There used to be a team in Montreal. Games were peppered with French announcers and the promise of poutine awaited those who made the trek north to Olympic Stadium to watch the team with the goofy logo that was an “e” and a “b” but also an “m” at the same time.
In 1994 they were the best team in baseball behind some of the best young players in the game. Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Cliff Floyd, Wil Cordero, Rondell White, Pedro Martinez, Jeff Fassero, Butch Henry, Kirk Reuter, Jeff Wetteland, and Mel Rojas.
The problem was the looming negotiations that had started with the owners in 1992 and were coming to a head in the summer of 1994. The Expos were a team prepared to go to the World Series and may very well have faced the Yankees and Don Mattingly. With a better lineup of starters and middle relievers, it would have been short work for the Expos to dispatch the Yankees and start a dominance for the next generation of baseball players.
It would all come together. A new stadium in Montreal. More money to sign players and Montreal could become a large market team. It would be… “Tres magnifique” as they would say.
In the midst of negotiations, two days before the due date for a strike, one owner spoke out against the salary cap, starting a break in the owners collective bargaining and ensuring that complications would arise and force the owners to reevaluate as they flirt with the deadline Bud Selig set for canceling the season of September 9. That owner was George Steinbrenner.
Negotiations fell apart as the owners couldn’t agree with the players and the season was canceled, saving the Yankees and Steinbrenner from being humiliated by the team from the Great White North.
In 1995, the Expos were not the same as players had been traded away or left in free agency. The Yankees on the other hand were building an empire. They picked up John Wetteland as a closer from the Expos and introduced a young Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Petite, and Jorge Posada (each of the 4 making $109,000).
Over the course of the next 10 years the Expos would finish their journey to becoming the Washington Nationals and the Yankees would win the World Series 4 times.
Steinbrenner played it perfectly.