New York Mets @ Montreal Expos Series Preview

For the last 35 years, when the Mets have traveled to play the Montreal Expos, it's been a quick jaunt north of the border and a little extra time going through customs. Well, welcome to Major League Baseball, circa 2003, where the Mets travel to play the Montreal Expos in a four-game weekend wrap-around series…in San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Major League Baseball, proud owner of the Expos since 2002, finally got tired of taking a financial bath on this franchise and moved 22 "home" games to San Juan. The players themselves aren't very happy with the arrangement. In fact, even General Manager Omar Minaya admitted "I don't care what the schedule says…if you're sleeping in a hotel away from your family, it isn't a home game." Not to mention that playing in San Juan takes away any semblance of a home field advantage. In effect, the Expos will end up playing 103 of 162 games on the road, which will include a grueling 22-game, 25-day trip in June. Additionally, they must play 27 of their final 37 games away from Olympic Stadium, which could be a factor in a possibly weakened National League East pennant race.

Not everyone is unhappy, however. The Expos stand to make between 5 to 9 million dollars this season by playing in San Juan. They have sold 5,000 "season ticket" packages for the San Juan games, at $34 a game, and expect the 20,000 seat stadium they'll be playing in to be filled to about 90% capacity each night.

Pitching


The match-ups for the first two games of the series mirror the Friday and Sunday games last weekend at Shea. David Cone (1-0, 0.00) takes the mound for New York Friday night in the second start of his remarkable comeback. He shut the Expos out over five innings last week, allowing only two hits, both to his mound opponent Tomo Ohka (0-1, 5.79). Ohka took the loss last Friday, and now stands 0-4 against the Mets in his career.

On Saturday, the Mets send Jae Seo (0-0, 5.79) to the mound in his second major league start, where he'll be opposed by newly acquired Livan Hernandez (0-0, 5.40). Both hurlers received no-decisions last Sunday in New York, a game finally won by the Expos 8-5. Seo was hit relatively hard, allowing ten hits and three runs in just 4 2/3 innings. Hernandez was better, allowing only four hits and three runs over five innings.

The Sunday match-up features Al Leiter (2-0, 2.13), off to a fast start, against top Expo pitching prospect Zach Day (1-1, 2.38). Leiter has been brilliant in his first two starts against Chicago and Florida, both wins. Day has been just as good since being called up to the majors late last season and posting a 4-1 record in a brief stint with the Expos.

The four-game series concludes Monday as the Mets send Steve Trachsel (0-1, 4.91) to the mound against the highly-sought-after Javier Vazquez (1-1, 1.42). Trachsel pitched much better in a no-decision Wednesday night in Florida after being rocked by Chicago in his first start of the season. Almost every team in baseball tried to acquire Vazquez during the off-season, when it appeared the Expos were going to dump salary. He will almost certainly be wearing a different uniform come next season…Fred Wilpon, warm up the checkbook!

Notes


Surprise, surprise! The Puerto Rico legislature "managed" to pass an eleventh hour bill which will tax major league ballplayers 20 percent on all income earned in the country, which means Expo players will be taxed in three countries this season-Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico…Mets OF Tsuyoshi Shinjo has used the same glove for the last 13 years, but now, he needs a backup, as his favorite needs to be shipped to Los Angeles for some much needed repairs…El Duque (or Orlando Hernandez, whichever you prefer), is still being bothered by elbow problems, and the Expos don't know when he'll be ready for action…Mets' LHP John Franco, out of action since 2001 with arm problems, threw 25 pitches to three hitters in batting practice April 8, and drew rave reviews. He is shooting for a May 31 return to the Mets…Pedro Astacio, on the disabled list since March 28 with a tender elbow, threw for the second time for Class-A St. Lucie on April 8, allowing one run on three hits over four innings…Forbes Magazine, in a recent story, labeled the Expos as baseball's least valuable franchise, worth approximately $113 million dollars.



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