Montreal Expos: Graeme Lloyd, the presumed turning point

When Montreal signed Graeme Lloyd to a free agent contract before the 2000 season he was supposed to help usher in a new era of baseball for the Montreal Expos.

I remember being a young Montreal Expos fan with great anticipation after Jeffrey Loria took over as the new owner of the team. The New York art dealer sent a strong message to Expos fans when he signed Graeme Lloyd to a 3 year/$9M free-agent contract.

This signing proved the Expos were going to spend money in free agency. The Lloyd signing was just two days before another big splash, the trade to bring in Hideki Iradbu. The tides were going to turn, and the Expos were no longer going to be a small market team. They were going to compete for mid-level talent in free agency and compete for the wild card and maybe even the division.

I was in the Spanish room after winter break when I told my friend of the signing and his response was, “dude, Graeme Lloyd sucks.” He may have. That was not the point though. The Expos owners were going to spend money in free agency, that was the point. So on the shoulders of Graeme Lloyd rested the hope for the future of Expos fans.

The Expos had a couple of young pitchers primed to break out in Javier Vazquez and Dustin Hermanson, and if Carl Pavano could be half the pitcher he was touted to be in Boston, they could form a three-headed monster. Get seven innings from them, hand the ball over to Lloyd, and bring in Ugueth Urbina to close the game.

The dreams never materialized and Graeme Lloyd was at the center of it. No, the team’s 67-95 record can’t fall solely on a setup man’s shoulders, especially if he doesn’t even play. Tendinitis and shoulder pain kept him on the shelf the entire season.

It was then the tide turned back again. After Irabu went 2-5 in just 11 starts in 2000, the idea of the owner is going to spend money soon turned into, Jeffrey Loria is just in love with owning ex-Yankee players. $9M for a setup man, what was he thinking? He signed Lloyd because he won two rings with the Yankees.

To Lloyd’s credit, he was 9-5 with a 4.35 earned run average and team-high 84 games pitched the following year for the Expos. It didn’t matter. The ship had sailed and Loria had shown his true colors at that point. Lloyd was traded the following season to help even out money when the Montreal Expos acquired Cliff Floyd for a late-season playoff push.

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Anyway, those were the memories that came flooding back this morning when I pulled up Twitter and saw everyone wishing Graeme Lloyd a happy birthday. Happy Birthday, Graeme!

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