- This is the franchise formerly known as the Montreal Expos. For the franchise that played as the Washington Nationals (or Senators) from 1901-1960, see Minnesota Twins. For the franchise that played as the Washington Senators from 1961-1971, see Texas Rangers.
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The Washington Nationals are a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise based in Washington, D.C. The Nationals are a member of the National League's Eastern Division, and initially played at RFK Stadium. The team moved into Nationals Park, located in Southeast D.C. near the Anacostia River and with views of the Capitol building, in the spring of 2008.
Prior to the 2005 season, the Nationals played in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as the Montreal Expos. The team's relocation was the first in Major League Baseball since 1972, when the Washington Senators moved to Texas, becoming the Texas Rangers. The franchise has been owned by Major League Baseball since 2002, and - although Major League Baseball promised to select a new owner by the end of 2005 - as the year drew to a close, no announcement was forthcoming.
Montreal Expos (1969-2004)Edit
- Main article: Montreal Expos
The Montreal Expos joined the National League in 1969, along with the San Diego Padres. After a decade of losing, the team became a winner in the early 1980s, winning their only division championship in the strike-shortened split season of 1981. That team lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 in the National League Championship Series. After several mediocre years in the late 1980s, the team rebounded in the early 1990s. In 1994 the Expos, led by a talented group of players including Larry Walker, Moisés Alou, Marquis Grissom and Pedro Martínez, had the best record in major league baseball when the strike forced the cancelation of the remainder of the season. After the disappointment of 1994, the Expos began to lose players, money and fans. Ownership squabbles, the decimated fan base, a difficulty in selling broadcasting rights, and numerous other issues lead to the team being bought by MLB in 2002.
Since moving to Washington, the franchise has fared much better than most expected.
Relocation to WashingtonEdit
After several years in a holding pattern, MLB began actively looking for a relocation site for the Expos. Some of the choices included Washington D.C.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Monterrey, Mexico; Portland, Oregon; Northern Virginia, and Norfolk, Virginia. In the decision-making process, Commissioner Bud Selig added Las Vegas, Nevada to the list of potential Expos homes.
On September 29, 2004, MLB officially announced that the Expos would move to Washington D.C. in 2005. The move was approved by the owners of the other teams in a 29–1 vote on December 3 (Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos cast the sole dissenting vote). In addition, on November 15, 2004, a lawsuit by the former team owners against MLB and former majority owner Jeffrey Loria was struck down by arbitrators, ending legal moves to keep the Expos in Montreal.
The move was announced despite opposition from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. From 1972 to 2004, the Orioles were the sole MLB franchise in the Baltimore-Washington metropolis. Obtaining the Orioles' cooperation was essential: the Baltimore and Washington regions had always been considered part of the same market, one which the Orioles' had had exclusive control over since 1972 (the original Washington Senators had waived their exclusivity rights to the region to allow the Orioles, then the St. Louis Browns, to move to Baltimore in 1953). On March 31, 2005, a deal was struck between Peter Angelos and Major League Baseball in order to protect the Orioles against any financial harm the Nationals might present to the Orioles' market (Washington is approximately 35 miles west of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the Orioles have played their home games since 1992). Under the terms of the deal, television and radio broadcast rights to Nationals games are handled by the Orioles franchise, who formed a new network (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) to produce and distribute the games for both franchises on both local affiliates and cable/satellite systems.
The Ballpark ControversyEdit
The team's relocation to Washington was contingent on a financing plan for Nationals Park — a plan that was the subject of much debate on the D.C. City Council.
The ballpark proposal is controversial; many city residents oppose government subsidies for a multi-billion-dollar private business and would prefer the land and money to focus on schools rather than a ballpark. Three Council members who supported Mayor Anthony Williams's plan were ousted in September 2004's Democratic party primary. An opinion poll conducted by the Washington Post found that approximately two thirds of District residents oppose the mayor's stadium plan.
Some controversy arises over the fact that the city is helping finance a $581 million dollar stadium without state or county support, despite the fact that a large portion of the team's fan base is drawn from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs. 
During December 2004, the move to Washington itself was called into question when the D.C. City Council sought to change details of the stadium's financing. When the council voted on December 14 to require 50 percent private financing for any new stadium, MLB ceased promotional activities for the Nationals and announced that they would consider looking for a new market.
Eventually, the council passed an amended plan on December 21, 2004, that proved slightly more financially favorable to the city, while remaining acceptable to MLB. Mayor Williams signed the stadium financing package on December 30.
During the 2005 season, a private financing plan for construction of the stadium was negotiated between the city and a syndicate of bankers led by Deutsche Bank. The negotiations of the details ran into another problem in November 2005. The bankers requested a letter of credit or other financial guarantee of $24 million US, $6 million for each of four years, ensuring payment of lease revenues against various risks including poor attendance and terrorism. The city requested that Major League Baseball provide this guarantee, which has not happened as of December 2005.
Major League Baseball had agreed at the time that the franchise was moved to Washington, DC, to sell the team to an owner or ownership syndicate. Several dates for sale of the team have been set and missed. As of December 2005, the team is still owned by Major League Baseball. Eight syndicates have made offers for the team, of which three are considered front-runners. Major League Baseball, in November 2005, stated that it would not select an owner until the stadium financing plan was finalized, but finalization of the plan has been stalled due to the letter of credit issue. This delay has been harshly criticized by city residents and leaders as reported in the Washington Post.
On December 22, 2005, the Post reported that Major League Baseball had specifically instructed bidders not to offer to pay cost overruns on the stadium if they were selected as the owners. Bidders were also told not to communicate with the press about these issues.
