Today, August 12th 1994, marks the 20th anniversary of the famous 1994 Major League Baseball (MLB) strike. When the strike started, the Montreal Expos were 74-40 when the strike started, and were the best team in the National League, including a six game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
The Expos were in contention to not only make it to the playoffs for only the second time in their history, but were seriously considered to be potentially World Series winners. As the Toronto Blue Jays had won the 1992 and 1993 World Series, there was the possibility that the World Series would be won by a Canadian team three years in a row.
When the strike came on August 12th, 1994 when negotiations broke down between MLB and the players’ union over a possible salary cap.
The Expos were having a great season when the strike started. They were off to their best start in many years, had scored 585 runs, while giving up only 454 runs. The pitching staff had a 3.56 ERA, 46 saves, and only 288 walks – all three stats were the best in the majors.
Ken Hill was on pace to win 23 games, Pedro Martinez was on pace to stikeout 200 batters, and Larry Walker was looking to break the 100 RBI mark. Marquis Grissom was looking at scoring roughly 137 runs. When the All-Star game was played, the Expos were represented by five players: Moisés Alou (Outfield), Wil Cordero (Shortstop), Darren Fletcher (Catcher), Marquis Grissom (Outfield), and Ken Hill (Pitcher.)
The 1994 Expos were averaging over 24,543 fans per home game, and had seen a total of 1,276,250 fans attend their 52 home games. Had the season continued, the Expos were on pace to reach 1,987,983 in attendance.
In the 23 games prior to the strike, the Expos had won 20 of those games.
The strike started a downward spiral for which the Expos never recovered. The Expos lost the players to free agency, including: Larry Walker (signed with the Colorado Rockies), Moisés Alou (signed with Florida Marlins), and Darren Fletcher (signed with the Toronto Blue Jays).
Other players would be traded away, including: Marquis Grissom (to the Atlanta Braves), Wil Cordero (to the Boston Red Sox), John Wetteland (to the New York Yankees), Mike Lansing (to the Rockies), Cliff Floyd (to the Marlins), Ken Hill (to the Cleveland Indians), and Pedro Martinez (to the Red Sox).
Ken Hill, who was traded just before the start of the 1995 season, would win the World Series with the Indians later in the year.
A sinking dollar, and the loss of revenues from the possible postseason action hurt the team, as did the failure to build a new stadium in Montreal.
Major League Baseball took over ownership of the team in early 2002. They would play in Montreal until the end of the 2004 season when they were moved to Washington D.C. and eventually purchased by Lerner Enterprises.
If only the strike had never occurred in 1994, and there is a possibility that the Expos may still be playing in Montreal.