One of the great mysteries in MLB history is whether the Montreal Expos would have won the 1994 World Series had a labor stoppage not forced the cancellation of the season.
When the season was suspended in August, Felipe Alou's Expos had an MLB-best 74-40 (.649) record.
Alou's son, Moises, was one of the best players in the National League, having led a lineup that also included Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker and Wil Cordero by slashing .339/.397/.592 with 22 home runs and 78 RBIs.
But while the Expos were averaging 5.13 runs a game, they were a very well-rounded team. Future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, just 22 years old, had a 3.42 ERA in 144 2/3 innings. Amazingly, the man who would go on to be one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB history was able to blend into a rotation where Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero and Butch Hill all were having excellent seasons.
By all accounts, if there had been a World Series in 1994, the Expos would have been the favorites to win it.
Baseball returned in late April of 1995, but the Expos couldn't recapture the magic they had the prior season. Shockingly, the Expos non-tendered Walker, who would continue his illustrious career with the Colorado Rockies. The Expos finished the season at 66-78, 24 games back of the eventual World Series Champion Atlanta Braves.
By the time the franchise next reached the World Series, baseball had been out of Montreal for 15 seasons. The organization now known as the Washington Nationals won their first World Series title -- and the first in the history of a franchise that began play in 1969 -- in 2019. A year later, Walker was elected to the Hall of Fame in his final year of eligibility, with a Rockies cap ultimately going on his plaque. While the Nationals have become a pretty successful franchise, you're left to wonder how differently things may have played out if the 1994 season had been completed.
Instead, you have a franchise that has existed for 53 years, 36 seasons in Montreal and 17 seasons in Washington. That makes putting together a list like this a challenge, but a fun one at that.
With all that acknowledged, here are the nine greatest players in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise:
9. Bryce Harper (2012-2018)
Best Season as a National: 2015 - .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, 124 walks, 1.109 OPS, 198 OPS+ and a 9.3 fWAR
Career Stats as a National: .279/.388/.512 with 184 home runs, 521 RBIs, 585 walks, 922 hits, .900 OPS, 139 OPS+ and 30.6 fWAR
Certainly, there was some thought given to Anthony Rendon or Trea Turner, two World Series heroes. But despite Harper leaving D.C. the offseason before the Nationals finally got over the hump, he's still one of the best players in franchise history. In seven seasons with the Nationals, Harper won a National League Rookie of the Year Award, an NL MVP and made six All-Star teams. Had Harper spent his whole career in D.C., he likely would have gone down as the best National ever. But even as he stars for a division-rival now, the production that Harper put up during his time with the Nationals is indisputable.
8. Stephen Strasburg (2010-Present)
Best Season as a National: 2017 - 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA, 178 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, 1.015 WHIP, 204 strikeouts, one complete game and a 5.9 fWAR
Career Stats as a National: 113-61 with a 3.21 ERA, 128 ERA+, 3.01 FIP, 1.093 WHIP, 1,718 strikeouts, two complete games and a 36.6 fWAR
A year before Harper was the top pick in the MLB Draft, the Nationals selected Strasburg No. 1 overall out of San Diego State in the 2009 MLB Draft. While injuries have prevented the three-time All-Star from putting up a Hall of Fame-caliber career, he's still been excellent when he's pitched, posting a 3.21 ERA, 3.01 FIP and 36.6 fWAR in parts of 12 seasons. Strasburg finished in the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2017 and 2019. To this point, Strasburg is the only World Series MVP in franchise history, having gone 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the team's 2019 championship run.
7. Vladimir Guerrero Sr. (1996-2003)
Best Season as an Expo: 2000 - .345/.410/.664 with 44 home runs, 123 RBIs, 58 walks, 1.074 OPS, 162 OPS+ and a 6.2 fWAR
Career Stats as an Expo: .323/.390/.588 with 234 home runs, 702 RBIs, 381 walks, 1,215 hits, .978 OPS, 148 OPS+ and 33.7 fWAR
Though he won the 2004 American League MVP as a member of the Los Angeles Angels and dons their hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, Guerrero played the most games, hit the most home runs and accumulated the most WAR as a member of the Expos. In eight seasons with the Expos, Guerrero displayed one of the strongest outfield arms in baseball history and an ability to hit a pitch thrown anywhere within 10 feet of home plate. For a franchise that employed so many stars in its relatively brief history, Guerrero was probably the last notable one before the Expos relocated.
