Off Base: Bring baseball back to Montreal!

It was not a happy ending when the Expos closed out their tenure in Montreal in 2004. AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz

As amazing as it might seem to the national media, there actually are many baseball fans who don't live and die over whether the Washington Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg. Or whether Bryce Harper emerges from his slump in time to win the Rookie of the Year award.

Oh, many of these fans wish the Nationals well in their quest to bring a World Series to Washington for the first time in nearly eight decades. They just wish they had their old team back in Montreal, which never enjoyed the pleasure of playing any World Series there, ever.

"I'm heartbroken," said John Cuccioletta, a retired Montreal-area school teacher who estimates he attended 50-to-60 Expos games a season. "People talk to me about the Expos and I still have a really sore spot. I get really sentimental. I mean, it's just a sport -- what does that have do to do with life? But it was a great entertainment; and for me, it was a pastime. Like baseball is in the United States. It's the North American pastime."

Eight years have passed since the Expos officially left Montreal, but you could hear the moving vans start their engines longer ago than that. First, Jeffrey Loria took over the team and ran it into the ground, marketing the Expos so poorly that for a while, he didn't even offer English-language radio broadcasts. Then the league short-listed the Expos for contraction. Then MLB took over the team and scheduled the Expos to play home games in Puerto Rico. Which, oddly enough, did not help ticket sales in Montreal.

"It was like they were saying, 'We're going to kill this franchise so it dies and then we can move it someplace else,'" Cuccioletta said.

• Click here to read Jim Caple's Off Base column in its entirety