Voros McCracken

I’ve been reading this guy’s stuff based on James’s praise. Hilarious.

The bit on Montreal is funny:

2001: After an entire offseason criticizing, not only the Expo fans for not supporting their team, but also the city of Montreal for being a second rate city, the U.S. press begins using the Expos as their favorite punching bag for all that’s “wrong with the game.” The Expos have a slow start and the whole thing goes downhill from there. Alou is fired and replaced by former player, manager and broadcaster Jeff Torborg. Amidst increasing talk that the team will either be moved or contracted, the Expos start to draw crowds in the 2,000 range on occassion. The owner of the Colorado Rockies, out of the goodness of his own heart, decides he wants to donate some of the Expos revenue to the disaster relief fund in New York by having his team and city host games that were scheduled to be played in Montreal and donate the gate proceeds. When the Expos understandably balk, some of the press blasts them for not wanting to help out such a good cause. A shipment of American flags to be given out at the first games since the terrorist attack is late in arriving to Olympic Stadium and fans don’t receive them when they enter as they had in other parks. The press points out the lack of flags at the game as evidence as to how insensitive the city of Montreal is to the tragedy that has occurred in America. The team goes 68-94, averages 7,935 fans a game, and, just after the season concludes, reports begin to spread that the Expos will be contracted before the start of the 2002 season.

While just summarizing all of the events (and I’m sure I’ve missed or misremembered a grisly detail or two here or there) this nutshells what has occurred over the last eight years. To sum up even more simply: the Expos were a good young team, supported by one of the largest Canadian cities. They had their best season ever snuffed out by a labor dispute, saw the end results of said dispute encourage their owner to sell off any player talent with any sort of a price tag, and got to re-live this little exercise over and over again after every season. The owner of the club badmouths the stadium; the commissioner of the sport badmouths the sport; and both badmouth the town for not buying them a stadium. They endured losing seasons, and when there was hope for winning baseball, it was quickly extinguished by more fire sales. The stadium was, by most accounts, no longer being maintained properly. The best pitcher in the game got traded at the very start of the peak of his career in order to avoid arbitration. Finally, in the last year, Expo fans have seen the unsympathetic American press attack and villify the fans, the city and at times the country of Les Expos…

…and wonder of wonders, the fans have stopped attending Expos games. Who could possibly have guessed that?

One of the things I hear a lot when listening to a struggling team?s fans discuss their club, is ?the only thing we can really do about the club’s terminal incompetence is vote with our dollar. We should stop going to the park, stop buying their merchandise and stop watching the games on TV. If we hit them in their wallet, then they’ll have to take notice and correct their behavior.? A common theory about the Cubs long tradition on ineptitude makes the same argument: ?since the Cubs make money every single year and sell lots of tickets every single year, regardless of how good the team is, management never has any incentive to field a good team.? In other words, the vote with your pocketbook theory contends that if you don?t buy their substandard product, they will be forced to improve it.

It is a theory the many fans of the Montreal Expos have put to the test, and it is a theory that apparently does not hold. If the team puts a substandard product on the field, and you don’t attend, it appears that:
Your devotion as a fan will be questioned,
The adequacy of where you live will be questioned, and
You will lose your team.

Wow… that post was so one-sided I expected to hear an Israeli assassin unloading some ammo and the resultant dull thuds around the corner.

I’ll just throw out a couple o’ points here…

ALL small market teams are poor, and unload their top talent when it gets expensive. They can’t afford to pay the guys. Whatever Jason is trying to imply about Expos management is nonsensical. The ONLY way to excel as a small market team in baseball is by developing a great farm (see Athletics) and/or by very smart management (see Athletics).

Tampa Bay: Poor, shitty, unload expensive talent.
Milwaukee: Poor, shitty, unload expensive talent.
Detroit: Poor, shitty, unload expensive talent.
San Diego: Poor, shitty, unload expensive talent.

Montreal is BETTER in their recent records than all of these teams. Yet they have had worse attendance than any of them. And all of that was BEFORE all of the antics described by Voros.

Remember the Vancouver Grizzlies? You might know them better as the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA. They BECAME the Memphis Grizzlies despite the well wishes and decent (not great) management staff behind them in Vancouver. They became the Memphis Grizzlies due to very low game attendance and low TV revenue. They became the Memphis Grizzlies because the Vancouver Grizzlies are not a Hockey team.

With the exception of the cosmopolitan Toronto (where even THERE its a tough road) Canada is a one-sport country. The whole point of the team leaving Montreal is that attendance will be HIGHER elsewhere, just as (Gasp!) attendance rose for the Grizzlies after Hockey kicked their asses out of Vancouver, despite the unfriendly location of Memphis (Memphis?.. for basketball?).

Um, it’s what Voros is saying about Montreal, not me, and it’s explicit, not implied.

