Writing the words ''Puerto Rco'' and ''baseball'' on my regular blog earlier today inspired me to revert back to America's Pastime today and feature this card of the Montréal Expos' Wilfredo Cordero:
It's from Pinnacle Brands' 1995 Score collection (card #386), back when he was an All-Star shortstop. After moving on from the Expos, he was turned into a (fine) outfielder, but never again went to the mid-summer classic.
Then again, he looked good on the 1994 Expos because, well, everyone did. They had the best record in baseball (ahead of the New York Yankees, and well ahead of everyone else) on the strength of one of the best outfields in history (Moises Alou, Larry Walker and Marquis Grissom), so strong that Cliff Floyd had to play first base. Budding star Rondell White - also on the rise - was confined to the bench for pinch-hitting presences, still hitting .278, while the pitching rotation included Jeff Fassero, Ken Hill, eventual multiple-Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez, Butch Henry and Kirk Rueter, while the bullpen included one of the best closers in history in John Wetteland, and the best set-up man of his generation (turned fine closer in his own right) Mel Rojas.
Jeff Shaw, Tim Scott, Gil Heredia and Denis Boucher rounded out the pitching staff of a team favoured to win the World Series had it not been for a season-ending strike. Most Montrealers felt their love of the game end at that time, while the rest of us waited until Jeffrey Loria bought the team and dismantled it while collecting government grants and pushing out local investors who went from owning 67% of the team to 10% just by not answering Loria's multiple calls for extra capital.
Cordero came back to the Expos amidst this power struggle in 2002 and 2003, no longer an elite player on a team that struggled a bit on the field carried only by powerhouse slugger Vladimir Guerrero rather than a whole cast of star players, finishing an impressive 2nd in the East in 2002, but 4th in 2003 - they would end in last place (5th) in their final season of existence, not even attracting a million spectators, as people were fed up with being played as pawns in a game that didn't give a rat's ass about them other than squeeze out the last possible bit of money possible out of their pockets, knowing full well every dime spent on the team didn't even go to the players - the lowest-paid in the Majors - but instead went directly to Loria and son-in-law David Samson, who were going to spent it on the purchase of the Florida Marlins, whose fans are destined to be played in the same manner.
It was during that period that I met Cordero, who was nice enough to sign this card for me in black sharpie. In his second stint with the team, he was no longer wearing #12, though; he sported #26.