Viability of Washington Baseball MarketEdit
Due to the history of Washington franchises (See the Washington,Senators), there are doubts about whether Washington will actually be a better market for a pro baseball team than Montreal long term. Major League Baseball does not express such doubts, and proponents of the move argue that the failure of previous franchises has more to do with poor business decisions and financial management on the part of their owners than with any lack of popular support in the region itself.
Some analysts  have pointed out that Washington may be less suited than some other cities to support baseball because it is primarily an African-American city (59%), and that African-Americans generally support baseball less than whites. Past Washington Senators teams have blamed poor attendance partially on lack of attendance by African-Americans. Washington has larger and whiter suburbs than it did in the 60s, so some analysts believe this will be a less important factor than in the past. Still, both versions of the Senators only finished in the first half of the American League in attendance in 9 out of 71 seasons; the worst percentage of any team in Major League Baseball history that played for more than two seasons, including the Expos. The only season the Senators finished with more than one million in attendance was 1946, when baseball attendace was radically up nationwide due to the return of servicemen from World War II.
Though partially a product of the team's surprising 2005 first half showing, the Nationals' midseason attendance totals exceeded the Expos' 2004 total attendance. The final attendance for the 2005 season was 2,731,993; the 2005 total in Washington, DC exceeded the previous three seasons in Montreal combined (2002-2004) and was 11th in MLB. Nevertheless, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf - MLB's point-man on the Nationals - later expressed disappointment in the first season's attendance, noting that it compared unfavorably with the first seasons of recent expansion teams (http://www.tsn.ca/mlb/news_story.asp?ID=145306).
Notable Firsts from the 2005 SeasonEdit
- On April 4, 2005, Brad Wilkerson had the honor of being the first batter for the Washington Nationals and he promptly responded with the first hit in the new team's history. Nevertheless, Kenny Lofton hit a three-run homer and Jon Lieber pitched 5-2/3 effective innings, leading the home team Philadelphia Phillies to an 8-4 victory over the new Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Outfielder Terrmel Sledge hit the team's first home run in that contest.
- On April 6, 2005, the Washington Nationals won their first-ever regular season game by beating the Phillies, 7-3. The win came in their second game of the season and was highlighted by Wilkerson's hit for the cycle.
- On April 14, 2005, the Washington Nationals won their first regular season home game at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C, by a score of 5-3 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. President George W. Bush kept up a tradition of sitting U.S. Presidents by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day in Washington, exactly 95 years after William Howard Taft started the tradition at Griffith Stadium. 45,596 fans were in attendance, including former Senators players and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Liván Hernández threw eight shutout innings, and Vinny Castilla was denied the chance to hit for the cycle when Diamondback reliever Lance Cormier hit him with a pitch in the bottom of the eighth; Castilla needed only a single to complete the cycle. Chad Cordero recorded the save for Washington.
- On August 4, 2005, Brad Wilkerson became the first Washington Nationals player to ever hit a grand slam, against the Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher, Duaner Sanchez. The Nationals won the game 7-0, on a four-hit complete game shutout by John Patterson.
- Founded: 1969 (Relocated from Montreal in 2005)
- Stadium:Nationals Park, Washington (capacity 41,546) 2008-Present
- Uniform Colors: Red, white and blue with gold trim. Red hats and white jerseys are worn for home games, while dark blue hats and grey jerseys are worn for road games. The new alternate uniforms include red and gold jerseys and hats.
- Logo Design: A shield featuring "Washington" in a ribbon device over "Nationals" in a hard-block font, both superimposed over a baseball flanked by 9 stars, representing the 9 defensive players of a baseball team. The scripted "W" on the Nationals' hats is similar to that of the former Washington Senators (1961 expansion, now the Texas Rangers).
- Mascot: A six-foot, two-inch (1.88 meters) tall eagle chick named "Screech", wearing a Washington Nationals cap and matching jersey.
- Playoff appearances (1): 1981
People of noteEdit
Players of noteEdit
- For a list of notable Montreal Expos, see Montreal Expos: Players of note.
- For a list of notable Montreal Expos broadcasters, see Montreal Expos: Notable broadcasters.
For the 2005 season:
- Charlie Slowes - radio (2005)
- David Shea - radio (2005)
- Mel Proctor - TV (2005)
- Ron Darling - TV (2005)
For the 2006 season:
- Charlie Slowes - radio (2006)
- Dave Jageler - radio (2006)
- Bob Carpenter - TV (2006)
- Tom Paciorek - TV (2006)
Baseball Hall of FamersEdit
None. The Montreal Expos retired the number 8 for Gary Carter, the number 10 for both Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson, and the number 30 for Tim Raines. The Nationals do not list these numbers as still being retired, and no player wore either Numbers 8 or 10 during the 2005 season. Reliever Mike Stanton did wear the number 30 during his brief stint in Washington, indicating that all numbers formerly retired by the Expos are now available for the Nationals.
Washington Wall of StarsEdit
RFK Stadium has a Washington Wall of Stars above its right-field fence. Figures from all of sport, including sportswriters, are eligible, but, as yet, no Nationals figures have been honored. The following Washington Senators are so honored:
Sievers (the second time around), Hinton and Howard played for the "New Senators" who became the Rangers; Vernon, Yost, Hodges, Lemon and Williams managed the new Senators. All others either played for or managed the "Old Senators" who became the Twins. Neither the Twins nor the Rangers ever retired any numbers while they were the Washington Senators, nor have they so honored any former Senators since their moves.
Expos/Nationals Single Season RecordsEdit
Minor league affiliationsEdit