How many more kicks in the teeth do Montreal baseball fans have to endure?
The Expos are long gone, stolen from the city six years ago by an unscrupulous commissioner who let a pair of New York carpetbaggers do his dirty work. The genesis of their demise can be traced to the 1970s, when separarist politics chased a substantial portion of the Expos' fan base out of town, followed by an era of cheapskate ownership drafting and developing talented players and then unloading them to save on salaries when they came of age. A perennial also-ran playing their games well-removed from the city center in a de facto mausoleum with a fixed roof that might or might not partially collapse at any given moment didn't help matters, either.
But the myriad reasons behind the Expos' demise are not the insult that was added to injury yesterday. The latest indignity came courtesy of one of the franchise's greatest players, Andre Dawson, who expressed his disappointment that he'll be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Expo. The Hawk wanted to go in as a Chicago Cub, but the Hall has the final say on such matters, and the keepers of the shrine decided that the impact of Dawson's 10-plus seasons in Montreal outweighed his six seasons in Chicago, where he won the National League MVP Award in 1987.
Dawson has a right to his preference and he certainly had a stronger case to be inducted as a Cub than Gary Carter did to be enshrined as a Met - a request the Hall denied on the basis of Carter's decade-long run in Montreal versus a little more than four seasons in New York. But for Dawson to say publicly that he would have taken greater pride in going in as a Cub is nothing short of insulting to the fans who embraced and supported him while he developed the superstar credentials that he carried into Chicago. It was probably meant more as a compliment to Chicago than it was an intended slight to Montreal, but at this end, it stings.
Andre Dawson is the closest thing the Expos ever had to Jean Beliveau - ability, class and elegance embodied in a professional athlete who knew how to carry himself with equal parts confidence and humility. He's got six months to work on his induction speech and use those character strengths to deliver a message that makes it right with Expos fans. Failing that, the Dawson Hall of Fame saga is just further proof that major league baseball deserved Montreal a lot less than Montreal deserved major league baseball.