Tag Archives: Montreal Expos

Cole Irvin named as Lehigh Valley IronPigs POY

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The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have been the Triple-A minor league affiliates of the Philadelphia Phillies since the 2007 season. But the franchise has a long and winding history.
Founded in 1993 as the Ottawa Lynx in Canada, they were an affiliate of the old Montreal Expos for their first decade of existence. The Baltimore Orioles then took control of the club through 2006.
Then in 2007, having grown unhappy with the ownership of their Triple-A affiliates at the time, the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons, the Phillies entered into an agreement with the Lynx to become their new highest-level minor league affiliate.
With the opening of Coca-Cola Park for the 2008 season, the Phillies relocated that former Lynx franchise to the new Allentown, Pennsylvania facility and changed the team’s identity. The name “IronPigs” is drawn from ‘pig iron‘, or crude iron, which is manufactured in the area.
Allentown, PA is approximately 70 miles north of the Philadelphia area. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to make the drive, with most using I-476.
The IronPigs captured the North Division crown with an 84-56 record that was the best in the entire International League this season. However, first-year manager Gary Jones and the Pigs were bounced out in the playoff semi-finals by Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Now an affiliate of the New York Yankees, Scranton took the first two games in the best-of-five series by 3-2 and 3-0 scores. Lehigh Valley got back into the series with a 3-2 victory in Game Three, but then Scranton closed it out with a big 7-2 rout in Game Four.
This year’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year is pitcher Cole Irvin. The 6-4, 180lb left-hander will turn 25-years-old just prior to the opening of 2019 spring training. He was the Phillies fifth round pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon.
Irvin went 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.054 WHIP this season for the IronPigs. He allowed 135 hits over 161.1 innings across 26 appearances, 25 of those as starts, with a 131/35 K:BB ratio.

For his outstanding season, Irvin was selected as the International League Pitcher of the Year and made the start in this year’s Triple-A All-Star Game. He was also named to Baseball America’s all-star team.
His contributions were not only relegated to the field. For the second straight year, Irvin was recognized as one of the Phillies minor league community service award recipients.
Lehigh Valley pitching coach David Lundquist was quoted on the southpaw’s success this season by Joe Bloss for MLB.com back in mid-July:
“[Irvin has] been very consistent commanding the fastball and with the secondary pitches. Change has been a plus weapon. It’s a pitch he can throw anytime. The curveball’s been good and we tightened up the slider.”
Back in early August we released our Phillies Nation Top 20 Phillies Prospects rankings and placed Irvin at #12 on our list. He is currently ranked #10 on the MLB.com Phillies top prospects list.
They grade his classic four-pitch starter’s mix of fastball-slider-curve-change mix each at a 50 grade, with 55-grade control. In their scouting report, the MLB evaluators see him as having back-end starting pitcher potential:

“Irvin has already shown some mastery of pitch sequencing and making adjustments, something the Phillies expect to see after he fell victim to the long ball in the hitting-friendly confines of Reading last year. He could impact the big league rotation as a No. 4 or 5 starter at some point in the near future.”

Irvin may not have ace potential, but the combination of his age, experience level, success, and left-handedness mean that he will certainly get a shot with the big club at spring training in Clearwater. His ability to get big-league hitters out will ultimately determine where he pitches next season.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year: Cole Irvin

Jayson Werth Has Been Worth the Nationals Investment

The Washington Nationals finished at the bottom of the NL East standings in the 2010 season. It was a familiar finish for the former Montreal Expos franchise. 
The team had ended the season in last place in four of the previous five years since relocating south to the U.S. capital city.
That 2010 campaign wrapped up the third season for the team at Nationals Park, and team management was looking to turn around the fortunes of the franchise.
During the off-season, GM Mike Rizzo looked over his youthful roster and believed that he saw things about to change.
Players like Ryan ZimmermanIan DesmondStephen StrasburgJordan Zimmermann, and Danny Espinosa were beginning to emerge. In June, the club picked at the top of the MLB Amateur Draft, selecting mega-hyped teenager Bryce Harper.
Rizzo saw the beginnings of better days ahead in the near future. But he wanted a veteran, proven, run-producing bat to help the club take the next step.
Just in time, star right fielder Jayson Werth of the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies was becoming a free agent.

