1975 Montréal Expos
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Managed by Gene Mauch
- All-Star: Gary Carter
- Player of the Year: Gary Carter
- Best Rookie: Gary Carter
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Gary Carter (C) and Larry Parrish (3B)
- Players of the month:
- Minor League Player of the Year: Ellis Valentine Memphis (AAA)
- Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Larry Landreth Quebec (AA)
The 1975 Montreal Expos are probably one of the few teams in Major League Baseball history to launch their season by writing a manifesto. On the inside front cover of the team's Media Guide, it begins: "The Expos go into their seventh National League season with a new style, featuring pitching, speed and defense. This is Phase Two for the Expos..." In a way, this was culturally appropriate for a team from Montreal, since most observers trace the birth of Quebec's transition to a modern society to the manifesto issued in 1948 by a group of artists which they entitled Refus global (Wholesale refusal). In a baseball context, however, it was taken as tremendously pretentious, and as the team regressed notably during the season, it became a common subject of jokes among columnists.
The so-called Phase Two was based on a sound idea in principle: the Expos had gone as far as they could by playing veterans and making relatively few trades, and it was now time to start playing the kids coming out of the team's farm system, while filling the gaps with players acquired through trades. There were in fact a number of gems in the minor leagues, and the team's torrid streak to end the 1974 season proved that these players could actually win ball games at the Major League level. The problem was that management seemed to lose its ability to judge veteran talent overnight - and the Expos had some, having finished four and three games below .500 over the previous two years - and by focusing exclusively on pitching, speed and defense, they neglected other components such as power and the ability to get on base.
General Manager Jim Fanning was extremely active at the 1974 Winter Meetings and engineered a series of trades that completely reshaped the team: 1974's Player of the Year, center fielder Willie Davis, was sent to the Texas Rangers for young second baseman Pete Mackanin and pitcher Don Stanhouse; first baseman Ron Fairly, who had been a productive but underrated part of the team since its inaugural season in 1969, was dispatched to the St. Louis Cardinals for two minor leaguers of very dubious ability, Ed Kurpiel and Rudy Kinard; catcher Terry Humphrey and pitcher Tom Walker went to the Detroit Tigers for veteran lefthander Woodie Fryman; and in one of the worst trades in Major League history, right fielder Ken Singleton and pitcher Mike Torrez were traded to the Baltimore Orioles for veteran lefthander Dave McNally, outfielder Rich Coggins and minor league pitcher Bill Kirkpatrick. Of the players sent to the Orioles, Torrez won 20 games and Singleton became their best offensive player and remained a star for the next ten years. For his part, McNally refused to sign a new contract with the Expos, and suddenly retired on June 14th to concentrate on his joint challenge to the reserve clause with Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Coggins was afflicted by a thyroid gland problem and played all of 13 games for the Expos; and Kirkpatrick never threw a pitch in the majors.
In any case, when the Expos took the field on opening day on April 7th in St. Louis , their starting line-up was completely revamped, with rookies Tony Scott in left field, Gary Carter in right field and Larry Parrish at third base; second-year players Pepe Mangual in center field and Barry Foote at catcher; and the newly-acquired Mackanin at second base and McNally on the mound. The Expos won that game, 8-4, but they would encounter growing pains along the way. They finished tied for fifth place with the Chicago Cubs, 17 1/2 games behind the division-winning Pittsburgh Pirates. Of all the new acquisitions, only Fryman would prove to be productive, finishing the year with a record of 9-12, 3.32, with 7 complete games and 3 shutouts. Mackanin hit only .225 with 31 walks in 448 at bats, although he did set a team record for home runs for a second baseman with 12, which lasted - unbelievably - until 1997! McNally was 3-6, 5.26, when he called it quits. Stanhouse only pitched four games with an 8.31 ERA, and Coggins was a complete bust, as mentioned earlier.
Luckily, the Expos did have some real talent coming on line from their farm system. First was right fielder/catcher Gary Carter who was the team's Player of the Year, made the All-Star team, and finished second to the San Francisco Giants' John Montefusco in the Rookie of the Year Award vote: he launched his Hall of Fame career by hitting .270 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs in 144 games. His fellow rookie, third baseman Larry Parrish made the jump from AA to hit .274 with 65 runs batted in, and, in his first full season, center fielder Pepe Mangual hit only .245 but drew 74 walks and stole 33 bases while scoring 84 runs. Of the other opening-day youngsters, left fielder Tony Scott only hit .182 and catcher Barry Foote suffered through a tough sophomore season, hitting .194 with 7 home runs. Shortstop Tim Foli, one of the few holdovers, hit his customary awful .238 with no power, but first baseman Mike Jorgensen had a solid year, with a .261 average, 18 home runs, 67 runs batted in and 79 walks. Three young veterans also made unexpected contributions, outfielders Larry Biittner and Jim Dwyer, who hit .315 and .286 respectively, and pinch hitter José Morales who hit .301. And in his final season as an Expo, veteran Bob Bailey hit .273 in 106 games, with a .392 on base percentage, even if his power was just about gone.
On the mound, the Expos had to scramble to hold their starting rotation together, given McNally's defection, coupled with young Dennis Blair's inability to throw strikes (he finished 8-15, 3.81, while walking 106 and striking out 82 in 163 innings) and Steve Renko's descent into mediocrity (6-12, 4.08). Steve Rogers bounced back from a tough season to post a solid 3.29 ERA even if his record was only 11-12, while rookie lefthander Dan Warthen came out of nowhere to contribute an excellent 8-6, 3.11, record with 128 strikeouts in 167 innings.
The bullpen continued to be solid however. Dale Murray missed a month of action but still managed to grab 15 wins in relief, one of the highest totals ever, against only 8 losses. Long relievers Don Carrithers and Fred Scherman had ERAs of 3.30 and 3.54 respectively, while veteran Chuck Taylor had his last effective season, posting a 3.53 ERA in 74 innings. Overall, the season had not been so terrible, even if the team did end up tied for last place: the team's best players were now both young and home-grown, a development that should have been most welcome. But this was not how things were perceived, and a few heads rolled at the end of the year: Manager Gene Mauch was fired after seven seasons at the helm, along with his entire coaching staff.
- Gary Belleville: "August 2, 1975: Expos stun Phillies on Nate Colbert’s pinch-hit, walk-off homer," SABR Baseball Games Project.