Last night, after the Nats' 2-1 win over KC, a caller to "Nationals Talk Live" asked for my take on the issue of the Nats' doing more to honor the legacy of the Montreal Expos.
I replied as I have many times: I don't see much reason to do it. When the franchise moved to Washington in 2005 and left the name "Expos" in Montreal, I think they left behind that legacy. Yes, the Expos had some outstanding players in their 1969-2004 history; but not many Washington-area baseball fans can really relate to that. Heck, the number of area fans who still relate to the Senators is dwindling, but they still far outnumber Expos' aficionados in the mid-Atlantic.
Again, to rehash what I've said and written over and over again: when the Browns became the Orioles in 1954, there was nary a mention in their early publications of the franchise history in St. Louis, or Milwaukee, where it began as the original Brewers in 1901. Honor Browns Hall of Famers George Sisler or Bobby Wallace? Still waiting for that.
The 1961 Twins acknowledged their move from Washington, but there was no attempt to honor their former greats, otherwise you surely would've seen them retire a few numbers for their Washington players in the Hall of Fame. A Walter Johnson bobblehead night at the Metrodome fell flat, with fans wondering why his uniform didn't say "Twins".
The first-year expansion Washington Senators of 1961 listed the old club's all-time roster in their yearbook, and throughout their history listed all-time records alongside expansion era records in their media guides.
Conversely, the Braves and Athletics, having kept the original nicknames, have always honored their players of the past, regardless of what city the club was based in. The same with the Dodgers and Giants.
Do the Yankees do anything to acknowledge they started life as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901? Nope.
A Nationals official texted me last night to say that the club plans to honor new Hall of Famer Andre Dawson on a date yet to be determined this year. Hey, that's great. Dawson was a mainstay in the Montreal lineup for 11 of his 21 seasons in the big leagues. The Expos retired his number 10, but it's been worn in Washington, as has Tim Raines' retired number 30. That alone should tell you something.
I wouldn't bank on an Andre Dawson tribute selling a lot of additional tickets, unless it's on a day that Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to pitch.
By the way, have you noticed that since 2005 when pregame coach Jack Voigt wore it, no one else has worn Frank Howard's number 33 in Washington? There have been a couple of unofficial number retirement ceremonies over the years, but none since baseball returned. It certainly looks like they're keeping it in mothballs.
The precedent has been pretty much set: when you move a ballclub - and change its nickname - you're leaving behind the previous history of the club. Its prior city should do all it can to hang on to that history and celebrate it in some tangible way, but honoring the Expos in Washington, D.C. just doesn't seem very logical to me.