WERTH JOINS THE NATIONALS

Rizzo stepped up, signing Werth to a huge seven-year, $126 million contract with a no-trade clause.
David Aldridge for WJLA ABC-7 in Washington quoted Rizzo at the time:
“We have a good plan in place, constructed by people — myself and my front office staff — that have done it in the past and we’re confident we’re going to do in the future. We’re not asking the fans of Washington, D.C., to wait two and three more years. We’re saying ‘look at what we’re doing here. Look at where we’ll be in 2011. Look where we’re at in ’12. Because we’re ready to turn the corner, now.’”
It all worked out to near perfection. In the first year of Werth’s deal the Nationals nearly finished .500 with an 80-81 mark. It was good enough for third place in the division, though still a distant 21.5 games behind the Phillies, who captured their fifth consecutive NL East crown.
However, in 2012 the club called up Harper in late April, and things began to completely turn around.
I remember a moment of personal clarification as well. On Saturday, May 5 of that 2012 season, my wife Debbie and I attended our first-ever game at Nationals Park.
On that afternoon, the slow-starting Phillies were 13-15, and uncharacteristically struggling in last place. The Nats meanwhile were humming along at the top of the division with an 18-9 mark.
The Phillies, along with myself and thousands more Phillies fans who had made the trip for that afternoon contest, were hoping this game would help turn things around.
The Phils grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the 4th inning behind Vance Worley. That lead would hold into the bottom of the 5th inning. Half the game was over, and we were having a rollicking time at the Nationals packed home field, much to the chagrin of most in the packed house.
And then it happened with suddenness. The Nationals had two on and two out in the home 5th when Werth, the former Phillies 2008 World Series hero, stepped to the plate.
Back in the first inning, Worley had struck the nearly 33-year old Werth out. But this time, on a 1-0 offering, Werth crushed a lightening bolt blast way out over the left field stands. The home crowd roared as we Phils’ fans sat incredulous, watching our former hero round the bases.
The Nationals had a 3-1 lead en route to what would be a 7-1 demolition. It was a long ride back up I-95 to Philadelphia. It would prove an even longer season. The Nationals stormed to their first NL East crown, dethroning the Phillies, who struggled to a .500 finish.

THE NL EAST FINALLY FLIPS

That was the turning point. Since 2012, the Phillies have collapsed to the bottom of the division, embarking on a rebuilding program that has seen all of Werth’s fellow 2008 champions eventually move along.
For Werth and the Nationals, it was the beginning of everything that Rizzo had foreseen when making the investment after that 2010 season. The Nats have finished first or second each season since, winning the NL East three times.
However, for all the success that the club has experienced, much still eludes them. Washington has fallen short in each of their three playoff series.
They dropped the 2012 NLDS to the Saint Louis Cardinals in five games after capturing the opener. In the 2014 NLDS, the San Francisco Giants took the Nationals out in four games.
Last year, in the 2016 NLDS, the Nationals had a 2-1 lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers. But LA gutted out a pair of one-run victories to once again send Washington home disappointed.

A LAST HURRAH

Now the relationship between the Nationals and Werth is coming to an end. In the final year of that big free agent deal, Werth will turn 38 years old in late May. Three of the top prospects in the organization, including exciting #1 prospect Victor Robles, are outfielders.
The writing is on the wall. This looks like one last go-around, a final season in Washington for Werth. One last shot to reach the ultimate goal of a World Series championship, nearly a decade after capturing one in Philly.
Over his first six seasons in D.C., Werth has put up average numbers. A slash line of .267/.358/.436 with 99 homers, 364 RBI, 415 runs scored, 51 stolen bases. There have been no NL All-Star appearances, no Gold Gloves, no Silver Sluggers.
But to say the signing has been disappointing would be a mistake. The Nationals are very happy with the overall results. They wanted a proven winner who would help them become a contender themselves. That has happened.
Now, in this final season with the Washington Nationals, the team remains a top contender. If Werth can help the Nationals finally reach that mountaintop and win a title, it will all have been more than worth it to all involved.

Nationals / Expos All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Washington Nationals emerged for the 2005 season after the relocation of the original Montreal Expos franchise.
Major League Baseball expanded by four teams and split into a divisional format beginning in 1969. 
The Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) went to the American League. The Expos and San Diego Padres were  assigned to the National League.
The Montreal team was named after the successful World’s Fair “Expo 67” held there in 1967 during the Canadian Centennial celebration.
After a decade of losing, a young core of players emerged in the late 1970’s to turn the team into a contender for the first time. Then from 1979-94 the Expos were consistent winners.
There were 11 winning Expos campaigns and another two .500 seasons during that 16 year stretch. However, Montreal reached the MLB postseason only one time in its history.

