Fed City Flashback: 2002 – Expos Sign Jose Canseco
By Ricky Keeler
In today’s Fed City Flashback, we take a look back to the year 2002. The Montreal Expos were coming off a season in which they finished 68-94, which was last in the NL East. As far as the offense went for new manager Frank Robinson, he was coming into a situation where the team scored the third fewest runs in baseball with 670 (only the Pirates and Mets had fewer runs as a team).
On this date in Expos/Nationals history, Montreal decided to a sign an aging player that they thought would help improve their offense. The Expos reached an agreement with Jose Canseco on a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida. It would be Canseco’s first Spring Training with a National League team after spending 17 seasons in the American League.
One of the things that general manager Omar Minaya stressed at the time about giving Canseco a chance with the Expos is the opportunity to reach the milestone of 500 home runs, a mark he was 38 homers shy of accomplishing:
"“He was a free agent and was available, so I thought he was worth trying,” Montreal General Manager Omar Minaya said. “He is a veteran player, a power hitter who still has incentive since he is trying to reach the 500-home-run mark.” (h/t The Seattle Times)"
Canseco, the AL MVP with the Oakland Athletics in 1988, would go to Spring Training and show off some of that power, even at the age of 37. It makes sense that the Expos tried this move because in 2001, Canseco had 16 home runs for the Chicago White Sox in just 76 games after signing a deal with Chicago in June of 2001.
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During the 14 games that the right-hander was with Montreal, he hit .200 with three home runs and five RBI’s. While those numbers aren’t terrible, a National League team would find a hard time finding a place to put a player that had played a combined 13 games in the outfield from 1999-2001. Therefore, Montreal released Canseco in March of 2002.
While Canseco would sign a deal with the Chicago White Sox about a month later, he would never play in another Major League game. Of course, Canseco continued to make news off the field after his playing days, which included having his book Juiced released in 2005, chronicling his steroid use and accusing the likes of Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi among others in the process.
It was an unique idea for the Expos to consider due to a struggling offense the year prior and the need for an impact player with attendance declining at Olympic Stadium. That being said, Montreal didn’t think he could help them in the field and there is no designated hitter in the National League. Plus, the 2002 team did score 735 runs that season, which was 17th in the league and were 9th in the National League in home runs with 162.