A quick scan of Washington's current 40-Man Roster brought about a moment of reverie in which I wondered what trace of the team's time in Montreal still lingered, three years later, on the Nationals roster heading into '08.
Luis Ayala, whose contract was purchased by Montreal from Saltillo in the Mexican League in August of 2002, left as a free agent and signed with Arizona in November '02, only to be exposed by the D-Backs in the Rule 5 Draft, and reclaimed by the Expos in December of the same year.
After seeing work as the primary set-up man for Nationals closer Chad Cordero in '05, Ayala suffered an elbow injury which cost him all of '06, and when he returned in 2007, he saw work most often as a bridge to the Jon Rauch/Cordero closing combo, earning a (2-2) record with a 3.19 ERA in 42.1 innings, in a role Ayala should fill again next season.
Cordero and Rauch both wore the Expos "stylized-M" on their caps for a time, Rauch for 9 games in 2004 after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox, while Cordero was the Expos next-to-last first round pick in 2003, (followed by Bill Bray in '04 who now pitches in Cincy), and Cordero's saved 15 of his 128 career saves in the pin-striped Expos duds.
Jason Bergmann was drafted by Montreal even though he debuted in DC, and Shawn Hill was drafted in the year 2000, and was on the hill for exactly 9.0 innings as an Expo in their last season in Province of Quebec in '04.
Starter Mike O'Connor, a 7th Round pick in '02 is on the 40-Man Roster, and John Patterson, signed, lost and reacquired from Arizona in another Rule 5 swipe, started 19 games for the Expos in 2004 after having been drafted by Montreal in '96, while reliever Saul Rivera was the "player to be named later" who completed a trade between the NY Mets and Montreal in '02.
Rivera's fellow reliever, Chris Schroder, the last pitcher on the 40-Man with Expos ties, was a Montreal draft pick in 1999 who only surfaced in Washington in 2006.
The man behind the plate who handles the whole staff, Brian Schneider was a 1995 5th Round selection by the Expos, while the only players in the infield with ties are Kory Casto, Nick Johnson, Josh Whitesell.
Casto was an Expos draft pick in the 3rd Round of the '03 Draft, and Johnson arrived in a trade from the Yankees that saw Javier Vazquez travel to NY, while Whitesell is a first baseman who was added to the roster this week, having never played above Double-AA since being drafted by Montreal in 2003.
Leaving only outfielders Ryan Church, acquired by the Expos from the Indians in '04, and Roger Bernadina, a 2001 Montreal draft pick who played three seasons in the Expos system and has worked his way up through the ranks before being added to the 40-Man roster along with Whitesell, Garrett Mock and Justin Jones, who have no ties whatsoever to the franchise's past.
I can fully understand why DC fans might feel no real connection to the Montreal team which became their Washington Nationals, but it's hard to deny the influence the past continues to have on the roster and on the field of play.
"Les Expos vivent."