6. Ryan Zimmerman (2005-2019; 2021-Present)
Best Season as a National: 2010 - .307/.388/.510 with 25 home runs, 85 RBIs, 69 walks, .899 OPS, 142 OPS+ and a 6.6 fWAR
Career Stats as a National: .277/.341/.475 with 284 home runs, 1,061 RBIs, 646 walks, 1,846 hits, .816 OPS, 116 OPS+ and a 38.6 fWAR
Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub, Al Kaline is Mr. Tiger and Zimmerman is Mr. National. Selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2005 MLB Draft -- the first selection the franchise made after relocating to Washington -- Zimmerman has done just about everything during 16 seasons with the Nationals. The two-time All-Star has thrived as a third baseman, first baseman and pinch hitter. Zimmerman homered twice during the 2019 World Series run.
5. Steve Rogers (1973-1985)
Best Season as an Expo: 1982 - 19-8 with a 2.40 ERA, 152 ERA+, 2.76 FIP, 1.119 WHIP, 179 strikeouts, 14 complete games and 6.4 fWAR
Career Stats as an Expo: 158-152 with a 3.17 ERA, 116 ERA+, 3.20 FIP, 1.232 WHIP, 1,621 strikeouts, 129 complete games and 49.8 fWAR
The greatest No. 45 in Expos history wasn't Pedro Martinez, but rather Rogers, who spent his entire 13-year career with the Expos. A first-round pick in the 1974 MLB Draft, Rogers led baseball in ERA, ERA+, FIP, complete games and complete-game shutouts on at least one occasion. Rogers' 158 wins and 49.8 fWAR are both franchise records.
4. Andre Dawson (1976-1986)
Best Season as an Expo: 1981 - .302/.365/.553 with 24 home runs, 64 RBIs, 35 walks, .918 OPS, 157 OPS+ and a 6.7 fWAR
Career Stats as an Expo: .280/.326/.476 with 225 home runs, 838 RBIs, 354 walks, 1,575 hits, .802 OPS, 122 OPS+ and 44.3 fWAR
While Dawson wanted to wear a Chicago Cubs hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, "The Hawk" spent almost twice as much time with the Expos, which is why he wears their iconic hat on his plaque. In parts of 11 seasons north of the border, Dawson won the 1977 NL Rookie of the Year Award, earned six Gold Glove Awards and made three All-Star teams.
3. Tim Raines Sr. (1979-1990; 2001)
Best Season as an Expo: 1986 - .334/.413/.476 with nine home runs, 62 RBIs, 78 walks, .889 OPS, 145 OPS+ and a 6.0 fWAR
Career Stats as an Expo: .301/.390/.438 with 96 home runs, 552 RBIs, 775 walks, 1,598 hits, .828 OPS, 132 OPS+ and 48.7 fWAR
One of the most underrated players in MLB history, Raines was a tremendous table setter, racking up over 1,600 hits and 600 stolen bases during 13 seasons in Montreal. Since both Guerrero and Walker went into the Hall of Fame with other primary teams, Raines -- elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017 -- might be the final player that ever wears an Expos hat in Cooperstown.
2. Max Scherzer (2015-2021)
Best Season as a National: 2018 - 18-7 with a 2.53 ERA, 168 ERA+, 2.65 FIP, 0.911 WHIP, 300 strikeouts, two complete games and a 7.5 fWAR
Career Stats as a National: 92-47 with a 2.80 ERA, 152 ERA+, 2.92 FIP, 0.962 WHIP, 1,610 strikeouts, 11 complete games and 36.8 fWAR
The seven-year/$210 million deal that Scherzer signed with the Nationals ahead of the 2015 season was one of the greatest free-agent deals in MLB history. In parts of seven seasons with the franchise, Scherzer posted six top-five finishes in NL Cy Young Award voting, winning the award in 2016 and 2017. Scherzer made an All-Star team every year he was a National, with the exception of 2020 when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the game. When Scherzer came to D.C., he had been one of the sport's best pitchers for a few years. When he left the nation's capital, Scherzer had cemented his place as a future Hall of Famer.
1. Gary Carter (1974-1984; 1992)
Best Season as an Expo: 1982 - .293/.381/.510 with 29 home runs, 97 RBIs, 78 walks, .890 OPS, 146 OPS+ and an 8.4 fWAR
Career Stats as an Expo: .272/.345/.461 with 215 home runs, 794 RBIs, 549 walks, 1,365 hits, .805 OPS, 123 OPS+ and 53.7 fWAR
One of the greatest catchers in MLB history, Carter finally won a World Series as a member of the New York Mets in 1986, but not before spending the bulk of his Hall of Fame career with the Expos. In parts of 12 seasons with the Expos, Carter made seven All-Star teams, won three Gold Glove Awards and slugged 215 home runs.