While they had a long and slow growth period, the Expos had achieved the best record in Major League Baseball (74–40), when the 1994 players’ strike suddenly ended the season. The strike dragged on through the fall, forcing the cancellation of the playoffs and the World Series. Shut out of their best season to date, the strike damaged the Expos' campaign for a new stadium, and the local ownership group chose not to invest additional funds to retain the team's best players.
In fact, they did the opposite:During the 1994–1995 offseason, owner Claude Brochu instructed general manager Kevin Malone to conduct a “fire sale” of their players: ties with their major stars were severed, players were released as Free Agents, and others traded away. Game attendance dropped to under 20,000, and Malone resigned in October 1995, saying "I'm in the building business, not in the dismantling business." Subsequent years found the owners engaged in head-scratching gambits such as having the Canadian team play games in Puerto Rico.
On September 29, 2004, the date of Montreal's last home game of the season, MLB announced that the Montreal franchise would move to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season, and the team was reborn as the Washington Nationals.
Nonetheless, Montréalers have never stopped hoping for the return of a team, and they made their feelings known this past spring.
Basic sports economics would support the notion that Montréal is ripe for another team: the largest source of revenue for Major League Baseball teams are local media broadcast revenues, the majority of which stay with (and enrich) the home team; this is why baseball teams are always located in large media markets like New York and Chicago and Los Angeles, and never in media-poor cities hosting NFL teams like Green Bay and Nashville.
Montreal is currently the largest North American media market without a major league baseball team.
Andrew Zimbalist, prolific author and my sports economics colleague 20 minutes down the road at Smith College, agrees. Interviewed by La Presse, and asked if a Montréal team could be viable, he stated (and this is my translation; original French appears at the end of this blog post),
“For me, there is no doubt. If Montréal possessed a good stadium, it would work. I don’t see why not – there is no longer a serious devaluation of the Canadian dollar against the American, which contributed to the Expos departure in 2004.”