Don't Blame the Fans!

By BigOwe

It is now clear that we are not going to get a response from Loria. With the death of Maurice Richard, it is understandable that the media and the general public are now focused on his memory and his upcoming funeral. Indeed, Loria is off the hook for now, because otherwise, the media would continue its assault. However, come Thursday, you can bet they will be after him again...

Ok, now what do I think? Let me first say that I know as much about what is going on as the rest of you, which is not much. But there are things that have to be said here, and they may not sound very pretty. I really trusted Jeffrey Loria, and the very fact that he has not responded to the events of this weekend, is doing a great deal to break that trust. I want to believe he is sincere, but by not responding, he is painting himself into a corner, by his own doing. He has had every chance to defend himself, yet has not done so.

Ok, the first thing I am going to say is that no matter what happens from here on in, you can bet that the fans and the city of Montreal will be the targets of much abuse. They will say that we are not a baseball town, that the business community will not support the team, that the media will not support the team, that attendance has always been bad.

We know the truth, we know that we have never been given a fair shake, we know that since Charles Bronfman sold the club, that we have been subjected to the most off-field crap in pro-sports. If it hasn't been about pieces of the stadium falling off, or fire sales, or non-stop uncertainty, it has been years of ridicule on behalf of the baseball establishment. Despite all this, Expos fans remained loyal to this franchise, coming out on an average of 1.5 million, year after year. This for a team that has had one playoff appearance in 32 years, playing in a less than ideal venue. We have never had all the ingredients put together to be successful, never! The devoted ownership, the winning team, and oh yes, we have never played in a proper facility, not in 32 years. Jarry Park was to be temporary, and the big owe simply put, was not built for baseball.

Which brings me to Jeffrey Loria...You know how I bashed Claude Brochu for a good part of 2 years? It was well deserved...He had been the front man for the same group of yahoos that form a good percentage of the local group to this day. The problem was, he didn't seem to mind a bit, and in the end was more than willing to send the Expos to the States...So when I first heard about Jeffrey Loria, a man that was called a great lover of the game of baseball, by none other than Jack of all trades Todd, I got excited at the prospect of such a man being in charge of the Expos.

Here are some very important observations I have made about this guy since we first heard about him: The secrecy...the damn secrecy...Remember through the entire ordeal last year, he was totally invisible, sneaking around town, not speaking to the media...What did he have to hide? Honestly, was it necessary? I have felt that attitude all the way through his 6 months. We heard nothing out of Brochu, and we have heard even less from Loria. This weekend included...

Ok, in point form:
-We had heard he was a great baseball fan, which he appears to be. But, from the first time he stood up on to the podium until today, with the exception of that opening game, where he shook hands with fans, I have gotten the impression that he has done his best to avoid dealing with "the locals". I thought he seemed uncomfortable in front of the cameras from the beginning. He has not made the required effort to warm up to Montrealers, or the media, which should account for his non-stop bad press.

-Samson. You know, I really don't care who runs the team, or where he is from as long as the team is run properly...But it is not being run properly, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. I thought Loria was supposed to be the general partner, yet as I mentioned, he has been pretty invisible.

-Samson again. What really bothers me is how he always seems to have this "we know what is best for you" attitude. As if we do not know baseball.

-Samson and Loria have acted as if the team belongs to them, and not to the city. As if he wants to re-create the Yankees in Montreal. Montreal however is not New York.

-No marketing director. Here is where I have held back. When Samson claims that nobody in Quebec is willing to take the job of marketing director of a major league ballclub, that is pure nonsense. Who in their right mind would turn down that kind of a job, at what? $150,000 a year? I can't stand this. I was always ripping Brochu and Morency. I thought that with Loria, we would finally have a real marketing department again. But no, it has actually deteriorated.

-No tv. No english radio. First off, yes, CJAD probably has not offered equal value for the Expos, and I might have been too hard on them in the past. You know why? Because in reality, local english radio will never be a huge revenue maker for either the Expos or the Habs for that matter. The market is 85% francophone. We need a strong english base to build the nation-wide radio network, that we once had. To be totally honest again, the lack of english radio in 2000 is a huge insult to english-speaking Montrealers, who have been as loyal as they have been on the french side. When Samson equates the english broadcasting rights with the survival of baseball in this town, that is pure nonsense. Which brings me to tv, where I do agree with the tougher stand. But, how can you end up with no tv? Surely, they could have met the broadcasters half way, if not at least for 2000?

-The crazy expectations. The prediction of 9000 seasons tickets at the big owe. How can you come out and say that? The Expos didn't have 9000 seasons tickets ever. Do they think that simply by bringing Hideki Irabu and Lloyd to town, that 10 years of garbage is going to be instantly forgotten? And what of the complaints about the crowds so-far? You guys did not step up to the podium in December and say that 2000 was some kind of test. Attendance is up 42%, and would have been even better without this uncertainty.

-The press conference on the new stadium...You show us the models, you get us all excited, you promise the shovel will be in the ground in April, you say a sales campaing will follow shortly, and then you refuse to comment until opening day, at which time you once again play with your words. Sorry, but you cannot do that.

-We are not New York...I don't believe in any kind of nationalism whatsoever. However, there are basic fundamental differences between Montreal Canada and New York City. If you refuse to see that, if you refuse to learn anything, if you refuse to bring competent local marketing people aboard, then you are not sincere about your intentions to stay in Montreal.

I'm sure I could point to many other things. I am not saying anything that other people have not thought from the beginning, including myself at times. We want to believe. We all were so happy on the day of the news conference, how can it all have gone wrong? We know it can work if everything is done properly.

If you guys are part of the death of this franchise, if the plug is pulled without ever giving us a chance, without a seat license campaign, something even Claude Brochu and his pals at least put on the appearance of doing, then I have lost total faith in my judgement of character...You had a chance to do something great, build something special...It is not too late to change paths...And turn towards the right one for a change. Expos fans are not stupid, Montrealers are not stupid. You cannot treat the fans, the customers in this manner and expect any better results than you have gotten so-far.

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