1970 Montréal Expos
Managed by Gene Mauch
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Rusty Staub
- Player of the Year: Carl Morton
- Best Rookie: Carl Morton
- NL Rookie of the Year Award: Carl Morton
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Carl Morton (RhP)
- Players of the month:
- Minor League Player of the Year: Dave McDonald (Winnipeg Whips AAA)
- Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Ernie McAnally (Winnipeg Whips AAA)
The 1970 Montreal Expos were following up on the team's very successful debut off-the-field in 1969, and much less successful on-the-field performance where they lost 110 games. The team made very few changes coming into its second season, however, counting on improvements from players already in the organization to move the club forward. The one major off-season trade was completed with the Detroit Tigers on December 3, 1969, when Jerry Robertson, one of the workhorses of the pitching staff in 1969, was traded for veteran starting pitcher Joe Sparma, who was immediately annointed the team's new ace. Indeed, Sparma was named the team's starter on opening day, April 6th against the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field (Boxscore). He lost that game 5-1, and would only pitch eight more, compiling an 0-4 record and giving up 25 walks in 29 innings in the process. Indeed, his lack of control got worse with every game, and he gave up eight walks in his last two outings, lasting two innings and a third before being sent down to the minors in early May. While this was going on, the Expos started the year with a 1-10 record.
An unexpected savior then stepped into the breach: Claude Raymond was the only French Canadian player in the majors, and had been picked up from the Atlanta Braves in the late stages of the 1969 season as a gesture towards local fans. He was widely considered washed up, and was filling the last slot in the bullpen, expecting to be released any day. With every other pitcher in the bullpen failing when their turn to pitch came, Manager Gene Mauch called on Raymond to protect a rare lead on April 25th against the San Francisco Giants (Boxscore), and the veteran came through. And he did so again the next day, and again the day after. Suddenly, the skid was ended, and the Expos had found themselves a closer; Raymond would finish the season with 23 saves. The next player to come through was rookie starting pitcher Carl Morton. He only picked up his first win on April 26th (Boxscore), but he was outstanding from that point on, with an 18-11 record, 4 shutouts, 154 strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA in 285 innings to earn the 1970 National League Rookie of the Year Award. Steve Renko, who had been one of the team's few successful pitchers the previous season, took another step forward and finished with a solid 13-11, 4.32 record in 223 innings. On July 19th, the team called up Mike Marshall, who had been acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros one month earlier in return for perennial disappointment Don Bosch; Marshall emerged as a second solid relief pitcher over the last two months of the season. With Bill Stoneman finally finding his groove over the last month and veteran Howie Reed being surprisingly effective in long relief, the Expos ended the year with a much more solid pitching staff than anyone could have imagined, allowing the team to stop using underachievers such as Mike Wegener, (3-6, 5.28) or Bill Dillman (2-3, 5.23).
The Expos' hitting continued to be solid, led by right-fielder Rusty Staub, whose production fell down a notch from his stellar 1969 season, but was still respectable, as he hit .274 with 30 home runs, 98 runs scored, 94 runs batted in and 112 bases on balls. The previous season's outstanding rookie, third baseman Coco Laboy, saw his batting average plummet from .258 to .199 and his slugging from .409 to .299, but veteran Bob Bailey picked up much of the slack, slugging 28 home runs in only 352 at bats, with first baseman Ron Fairly and catcher John Bateman also having fine seasons at the plate. Another major improvement was that the Expos now had a few productive bench players, such as OF-1B Jim Gosger, C-1B John Boccabella and OF Jim Fairey. As had been the case in 1969, the Expos got almost no offensive production from their middle infielders, shortstop Bobby Wine and second basemen Gary Sutherland and Marv Staehle, but they were genuinely outstanding on defense, with Wine turning 137 double plays, and Sutherland and Staehle turning 125 between the two of them. The only unproductive position was center field, where the combination of veteran Adolfo Phillips and rookie Don Hahn failed to provide much beyond committing only three errors. Overall, though, the improvements led to 21 more wins than the previous year, from 59 to 73, and a final standing only half a game behind the fifth-place Philadelphia Phillies.
- Gary Belleville: "September 2, 1970: Expos topple Pirates on John Boccabella walk-off home run," SABR Baseball Games Project.
- Norm King: "Mauch's Prediction Comes True; September 25, 1970: Montreal Expos 7, St. Louis Cardinals 5 At Jarry Park", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 12-14. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6