With each passing baseball season, the opportunity to discuss former Montreal Expos players on their way to the post-season is disappearing. While the Expos never reached the World Series during their time in Montreal, and their lone playoff appearance ended with one swing of the bat in 1981 on “Blue Monday”, several players have gone on to post-season success. This year, one of Montreal’s most popular players, Vladimir Guerrero, is hoping to add World Series champion to his lengthy list of accomplishments.
Signed by the Expos as a free agent amateur in 1993, Guerrero made his MLB debut in 1996 and became a regular in the Montreal lineup the following season. He would go on to play eight seasons with the Expos, thrilling fans with his stellar defence and unconventional swing at the plate. Guerrero never saw a pitch he did not like, often swinging at pitches clearly out of the strike zone, but his tremendous hand-eye coordination translated into great success at the plate; four of his nine all-star appearances came while wearing an Expos uniform.
During his time in Montreal, he played in 1,004 games before moving on to the Angels as a free agent. His numbers with the Expos were impressive: 1,215 hits, 226 doubles, 234 home runs, 702 runs batted in (RBI), and 123 stolen bases. Unfortunately, his on-field success and the disastrous state of Montreal’s finances, made Guerrero too expensive and he joined the growing list of Expos stars forced to leave the Expos.
It was with the Los Angeles Angels that Guerrero’s star truly began to shine. The rest of the baseball world witnessed what Montreal fans knew all along - Vlad Guerrero was a star! In his first season with the Angels, he was named the 2004 American League MVP, leading the Angels to their first division championship since 1986. Unfortunately, for Guerrero and the Angels, they were swept aside by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs as Boston marched towards their first World Series title in 86 years. In six seasons with the Angels, Guerrero played in 846 games, collecting 1,034 hits, 173 home runs and 616 RBI’s. Injuries began to slow down the former Expos speedster, limiting him to 52 stolen bases.
Without a contract heading into this season, many analysts wondered if Guerrero’s best days were behind him. He eventually signed a one-year contract (plus an option for 2011) with the Texas Rangers and the change of address appears to have rejuvenated his career. After seeing limited action in 2009, a healthy Guerrero played in 152 games this season and re-discovered his powerful swing - hitting 29 home runs and driving in 115 runs.
While Texas may be miles away from Montreal and Guerrero left the Expos at the end of the 2003 season, but he is fondly remembered for his aggressive play and wild swings at the plate by baseball fans in the region. As time goes by, we are slowly running out of “former Expos” to cheer for in the MLB. Perhaps this is the year that Vlad Guerrero can add a World Series title to his list of accomplishments - he has certainly earned it.