1974 Montréal Expos
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Managed by Gene Mauch
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Steve Rogers
- Player of the Year: Willie Davis
- Best Rookie: Barry Foote
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Barry Foote (C)
- Players of the month:
- Minor League Player of the Year: Gary Carter, Memphis (AAA)
- Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Joe Keener, West Palm Beach (A) and Memphis (AAA)
The 1974 Montréal Expos were trying to build upon the success of the 1973 team that had surprised everyone by hanging on in the strange National League East pennant race until the dying days of the season. While they had fallen short, they had compiled their best record yet. For the 1974 team, the question was whether the team could repeat its success, or fall back into mediocrity. In fact, it did both: on the one hand, the season was even more successful, since they Expos bettered their year-end record by one half-game, but on the other hand, 1974 was a major disappointment in that after a good start that had the team within a half-game of the lead as late as July 17th, even if its record was only hovering around .500, the team quickly fell out of contention after the All-Star break and fell as far back as 14 games from the lead before a strong month of September put them in fourth place, 8 1/2 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Expos made one blockbuster trade after their run at the pennant in 1973, sending relief pitcher Mike Marshall, who was coming off two outstanding seasons, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for center fielder Willie Davis. Asked to comment the trade, Manager Gene Mauch was quoted as saying: "It's a lot harder to find a good center fielder than a good relief pitcher." This has since become a motto of sabermetricians, but it came back to haunt Mauch when Marshall went on to have one of the most amazing years any relief pitcher had ever had and won the 1974 National League Cy Young Award while leading the Dodgers to the World Series. Willie Davis was not shabby for the Expos, actually, leading the team in most offensive categories with a .295 average, 180 hits, 27 doubles, 9 triples, 86 runs scored and 89 runs batted in, and earning the team's Player of the Year award along the way. The problem was that, overall, the team's offensive performance was disappointing. The main culprits were right fielder Ken Singleton, whose batting average tumbled from .302 to .276, and slugging percentage from .479 to .376, and Ron Fairly who hit only .245 with 12 home runs in 282 at bats.
Yet, the Expos still had a number of productive players at bat, starting with left fielder Bob Bailey, who hit .280 with 20 home runs and 100 bases on balls; first baseman Mike Jorgensen who hit .310 with 70 walks in only 287 at bats; third baseman Ron Hunt, who managed to reach base at a .375 clip in his last season; and rookie catcher Barry Foote, who hit .262 with 11 home runs and 60 runs batted in. The real problem was that the Expos received no production from shortstop Tim Foli, who hit .254 with a slugging percentage below .300, and from their second basemen, Jim Cox, who won the job in spring training but only hit a powerless .200, losing out to Larry Lintz who may have stolen a team-record 50 bases, but only hit .238 with a .276 slugging percentage. On top of that, the team's bench was mind-boggingly awful: first baseman Hal Breeden hit .247 with no power; outfielders Boots Day and Ron Woods put up averages of .185 and .205 respectively, hitting one extra base hit in nearly 200 at bats between them; infielder Pepe Frias hit .214; and catcher Bob Stinson .172.
On the pitching side, second-year player Steve Rogers was hit hard and ended up leading the National League with 22 losses, tied with Bill Bonham of the Chicago Cubs and Randy Jones of the San Diego Padres, and ended the year with a 4.46 ERA. Steve Renko was a little better, but his record was 12-16, 4.03. The slack was picked up by Mike Torrez, who bounced back from a disappointing 1973 season with a record of 15-8, 3.58, and rookie Dennis Blair, who won his first game before his 20th birthday and ended the season with a solid record of 11-7, 3.27, even though his 76 strikeouts against 72 walks in 146 innings were a sign of future trouble. Fifth starter Ernie McAnally did not fare so well, however, posting a 6-13 mark with a 4.47 ERA.
Replacing Mike Marshall in the bullpen proved to be a bigger challenge than anticipated, but a solid group effort turned that area into a definite strength. Marshall's understudy over the previous two years, Tom Walker, was unable to assume greater responsibility and eventually moved to the starting rotation, leaving things to veteran Chuck Taylor, picked up from the scrap-heap the previous year, who had an excellent ERA of 2.17 and saved 11 games. Rookies John Montague and Don DeMola contributed with ERAs of 3.14 and 3.10 respectively, while long-man Don Carrithers had a 3.00 ERA in 60 innings. But the bullpen really jelled when rookie Dale Murray, called-up in early July, started pitching lights out in September: he saved 10 games over the team's last 23, and had a minuscule 1.03 ERA in 70 innings. Curiously, the team had to make do without a lefthander all year, since the only southpaws who got to pitch, Balor Moore and Terry Enyart, combined for 15 1/3 innings, during which they managed to walk 19 batters.
The one major reason for optimism, however, was that the Expos had a great month of September, winning 18 of their last 23 games, while using a slew of youngsters called up from the minor leagues, primarily Gary Carter, Warren Cromartie, Pepe Mangual, Larry Parrish, Tony Scott and Jerry White. These were the players the Expos would want to build on for the future.
- Gregory H. Wolf: "Expos Blow Up Big Red Machine; June 11, 1974: Montreal Expos 16, Cincinnati Reds 6 At Jarry Park", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 23-24. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6