By, Spencer Bogad
The Expos are your Season 18, SWBL Champions.
If you have been in a coma for the last 12 months, this may come as a surprise to you. Let me explain how the Expos pulled off one of the greatest 12 month spans in SWBL history.
I need to start by describing the Expos of old. Historically speaking, this squad is a stable, storied franchise in the Skibbe Wiffleball League. They have a history of being fun, friendly and are experts at funneling beers. Nothing wrong with that, but winning wiffleball games has not ever been something that has been relevant in their past.
Over the last 5 seasons (pre-Season 18) the Expos had a combined record of 8-42. SEVEN of those wins came against the Astros and Diamondbacks (no offense guys!!). They have one total All Star appearance over that same span. They have never made the playoffs.
Over the offseason, manager, Kevin Wiethuchter, made one of the biggest roster moves in league history by signing Brett Spencer to the Expos squad as a free agent. Brett has a career record of 96-48. He is a two time All Star, has an 11-7 playoff record, and has won 4 SWBL Championships. He is legit with the bat and has like a billion Cy Wiffle awards. Brett brought the experience, skill and attitude that could change a franchises’ course. Oh yeah, and he is in the SWBL Hall of Fame.
In addition to Brett, the Expos had Jimmy Nelson on the roster. In addition to being the Expos lone All Star award winner, Jimmy is one of the top pitchers in the league. Jimmy sports a nasty knuckleball and has that confidence that you want in a number one pitcher. With Brett and Jimmy, the Expos had a two headed pitching monster that could not be matched by any other pitching staff in the SWBL.
Coming into the season, the front office pre ranked the Expos as follows out of 8 teams: 1st in Pitching, 7th in Hitting and 7th in Fielding. You could say that even with the addition of Brett, expectations were not high for the Expos. At best, they were mixed.
The Expos had an iffy start, but much improved from the year prior. After seven games, they had a 3 & 4 record. With the way other teams were shaping up, they needed to win 3 straight games to make the playoffs and low and behold, THEY DID. The Expos made the playoffs for the very first time in franchise history and earned the wild card spot.
Just like it should be, the Expos played Brett’s former team (Rockies) in the first round. This was a pitching duel, but the Expos prevailed on a bases loaded hit up the middle. Next up, the Spos’ faced off with the Braves. Another pitching duel, but again, the Expos prevailed. This time beating both Skibbe brothers along with Paul and Steve. During the regular season, the Expos lost in a previous matchup with these two teams, but in both of the first two playoff games, the Expos received outstanding pitching and timely hitting when it mattered most.
Last, the Expos matched up with the Brewers in the championship game. This Brewers team was the biggest test for the Expos thus far. Top to bottom, the Brewers had a four-headed monster with 4 great hitters and great pitching to match up with the Expos. Again, on the backs of their pitching, the Expos won.
Here is what is amazing about their run to and through the playoffs. This team had a -9 run differential, yet a 6-4 record. This team did not have any player hit over .500. They had to win 6 straight games (including playoffs) in order to hoist the trophy. They used each other. No one player on the offensive side carried them. Each game they won seemed to have a new “hero”. After dominating in the regular season by sporting a 4.33 era, throwing a maximum of 30 innings and leading the league in strikeouts (25), Jimmy had carried his team on an amazing run to the playoffs. Brett was the help that was needed on the pitching side of the ball by sporting a well respected 5.53 era in 19 innings.
The SWBL is known around the country for being a hitter’s league. If you have a 6 or 7 era, that is considered to be pretty good. Typically, a team has a good pitcher and a stacked lineup.
The Expos won the championship in a way that we have never seen before. Pitching and clutch hitting. Matt Germer had clutch hit after hit to right field throughout the playoffs. Evan had at bats in tough spots where he just wouldn’t go away. Brett seemed to pick up the slack wherever it was lacking. Jimmy was the horse. He kept the Expos in every game he pitched. Kevin made the right moves and kept the team level.
I could not think of a better champion for a season that was so out of the ordinary.
Congrats to Kevin, John, Jimmy, Evan, Brett, Matt, Andy and all of the other former members of the Expos franchise. Now the questions remains, will the curse fall on the team come Season 19, and could they be the first team to break the curse in 2021? For this team, stranger things have happened...