baxter Building the Watcher told the heroes who had gathered there about the Captain's escape. Captain America soon became the de facto leader of the Secret Avengers, heroes fighting against the registration act, much to the consternation of his erstwhile friend Iron Man. While the two made sporadic attempts to reconcile during the Civil War, the clashes between their respective teams became more and more heated, ultimately leading to a pitched battle in the middle of New York City. At the end of the battle, as Cap was about to deliver a finishing blow to Iron Man, he was tackled by several emergency workers. Realizing the damage the war was doing to the city and its civilian population, Captain America unmasked and surrendered as Steve Rogers.
On his way to an arraignment at the Federal Courthouse in New York City, Captain America was shot in the right shoulder by a sniper's bullet. Several subsequent shots were fired point blank at Rogers by Sharon Carter, brainwashed by Dr. Faustus who was allied with the Red Skull. Sharon, unaware of her actions and concealed by the crowd during the shooting, escorted Rogers to the hospital while the Falcon and the Winter Soldier subdued the sniper, Crossbones (Brock Rumlow). Captain America was pronounced dead on arrival at Mercy Hospital. Sharon's memory was restored by a keyword spoken by the Red Skull's daughter, Sin (Sinthia Shmidt).
Oh wait...wrong Steve Rogers. This Steve Rogers was the rock of the Expos rotation, playing his entire 13 year career in Montreal. There you go.
Scott Sanderson (115 ERA+, 37.9 VORP, 14.4 Win Shares) – I actually went over Sanderson already in the '89 Cubs entry. He was actually quite the phenom at this point as he was only 23. Traded to the Cubs in a three team, six player deal after the 1983 season.
Bill Gullickson (119 ERA+, 22.9 VORP, 10.1 Win Shares) – Gullickson was the #2 overall pick in 1977 and this was his rookie year at age 21. Had a losing record in 1981 but did pitch very well although it would pretty much be his peak. Very mediocre for the majority of the rest of his career, he was traded after one of his better years in 1985 to the Reds. They traded him to the Yankees in late 1987 and Gullickson then spent the next two years in Japan. Came back to America in 1990 to pitch for the Astros and then signed with the Tigers where he won an offense aided 20 games in 1991. Played the rest of his career there thru 1994. Ironically enough Gullickson and Sanderson are both #1 on each others career similarity scores.
Bill Lee (72 ERA+, -7.6 VORP, 1 Win Share) – Lee, Charlie Lea, and David Palmer shared the 4th spot in the rotation but I went with Lee since he’s the most recognizable name. The Sapceman’s career was obviously winding down at this point as he had a terrible year. Rebounded a bit in limited duty the following year but as before mentioned was released in 1982.
Relief Ace: Woodie Fryman (159 ERA+, 17.5 VORP, 12.7 Win Shares) – We’re still a little bit away from the closer position taking the role we know it as today as Fryman led the Expos with 17 just saves at age 40. He had actually retired midseason three years earlier while with the Reds but changed his mind after the season. Retired after 1983.