Remembering how badly the Expos got boned

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Ken Rosenthal has a column up today looking back at the big crazy trade made by Omar Minaya after he took over as Expos GM:  Grady Sizemore, Brandom Phillips and Cliff Lee to the Indians for Bartolo Colon.

Underlying that deal, Minaya tells Rosenthal, was the threat of contraction:

“The No. 1 priority was not long-term. Long-term, we were going to be contracted. And if you were going to be contracted, the No. 1 priority was to be as competitive as you can.  Every team in baseball was pretty much looking at drafting those players (in a dispersal draft). Before I left the Mets (in early 2002), every team had an exercise, (trying to figure out) what players they were going to get.”

Which was totally baloney. Contraction, while talked about a whole hell of a lot at the time, was not thought likely by anyone who was paying attention.  As Rosenthal notes, there was a court order in place requiring the other contraction candidate — the Twins — to continue playing, and no one could identify a clear path to contracting anyone.

People forget it now because we’ve had labor peace for nearly ten years, but the negotiations in the runup to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement were extremely contentious, and it was thought inevitable that another strike or lockout would occur.  Contraction was a negotiation tactic in all of that, with the league essentially threatening to eliminate 50 major league jobs unless the union agreed to a salary cap.  It didn’t work.

Maybe Minaya just didn’t get this. Maybe he had different orders. Maybe, in his first GM job — given to him by Major League Baseball, not an independent team owner — he felt obligated to act like a wheeler-dealer so that he could eventually land another GM job.  I have no idea.

But I do know this: the Expos weren’t going to be contracted, and no one ever truly thought they would be.

Cubs place Ben Zobrist on 10-day disabled list with back soreness

Ben Zobrist
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Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.

Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.

With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.