There is little that I could write in this space that has not already been written about the lost 1994 season. The Expos fielded the greatest team in the tumultuous history of the organization, yet never had the opportunity to test its mettle in the playoffs. The Yankees were a dominant force in the American League, fielding what may have been the most balanced team in Don Mattingly‘s career. And Matt Williams‘ chase for 61 and Tony Gwynn‘s quest for .400 were cut a few dozen games short.
While the tragedy of the Expos receives significantly more publicity than the Yankees abbreviated season (and deservedly so, I might argue), it is nevertheless intriguing that two teams seemed to stand above the rest on the mountaintop – one at the beginning of a dynasty, and one within a fingertip’s grasp of greatness that was forever out of reach. How would a match-up of these titans of 1994 have played out? Would Mattingly have won that elusive ring? Would the Expos have kept the band together? Unfortunately, we will never know.
However, thanks to WhatIfSports, we can hazard a guess at what would have happened on the field.
In running a simulated World Series match-up between the 1994 Yankees and the 1994 Expos, I utilized each teams most common lineup (based upon who hit most frequently in each spot). This is an imperfect method, as there were promotions and demotions galore for both teams, yet it is the fairest way of determining what may have happened without hindsight bias (which may, for example, suggest a team move a player up or down in the order, when that would not have happened that year). I also utilized the rotations in the order that they were most commonly rolled out in 1994, assuming that both teams would use a four-man rotation.
And then I ran it twice – once giving the Expos homefield advantage, and again with the Yankees in the driver’s seat. Let’s begin with the World Series kicking off in Montreal:
Ladies and gentlemen, your 1994 World Series Champions: the Montreal Expos!
In the climactic seventh game of this simulated World Series, the Expos entered the ninth inning trailing 7-6. Steve Howe, who had saved each of the Yankees three wins without allowing a single base-runner, induced a groundball from Moises Alou, and promptly fell apart. A walk and three singles later, the Expos mobbed home plate as Darrin Fletcher scored the winning run, celebrating the first World Series in the history of the organization.
The Yankees had no answer to Wil Cordero, as the 22-year-old shortstop slashed .448/.484/.724 with 2 2B, 2 HR (including a walk-off shot in Game Six), and 5 RBI.
What happened, however, with the Yankees holding homefield advantage? Let’s find out:
Despite the discouraging truth in the word “sweep,” this series came down to the proverbial wire, with three one-run games, and one extra innings affair. The Expos’ nightmares will be haunted by Paul O’Neill, who hit .462/.588/.923, with 2 HR and 4 RBI. Danny Tartabull was a force, as well, with five RBI, including a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the decisive Game Four.
What, then, should we take away from this? The reality of the lost 1994 season is just that – it is lost. These simulations are as realistic as a simulation can be, to be sure, yet run another hundred times I am sure that we would see some sweeps by the Expos, a few more seven game series, and most any other scenario that one could imagine. Pragmatically speaking, these were two excellent teams that would have likely given us a World Series to remember – one that, regardless of winners and losers, would have almost certainly changed the destiny of baseball in Montreal.
Assuming they made it there, of course.