Well for the second year in a row the young upstart Expos were right in the thick of it as the NL East race went right down to the wire. In the end the young ‘Spos lost to the experienced veteran team (Phillies), but there was so much promise here with only 2 starters over the age of 30. Most of the season hinged on the physical ailments of star rightfielder Ellis Valentine. On May 30th he he was hit by a pitch that fractured his cheekbone in 6 places. This kept him out of action for over a month and when he returned he was forced to wear a NFL style face mask on his helmet. While his average was still over .300 and his fielding still gold glove caliber, his power was gone. Players just don’t recover well from these types of incidents. This was a 5 tool star who along with Andre Dawson, and soon to be called up Tim Raines, would have made up one of the best outfields in the history of the game. Valentine’s injuries also caught up to him in September, when he again was out of the lineup for various reasons during the home stretch.
I hate to sound like I’m blaming one guy for this team not winning 2 more games and the flag, but I think he was just that important to their success. I think another piece to the puzzle that was overlooked was the absence of Tony Perez’ steady veteran clubhouse leadership. “Doggie signed with the Bosox as a free agent and hit 25 homers and knocked in over 100 runs. Put him back in this lineup and the team more than likely overcomes the Valentine injury. For all intents and purposes they replace Perez with speedy Ron LeFlore in left, as Warren Cromartie was shuffled over to first. LeFlore swiped 97 bases, but hit just .257 and played what most would call “uninspired defense”. The team stole over 200 bases with LeFlore, Rodney Scott and Dawson all eclipsing the 30 mark. Bench guys like Rowland Office, Jerry White and Ken Macha did a great job in their roles.
The pitching once again revolved around Steve Rogers (16-11, 2.98). Night after night this team just failed to score for the guy. In a perfect world he would have been the #2 starter and the Expos would have brought in a bonfires #1 guy, but that was just not the Expo way. Bill “Spaceman” Lee (4-6, 4.96) lack of production really hurt this staff. Lee was counted on to be the #2 guy and he just didn’t have it anymore. Sanderson, Gullickson and Palmer were still young an learning, but showed great promised. The complete bottoming out of Ross Grimsley (2-4, 6.31), who won 20 just 2 years earlier was inexplicable. The pen was solid, but not spectacular. Dick WIlliams needed just 2 more wins. Heck, if he equaled his record from the previous season (95 wins) he would have won handily. Baseball is so fickle, isn’t it ?
20 new cards were created
No airbrush jobs needed here. Some nice photos including the Steve Ratzer hard to find photo. I think I did a goofy airbrush job for him the year before. It’s nice to see a lot of these shots featuring their home white uniforms, as opposed to the road blues that was typical of the era since Topps shot most of their shots at Shea or Yankee stadium. The Willie Montanez shot looks like it was taken in Wrigley. I remember how much of a hot dog he was when he played for the Mets, even though he had declining skills. Love Bobby Ramos’ game face, not that he got into too many of them with Kid Carter playing ahead of him !