The Washington Nationals emerged for the 2005 season after the relocation of the original Montreal Expos franchise.
Major League Baseball expanded by four teams and split into a divisional format beginning in 1969.
The Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) went to the American League. The Expos and San Diego Padres were assigned to the National League.
The Montreal team was named after the successful World’s Fair “Expo 67” held there in 1967 during the Canadian Centennial celebration.
After a decade of losing, a young core of players emerged in the late 1970’s to turn the team into a contender for the first time. Then from 1979-94 the Expos were consistent winners.
There were 11 winning Expos campaigns and another two .500 seasons during that 16 year stretch. However, Montreal reached the MLB postseason only one time in its history.
EXPOS REACH THE POSTSEASON
A strike in 1981 caused Major League Baseball to split the season into two halves. The teams who finished in first place in each half would then advance to a best-of-five “League Division Series”, a first for baseball.
The defending champion Philadelphia Phillies won the first half, and the Expos won the second half. Montreal then upended the Phils in a dramatic five-game NLDS to move within a step of the franchise’ first World Series.
In the best-of-five NLCS, the Expos took a two games to one lead. The Dodgers tied it up, and the two clubs moved to a decisive Game Five. On a two-out home run by Rick Monday in the top of the 9th, the Dodgers won 2-1 to advance to the World Series.
THE STRIKE OF 1994
In 1993, the Expos re-emerged as a division power. However, the Phillies put together a magical worst-to-first season, holding Montreal off by three games to win the NL East crown.
The following year, the Expos entered the season as favorites, not only in the division, but also to win the World Series.
Montreal won 20 of 22 games beginning on July 18 to take the division lead. With a 74-40 record, the Expos led the Atlanta Braves by six games.
And then it all suddenly ended, not in defeat, but with the longest work stoppage in the history of Major League Baseball. A player strike began on August 12 and would last into the following year, cancelling the rest of the season, including the postseason.
The Expos franchise would never recover. They dropped to 5th place in 1995, recovered to win 88 games and finish in 2nd place in 1996, but then plummeted to five straight losing seasons.
An inability to get funding for a new ballpark led to rumors of a move constantly swirling, and then to MLB purchasing the club in 2002. Those relocation nightmares actually became a reality for Montreal baseball fans when the move to Washington was announced.
In their final year north of the border the club finished a dismal 67-95 and in last place. The first season in D.C. resulted in a .500 finish, but the losing continued with six straight seasons below the .500 mark.
Finally, the new Washington Nationals began to contend with a 98-64 record in 2012, winning the first division title in franchise history.
With a new group of young stars, the Nationals have now become perennial contenders in the National League. The 2016 season resulted in their third NL East crown in the last five years.
One thing continues to elude the franchise in Washington. The club remains one of eight current Major League Baseball teams to never have even reached the World Series.
NOT MAKING THE CUT
Selecting a 25-Man roster for the franchise was a difficult proposition. They have had an abundance of strong, interesting outfielders and first basemen in their history.
Aside from their obvious Hall of Famer, selecting a backup catcher was a tough chore. There are a handful of decent options.
There were a number of players who you won’t find, but who contributed mightily to the history of the organization.