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December 06, 2001

Parole from Canadian Alcatraz
By Rob Dibble

The Montreal Expos did Felipe Alou a huge favor by firing him. Not only did they free him of the burden of a hopeless franchise, they enabled Alou to help another team win in the near future -- a team that actually wants to win.

The Expos have a nasty habit of refining the skills of young players only to dump them once they become too expensive to keep around. The Expos' roster will make combined only a little more than what Alex Rodriguez will make alone this year.

For the life of me, I can't understand this philosophy -- what's the point of keeping the team? Either they love losing or they think they are savvy business people -- happy to make money even when their team stinks and fans have zero incentive to show up at games.

Felipe Alou
After watching a lot of his top players leave Montreal, Felipe Alou joins them.

Rather than help Alou clinch a playoff spot, the Expos' ownership pulled the rug out from beneath him. The once-proud team north of the border that was always loaded with talent has become stagnant and stale. Montreal, housing some of the worst fans in the game, has become a place where baseball has lost meaning. Four times during the 1990s, the Expos failed to draw one million spectators. Because of the dismal attendance, several of us hated playing in Montreal. We wished we could play a triple-header in one day and just get the heck out of there.

What Alou did with the Expos was impressive. In the last decade, he led them to three second-place finishes, and they were in first place and on pace to win the NL East in the strike-shortened season of '94.

Imagine what could have been if they had held on to superstars like Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, John Wetteland and Randy Johnson in tandem with the recent additions of Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Vidro and Ugueth Urbina. Alou helped develop all of those players into stars.

Alou could have taken a cushy job in Los Angeles with the Dodgers, but he stayed loyal to a losing organization that asked too much of him. The Expos asked him to go to battle with Triple-A quality players. He still managed to get them close to the title, but the lack of talent always held him back.

I applaud the firing because the Expos don't deserve a manager of Alou's caliber. I hope the negative experience doesn't leave scars or hinder Alou's love for teaching the game. I hope he ends up with a team that will appreciate and reward his talent so everyone can reap the benefits.

Shame on the Expos for taking his talent for granted. In baseball, good managers and good people are hard to find.

Felipe Alou is both.

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What's in store for Felipe Alou? ESPN's Peter Gammons is seeing red.
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Felipe Alou doesn't plan to return to the dugout this season.
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