Bill over at thedailysomething.com posted this the other day. Who's your choice?
Believe it or not (and maybe this is totally believable to you, but it seems crazy to me), it's been five years, eight months and seven days since there has been a Major League Baseball team known as the Montreal Expos. And while baseball doesn't typically take the toll on the human body that football and some other sports do, six years is still an awfully long time. Rosters turn over several times over in six years (especially true, I suppose, when the team six years ago went 67-95). Thirty-seven players played for the last Expos team in 2004 and had not yet turned 30 when that season ended; I count twenty-five of those thirty-seven -- including four starting position players and five of the six pitchers who started at least 15 games -- who have not played in the major leagues in 2010.
One thing this means is that at some point -- and probably a point sooner than you'd think -- there will be no players left in MLB who have played a home game in Montreal. So: who, at this point, is likely to be the last Expo (le dernier Expo, I think)?
It turns out that there are exactly 20 hitters and 20 pitchers who BBREF classifies as "active" and who once played for Les Expos de Montreal.
A few of these guys (with all due respect) can be done away with out of hand. Macias, Mateo, Pascucci, Fernandez, Strickland, Powell, Manon, and Cubillan have all been out of the majors for years, but are hanging on as triple-A lifers with no real chance at seeing the bigs again.
A second round of cuts easily trims a few more. Tracy has had a couple cups of coffee in '08 and '09, but played 83 games for the 'Spos in 2000 and has played a total of just 66 MLB games in the nine-plus seasons since. Raul Chavez came very close to setting a career high in PA in 2009 for the Blue Jays, but was 36 and is now part-timing it in AAA. Majewski, Ayala, Beltran (Francis LeBron Beltran, I should point out), and Corcoran all pitched in 2008 and/or 2009, but are toiling away in AAA and seem unlikely to be in line for a callup anytime soon.
I'll go ahead and get rid of (most of) the old guys. Grudzielanek is about to turn 40 and was just DFA'ed by Cleveland, apparently ending a pretty nice career. Stairs is 42 and played for the Expos waaaaay back in 1993, and finally seems to be showing his age, OPSing .583 as a (mostly) PH for the Padres. Blum is still drawing a paycheck from (and playing for) the Astros, but that's because they're the Astros; he's never really been a big-league player, and he's now 37. Batista is back with the franchise as a long reliever, but he's 39 and can't hang on for more than another year or so.
Chad Cordero has to be considered an extreme longshot at this point. He's one of the youngest on the lists -- still just 28 -- but hasn't gotten his fastball back after an injury in 2008 and has pitched only 7 1/3 MLB innings the past three seasons (though he's doing fairly well this year in AAA).
That leaves 21 guys who are still kicking. Here they are:
Vladimir Guerrero, 35: looked old and done in 2008 and 2009, but OPSing .919 with 13 HR and 49 RBI for the Rangers so far this year. Barring a collapse, he's probably bought himself at least three or four more one-year contracts if he wants them.
Orlando Cabrera, 35: he's not as done as he looked with the Twins in 2009, but he hasn't exactly found a fountain of youth, playing roughly average defense with an OPS+ and wRC+ around 75. Has a reputation as a "winner" (which he may or may not be) and a slick fielder (which he most definitely is not anymore), but can't skate by on reputation for too much longer.
Brian Schneider, 33: now a backup for the Phillies, he's gotten into just 11 games. Backup catchers have a way of hanging around, but Schneider looks more like a starting catcher who's lost it than a true backup guy.
Fernando Tatis, 35: he made a nice and totally improbable comeback with the Mets in 2008-09, but seems to be slipping and falling out of favor.
Jamey Carroll, 36: the career utility guy is having an improbable career year offensively with the Dodgers, OBPing .386, though FanGraphs thinks his once stellar defense is slipping a bit.
Juan Rivera, 31: always a promising hitter whose peak was mostly ruined by injury, Rivera had a decent year in 2009, but is off to a terrible 2010 (.299 OBP). Seems like the kind of marginal starting corner outfielder prone to disappear very quickly in his early-to-mid thirties (think Troy O'Leary and Trot Nixon).
Milton Bradley, 32: can really play, despite all the jokes and other stuff. What remains to be seen is for how long teams will put up with him once it's clear his skills have slipped even a little bit (he's had bad luck, injuries and mental issues so far this season, but it's certainly possible that that's started happening already).
