Baseball is back! Washington is finally getting a team again, after 33 years without one. The Montreal Expos -- probably with a new name -- are going to play at RFK Stadium next season and move into a new ballpark in a couple years.
But how excited should we be? Who are the Expos? How good are they?
To find out, I talked to the biggest baseball expert I know: my son, Liam. He's 20 and an honorable-mention all-conference pitcher at Macalester College in Minnesota. Liam has been following baseball since he was in kindergarten and collecting baseball cards. Here's what he told me about Washington's new team.
The Expos' record is 65-94. Are they really that bad? Yes. Their problem is, they score fewer than four runs a game. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks are worse at getting on base. The pitching is a little better. They are in the middle of the National League for runs allowed.
Who is the Expos' best position player?
That's a hard question. Second baseman Jose Vidro gets the most money, but his season ended with knee surgery. He was having a decent year before that, batting .294 with 14 home runs. He is the closest thing to an all-star on the team.
Who is the Expos' best starting pitcher?
Livan Hernandez has pitched more than 240 innings and has 11 wins and 15 losses, with a 3.63 ERA. He is the only pitcher on the team who has started more than 20 games. He's the team's hero.
Do they have any other pretty good major leaguers?
First baseman Nick Johnson is the most interesting player on the roster. He could be very good if he stays healthy. (Right now he's hurt.) He gets a lot of walks and plays great defense.
Left fielder Brad Wilkerson strikes out a lot and has hit only .254. But he has been the Expos' best hitter this year because of his power and his ability to get walks. He is the only guy on the team with more than 100 runs scored.
Outfielder Terrmel Sledge is a guy you can root for. He is 27 and doing well after years in the minor leagues. If he can play center field, that would really help.
On the pitching side, the bullpen is solid. Luis Ayala and T.J. Tucker are major league relievers. And current closer Chad Cordero is just 22 and has pitched well.
Do the Expos have any hot minor league prospects?
They traded a lot of their prospects to the Cleveland Indians two years ago for Bartolo Colon, who is now with the Anaheim Angels. Big mistake! Their best prospect is Clint Everts, a 20-year-old right-handed pitcher with a great curve. But he just had arm surgery.
Brendan Harris, who is 24 and came over from the Cubs in a trade, plays third base and can hit for average and some power. He could be better than regular third baseman Tony Batista by next year.
What do the Expos need the most to get better?
Hitting. And anybody who can pitch every fifth day. The Expos remind me of the Baltimore Orioles a couple years ago when the general manager said they were in the market for a leadoff hitter, a cleanup hitter, a frontline starter and a shutdown reliever. The Expos need everything.
But that's okay. The most important thing is now they are our team.
Wanna talk sports with Fred Bowen? Join him for a discussion of his book "Winners Take All" at the Baseball as America exhibit at noon tomorrow at the National Museum of Natural History. For information go to www.fredbowen.com or call 301-585-2932.