EXPOS REACH THE POSTSEASON

A strike in 1981 caused Major League Baseball to split the season into two halves. The teams who finished in first place in each half would then advance to a best-of-five “League Division Series”, a first for baseball.
The defending champion Philadelphia Phillies won the first half, and the Expos won the second half. Montreal then upended the Phils in a dramatic five-game NLDS to move within a step of the franchise’ first World Series.
In the best-of-five NLCS, the Expos took a two games to one lead. The Dodgers tied it up, and the two clubs moved to a decisive Game Five. On a two-out home run by Rick Monday in the top of the 9th, the Dodgers won 2-1 to advance to the World Series.

THE STRIKE OF 1994

In 1993, the Expos re-emerged as a division power. However, the Phillies put together a magical worst-to-first season, holding Montreal off by three games to win the NL East crown.
The following year, the Expos entered the season as favorites, not only in the division, but also to win the World Series.
Montreal won 20 of 22 games beginning on July 18 to take the division lead. With a 74-40 record, the Expos led the Atlanta Braves by six games.
And then it all suddenly ended, not in defeat, but with the longest work stoppage in the history of Major League Baseball. A player strike began on August 12 and would last into the following year, cancelling the rest of the season, including the postseason.

GOODBYE, CANADA

The Expos franchise would never recover. They dropped to 5th place in 1995, recovered to win 88 games and finish in 2nd place in 1996, but then plummeted to five straight losing seasons.
An inability to get funding for a new ballpark led to rumors of a move constantly swirling, and then to MLB purchasing the club in 2002. Those relocation nightmares actually became a reality for Montreal baseball fans when the move to Washington was announced.
In their final year north of the border the club finished a dismal 67-95 and in last place. The first season in D.C. resulted in a .500 finish, but the losing continued with six straight seasons below the .500 mark.
Finally, the new Washington Nationals began to contend with a 98-64 record in 2012, winning the first division title in franchise history.
With a new group of young stars, the Nationals have now become perennial contenders in the National League. The 2016 season resulted in their third NL East crown in the last five years.
One thing continues to elude the franchise in Washington. The club remains one of eight current Major League Baseball teams to never have even reached the World Series.

NOT MAKING THE CUT

Selecting a 25-Man roster for the franchise was a difficult proposition. They have had an abundance of strong, interesting outfielders and first basemen in their history.
Aside from their obvious Hall of Famer, selecting a backup catcher was a tough chore. There are a handful of decent options.
There were a number of players who you won’t find, but who contributed mightily to the history of the organization.
Included among these are shortstops Chris SpeierOrlando Cabrera and Tim Foli. Catchers Brian Schneider and Darrin Fletcher are not selected.
Outfielders Warren CromartieRondell White, and Jayson Werth fell short. So did infielders Larry Parrish and Andres Galarraga. I opted for versatility and projection in the infield.
Since I forced myself to carry at least two relievers, getting down to the 7th-9th best starting pitchers leads to difficult decisions. That was again the situation here.
On the mound, not making the cut were arms such as Steve RenkoBill StonemanBill GullicksonScott SandersonCharlie LeaJeff FasseroChad CorderoUgueth Urbina, and John Wetteland.
So who did make the cut? The Nationals / Expos All-Time 25-Man Roster includes 11 pitchers (two true relievers), two catchers, six infielders, and six outfielders.

Tim Raines Deserves Hall of Fame

Voting for the next class of inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame will take place over the next couple of months.
One of the leading contenders for enshrinement in 2017 will be former Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines. One of baseball’s biggest stars during the 1980s, Raines is in his final year of eligibility to be considered by the regular voters.
When you examine Raines’ career, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine why he is not already enshrined at Cooperstown.

RAINES CALLED SIX CITIES HOME

Raines played in parts of 23 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1979 through 2002. He became a starter for the first time in 1981. Raines played with the Expos through the 1990 season after which he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
He then played with the ChiSox through 1995 after which he was dealt to the New York Yankees. Raines would win the World Series with the Yanks in both 1996 and 1998.
Raines would hang on for a few more seasons, making stops with the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, and Florida Marlins.
He also made a brief return to Montreal in 2001, and finally retired after playing in 98 games at age 42 during the 2002 season in Florida.