Nick Johnson, 31: incredible hitter, no other skills, injured all the time. To good not to keep getting chances until it's clear that he can't hit anymore.
Maicer Izturis, 29: seems to have found his niche as a superutility guy for the Angels, but should probably be starting somewhere.
Ryan Church, 31: I don't understand why he doesn't get more of a chance (and never really has). Currently a part-time player for the Pirates, which is just a step or two away from full-time stay-at-home dad (if he had kids, which I don't think he does). It seems to me he's a useful platoon or fourth outfielder for a contender, but I don't have a 2011 contract to give him...
Brendan Harris, 29: just not an MLB-quality player unless he can hit like he did in 2007, and I don't think he can.
Javier Vazquez, 34: famously got off to a terrible start this season, but he's been excellent in three of his last four starts, with a 2.81 ERA in his last 25 innings. I think he can hang on for a few more seasons...hopefully back in the NL.
Livan Hernandez, 35: back with the Nats and putting up an incredible 2.22 ERA, though with a 4.48 FIP and 4.81 xFIP, right around his numbers from the last several years. In other words, a ticking time bomb.
Carl Pavano, 34: healthy and working on his second strong year in the AL Central after those four disastrous years with the Yankees.
Claudio Vargas, 32 (almost): little more than a replacement-level reliever, he's actually pitching slightly better than his norms, but sports a 7.32 ERA regardless. This could be his last year, or he could hang on as a mopup guy until he's 40.
Guillermo Mota, 36: actually closer to 37, the kind of aging junkballer Vargas could conceivably turn into. Currently sporting a sparkling sub-2 ERA for the Giants, thanks mostly to issuing one walk in 21 1/3 innings.
Scott Downs, 34: very good setup guy for the Jays, still going strong (rising ERAs over the last several years, but pretty consistent peripherals).
Matt Herges, 40: I left him on the list because he was actually pretty effective in 2009, but hasn't found any takers for 2010. Still chasing the dream in AAA...with, so far, pretty disappointing results.
Bruce Chen, 33: raise your hand if you knew he was still around! He's been solid, if wild, in limited innings for the Royals. Still pretty young, and left-handed relievers get more second chances than anybody, so if he stays effective this season, who knows...
Ted Lilly, 34: the Expos were the first of his five clubs (so far), and he's blossomed into an excellent pitcher with the Cubs. Injury problems are a concern, as age will start to be.
Jon Rauch, 31: the tallest player in MLB history is now the most intimidating 89-MPH-throwing closer. He's probably not long for the closer role, but no reason he couldn't have several more years as a setup guy.
So who's it going to be? I have no idea. I feel comfortable eliminating Cabrera, Tatis, Carroll, Hernandez, Mota and Herges (too old) and Schneider and Harris (not good enough). It's easier to see Vlad hanging on at 40 (I never thought I'd be saying that a year ago) than it is to see Lilly, Downs, Pavano, or Vazquez at 39 or Chen at 38, so I guess I'll kick those five out too, though they've certainly all got a shot. Bradley seems likely to get himself run out of the league, Church seems to be in the process of getting run out of the league himself for some reason, and I think there's a good chance Johnson finds he's had enough of all the surgeries and rehab and calls it quits.
That leaves five guys: Guerrero, Rivera, Izturis, Vargas and Rauch. Izturis is the youngest by plenty, but he also plays positions at which guys tend to wear out quickly (namely, the middle infield). Relief pitchers are inherently fickle, and even solid ones like Rauch can disappear in the blink of an eye. As I said above, it seems likely to me that Rivera falls out of the league pretty quickly.
So I'm left picking the guy who is, by far, the oldest of that final five: Vladimir Guerrero will be the last Expo standing, calling it quits sometime after the 2015 season, past age 40. Is that actually the most likely, out of all those names? Probably not. And it'll probably look silly a year or three from now. But it seems appropriate, what with his being one of the most talented players in team history, and with the way he's playing right now it looks like Guerrero could easily be a DH (or maybe eventually a PH/DH like Thome) for another four or five years.
Anyway, it's just a stab in the dark, really, but it's a fun (and kind of sad) little exercise. So that's my pick. What's yours?