By Dan Arnold
Many Expos fans have become frustrated over the slowness at which the Expos are progressing in their stadium plans. Although the consortium lead by Jacques Menard is slowly working behind the scenes, the problem is that Claude Brochu is still officially in charge, something which has made the process extremely difficult. And to make matters worse, Claude Brochu is trying as hard as he can to sink the franchise.
I firmly believe that Mr.Brochu started out with good intentions but a strong sense of self-interest and incompetence drove the franchise into the state where it currently sits. The sorry state of TV coverage the Expos receive in Canada is due to a plan Brochu put in place which would have seen the Expos rise into the Top 10 in MLB in TV revenue had it worked but the plan of selling advertising through the Expos instead of the TV stations did not work and so anyone west of Ottawa is lucky to get 30 Expos games on TV each year.
And although Brochu could be forgiven for management mistakes, he cannot be forgiven for other actions which clearly went against the well-being of the Expos. During the 1994 strike, we first saw the dark side of Brochu as he voted to cancel the season, a vote which in itself meant nothing, but symbolically destroyed the Expos hopes of a World Series. Latter during the strike, Brochu sided with the large market teams and accepted a revenue sharing system which would hardly add anything to the Expos cash flow. The reason for this was that this system did not require that the money be put into player development, scouting or payroll, Brochu could pocket the extra 3 million dollars himself and let the Expos brightest stars be dealt off for spare parts.
Another fact which has only recently become known, was a large multi-million dollar bonuses which Brochu would receive if the club made a profit. So although the Expos could have won a World Series and drawn 3 million fans, assuring baseballís future in Montreal, in í95 by keeping Larry Walker, John Wetteland, Marquise Grissom and Ken Hill, Brochu convinced the rest of the owners who were not overly knowledgeable in baseball, that the best move would be to sell them off for spare parts and cash, assuring a profit and his bonus. And it wouldnít surprise me if the undisclosed cash sum received in the John Wetteland deal somehow found itís way into Brochuís hands.
And then there are some moves which cannot be explained at all. In 1997 as the Expos jumped off to a great start, TSN offered to add Expos games to their coverage which would have given the Expos some well needed exposure across Canada at a time when the Blue Jays were faltering. But instead of taking this golden opportunity to become Canadaís team, Brochu balked. Then before the season started this year, Brochu did not talk with the team, the first time a team president has not addressed his club before the season in all of Felipe Alouís years in baseball.
Brochuís credibility has also been flea sized throughout his tenure as Expos president. After the 1995 fire sale, Brochu said there would be no more fire sales. After the 1997 fire sale, Brochu said there would be no more fire sales. After the 1998 fire sale, Brochu said there would be no more fire sales. In addition, Brochu recently revealed to the Montreal radio personality Mitch Mellnick, who he coincidentally tried to have fired along with Terry Haig for making negative comments about him, that he intended to build a stadium costing 350 million, not the 250 million which he had told the entire world. Brochu knew full well that they would never raise that capital and that the team would head south, letting him pocket 15-25 million in cold hard cash.
But the worst is that Brochu has tried to sabotage his own team. While itís debatable whether or not, Brochu ever intended to build Labatt Park, it has become clear that once the other partners started disagreeing with his plans and they voted to remove him that he would do everything in his power to drive the Expos to Charlotte or Washington or whatever city holding the almighty US buck came calling. Brochu has taken up the idea that if he wonít be the one to save baseball in Montreal, that he may as well get as rich as he can and the fastest way to get rich is to force the team to sell. He probably further believes that if Menard is successful in keeping the team in place, that it will make him look bad since his plan failed whereas if the team moves, he can say that baseball never stood a chance in Montreal. But whatever his reasons, itís become clear that he will stop at nothing to reach his goal. Brochu has failed to publicize the Expos, he has stripped the Big O of all promotions and give aways and during Pedro Martinezís return to Montreal, Brochu opened a mere 3 ticket wickets, causing people to wait in line until the third inning to get tickets. In addition, Claude has taken every opportunity to bad mouth Montreal and their fans, but always to the American media as he has stayed away from Montreal unless he is firmly accompanied by his body guards.
He has continuously bad-mouthed the team and the stadium project and has gone on the record (once again with US media) as saying that he doesnít believe the Expos can survive in Montreal. He was also gloating a few weeks before the home opener to the US media and to Bud Selig that only a few thousand tickets had been sold for the game. Well that game turned into something indeed as 43,918 fans came to the Big O and cheered madly as signs calling for Brochuís head circled around the stadium while Brochu slithered behind his body guards. You see, Montreal fans have become aware of all that Brochu has done to destroy their club and they sent a message to him on opening night with the crowd and the signs. But he has not listened.
Brochu knows that the Expos will not be able to go ahead for a new stadium as long as he is team president. Yet he has stayed on for that very reason. The other owners have offered him 15 million dollars, the sum he would expect to fetch if the team was sold to the states, to step aside and he has refused. Unfortunately, since he sided with MLB during the í94 strike at the Expos expense, they will not force him out of Montreal so easily. On the bright side, Paul Beeston, Seligís new right hand man, has publicly stated over the years that he believes that Brochu has done a dreadful job of running the Expos and he knows what Brochu is up to.
Brochu could have done the descent thing by steeping aside a long time ago but he has held on for greed and spite. The bottom line is that he has said he doesnít believe the team can survive in Montreal so he should let someone who believes in the Expos future take over.