I’d like to point out that I am the guy that jokingly accused Voros of secretly being Aaron Sele when he first premiered DIPS, and that got in Moneyball as a throwaway line. Which makes me a about as big a character in the story of the Athletics success as Mark Mulder or Eric Chavez. A pretty overrated book for content, though it is extremely well written.

And Koontz, Montreal drew very well in the early 1980s. They’ve only stopped drawing(as in “no longer viable market” stopped drawing, not merely “bad teams don’t have high attendance” stopped drawing) somewhat recently. Whether that’s some change in the market or the result of an extremely effective anti-marketing strategy coupled with lack of success on the field is an exercise left up the reader. Baseball’s problems split pretty evenly between “fictional” and “self-created”.

McCullough- I don’t know how much into this sort of thing you are, but besides from Baseball Prospectus making a cottage industry out of making snide comments about baseball management, Doug Pappas has written some really great stuff about the business of baseball. Baseball Primer really once was a great site. Now it’s all Clerks and Return of the Jedi quotes and 1300 post threads about neofascists and communists.

That was you? Small world.

Yeah, Pappas is great; someone turned me on to him a year ago.

Aw bummer.

I saw the title of this topic, and, being sports-apathetic, I assumed this was about some cool unauthorized Zak McCracken sequel from Eastern Europe or something.

Drat.

As for Montreal, I went to an Expos game a couple of years ago. I have to say they have the least “baseballish” stadium in the major leagues. It felt like I was watching a game in a giant warehouse. The atmosphere stunk.
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As a long-time Expos fan (yeah, there are really are such creatures) who has been attending games regularly since the mid-1980s, I can also state that the team’s decline really started after the 1994 season was wrecked. That was pretty much the final straw for fans, who lost all faith that MLB would ever sort itself out enough to allow smaller franchises to really compete. In the 1980s, the team drew exceptionally well. Attendance is creeping up this year as well, as the team is a serious competitor for a playoff spot. Only this idiotic Puero Rico thing – where the team is drawing around 10,000 fans per game, by the way, not exactly a runaway success – and playing a solid month away from home could derail the Expos building back popularity this season.

And I still think that the team would recover if a new stadium were built. Atmosphere means a lot to baseball in general, and atmosphere is huge where Montreal sports are concerned. The CFL Alouettes couldn’t draw flies at the Big Owe, but they became a huge deal when they moved to the more intimate and scenic (not to mention outdoor) McGill Stadium on top of the mountain. Anyhow, the Expos aren’t finished yet. MLB has no idea what to do with this club. There don’t seem to be any serious takers bidding in the US, so I think you’ll see the Expos back in Montreal in 2004 for another final season in a string of final seasons that go back to 1998.

Maybe. Milwaukee spent millions, and we’re still paying the added sales tax two years after completion. Milwaukee is a baseball town, the stadium is awesome, and the result is that tickets are selling worse than they did for County Stadium. Aside from the All-Star Game, Milwaukee gained nothing by spending this money and building this stadium. Detroit has an even sadder story to tell about how a new stadium doesn’t help an ailing team and disloyal/frustrated fans. Now, all that would turn around if the Brewers and Tigers started winning and it would for if the Expos did too.

New Expos Stadium or not.

Umm… I wouldn’t compare the Expos situation to the Grizzlies. A more applicable comparison would be to the Hornets.

As another lifetime Expo fan (you’re not alone Brett…) who now lives in the Washington DC area, I’d love to see them come here though they would likely do so without Vlad.

The Expos weren’t drawing well in the early 1990s. Less than a million in '91, 5th lowest in '92, 2nd lowest in '93. In 1994 they had a great season and a rebound - even outdrawing the Mets - but still low league wide.

But they weren’t alone in this. SD, KC and Detroit also had horrible attendance, and only KC could have been cited as a “team in trouble”. (The Braves drew less than a million in both 88 and 89, FWIW).

Come 1995…well, they STILL brought in more fans than nine other teams. They beat nine more in 1996. They beat only five teams in 1997 but only one NL team (Philadelphia) and the writing seemed to be on the wall. It wasn’t that they were drawing poorly, but that attendance was not recovering from the strike like it was in other cities.

1998 - the collapse. Montreal draws less than a million - down 500K from the year before. 770K in 1999, 920K in 2000, 640K in 2001.

812, 537 last year.

This year they are 120, 000 people higher than they were at this point last year. It’s on track to be a million fan year. Not great, but better. They still only have two Big O games over 25,000.

But Brett is right. Contraction is not a done deal. Promised for 2004, it just ain’t gonna happen. The Arlington is in serious trouble. The downtown DC bid is stymied by the stadium issue in a corrupt city. Does anyone take Portland’s bid seriously? A lawsuit by former minority owners to claim they were screwed by the league looks solid.

I think the Expos will eventually move. Now that the decision has been theoretically made, Montreal’s last chance - a downtown stadium - will never happen. Too bad.

Troy