A TOP PLAYER OF THE 1980’S

Raines led Major League Baseball in stolen bases every year from 1981 through 1984. He swiped 70 or more bags in every one of those seasons, and then on through the 1986 campaign.
He led all of baseball in runs scored in both 1983 and 1987, and scored 90 or more runs on eight occasions.
Raines led the National League in doubles in 1984, and won an NL batting title in 1986 when he also led the league in on-base percentage.
The 1981 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, he won the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year honors that season.

Raines was an NL All-Star each year from 1981-87. He received NL MVP votes seven times, finishing 5th in the voting for the 1983 season.
He won a Silver Slugger Award in 1986, and was the Most Valuable Player of the 1987 MLB All-Star Game.

RAINES AMONG ALL-TIME EXPOS

The Montreal Expos became an expansion team in the National League for the 1969 season, the first franchise outside of the United States. The club existed north of the border through the 2004 campaign after which the team was relocated to Washington, becoming today’s Nationals.
Raines is second in all-time career WAR in Expos/Nationals franchise history. Hall of Famer Gary Carter leads that category, just ahead of Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. In 2013, Raines was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
He is the Expos’ all-time career leader in runs, singles, triples, walks, stolen bases, and runs created. Raines holds the club single-season records for plate appearances and runs. He shares the single-season triples record.
The trio of Raines, Carter, and Dawson played together from 1981 through the 1984 season. In 1981 they led the Expos to their only postseason appearance. That year, Montreal defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in a dramatic five games in the first-ever NLDS. They were eliminated in a tough five-game NLCS by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

SOME RAINES STATISTICAL HIGHLIGHTS

A speed player, Raines’ final career numbers reveal 808 stolen bases and a career .294/.385/.425 slash line with 1,571 runs scored, 430 doubles, and 113 triples.
Per the Daily Ace Report (subscribe here), Raines had four seasons in which he produced 70+ steals and 50+ extra-base hits, more than any player in baseball history.
In 1983 he became the first player in the 20th century and one of only three all-time to record a 90+ steals and 50+ extra-base hits season.
He has a career 69.1 WAR figure, ranking as the 108th highest player of all-time. He is 73rd all-time among position players.

POST-PLAYING CAREER AND CONTROVERSY

Raines served as a minor league manager and a big league coach after retiring. He was the White Sox first base coach when the club won the 2005 World Series.
The lone controversy in Raines’ career involves his use of cocaine during the 1980s. That was the recreational drug of choice for many players in those days.
Raines was one of many players to testify in the Pittsburgh drug trials of 1985. The trials were a catalyst for a major MLB drug scandal at that time that included other high-profile players including Keith HernandezDave Parker, and Vida Blue.

RAINES AND THE HALL OF FAME

Raines was first eligible for the Hall of Fame voting in 2008 when he received just 24.3 percent of the vote. His case has been taken up by sabermetricians in recent years, and his vote share has steadily risen.
Last year, Raines finished fourth in the voting for Hall of Fame induction behind the two men who were ultimately enshrined, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, and former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell.
Raines received 69.8 percent of the voter support. This was just a bit short of the 75 percent required for enshrinement. He is considered a favorite this time along with Bagwell, who received 71.6 percent. One of the game’s great closers, Trevor Hoffman, who received 67.3 percent of last year’s vote, is also a favorite this time around.
Tim Raines was a difference-making player for the entirety of the 1980s. He is on the Montreal Expos’ symbolic “Mount Rushmore” as an all-time player. In my opinion, it is time for the voters to honor him with a bust in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Eight Teams That Have Never Won the World Series

The World Series, the official championship of Major League Baseball, is being conducted now for the 112th time, and there are eight current organizations that have never won.

As the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians battle for the 2016 World Series crown, much has been made of the fact the neither organization has won the championship of Major League Baseball in a very long time.
The Indians last won the World Series way back in 1948, just a couple of years after the end of World War II and prior to the dawn of the age of television.
The Cubs have not won since 1908, and have for more than half a century been living under the infamous “Curse of the Billy Goat” and in the shadow of Steve Bartman.
With the Cubs’ victory in Wednesday’s Game 2, the 2016 World Series is now even at a game apiece. At some point in the next week, one of these two teams is going to end their long drought, and there will be much joy and celebrating.
Meanwhile, the losing team and their fans will remain frustrated. They will remain without having won a championship for generations.
But as long as it has been for those two organizations, there are clubs and fan bases out there who are just as frustrated.

In fact, there are teams whose fan bases have never been able to celebrate a World Series title at all.

Let’s take a look at the eight Major League Baseball franchises who have still not won a World Series, and see how close each has come in their history.