When I say ‘brief’, I mean borderline nonexistent, in comparison to most other major league teams.
However, that’s certainly not to belittle the Nats short time in DC, but rather to draw attention to their tenure in Canada. The team you know as the Washington Nationals, was, in fact, not a DC team until 2005. Before that time, they existed at the Montreal Expos, who started as an expansion team back in 1969. If you’re following along with my other team history posts, you may remember that there have been several other teams in Washington over the years, but they eventually moved into other markets, like Minnesota and Texas. The story behind the Expos forced move is told in a great episode of The Eephus Podcast, but it may be somewhat upsetting to listen to, as the owner who drove the team into the ground is a pretty wretched human being. Still, I’ll do my best to cover it without delving into the business side of the game too heavily…
The decades the Montreal Expos played were sadly uneventful, and wrought with tough seasons. They only saw one division win, and didn’t even have a winning season until 1979. The Expos did, of course, see several great players move through their organization, though, ranging from Mets favorites Rusty Staub and Gary Carter, to Larry Walker and Pedro Martinez. In fact, Carter played for the ‘Spos for 11 years, but still wished his hall of fame induction could have been under both teams, as he was one of only 4 team captains in Mets history. More on him another day.
As the Expos weren’t privy to the large salaries that some teams *cough*YANKEES*cough* enjoyed, they constantly struggled to maintain a functioning lineup and fanbase. Because neither a salary cap, nor revenue sharing between teams, was ever instituted in the MLB, Montreal often lost many of it’s quality players due to lack of funds. Most unfortunately, the team was eventually put into the hands of general managing partner, Jeffery Loria (see above podcast link for the full absurdity of this guy). Under Loria, a lot of what little money the Expos had to spend was thrown around in misguided attempts to build a team by spending cash they didn’t have. Soon after, Loria successfully sold the team to MLB in 2001, and then bought the Marlins, as he seemingly had great distaste for Montreal and wanted to relocate to Florida. I wish I was making that up. A team was ended, fans left up a creek, because one selfish prat wanted to head to a warmer climate. Sigh.
So, as the poor Expos had little to no fanbase left, they were moved to Washington after the 2004 season. Though past DC baseball teams had been called the Senators, the last team to hold that name became the Texas Rangers, and they still held the rights to the name. Thus the Nationals were spawned, and found their stride in under a decade, winning division titles in 2012 and 2014, and seem to be on another tear this year, led by Bryce Harper and former Met, Daniel Murphy. By the way, good luck with him at 2nd base, Nats, you might wanna play the shift constantly so he has a permanent backup 😉