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Wednesday, March 28, 2007
You think your team has it bad?

By Jonah Keri
Special to Page 2

The Expos Curse reached a new low Wednesday, after former closer Ugueth Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of five workers on his family's ranch in Venezuela. Urbina has repeatedly denied any involvement, claiming he was asleep at the time.

While the case figures to get bogged down in appeals and legal red tape, the saga is just the latest black cloud to hang over the most troubled franchise in pro sports. With apologies to the other teams in Page 2's Pain and Suffering Ratings, it doesn't get any worse than being associated with the Expos. The Urbina ruling came seven months to the day after another ex-Expos closer, Jeff Reardon, was found not guilty by reason of insanity on armed robbery charges in Florida. A judge ruled that the antidepressants the ex-pitcher had been taking following Reardon's son's drug overdose death in 2004 contributed to the circumstances of the robbery. Meanwhile, Youppi! is plying his trade for the now mediocre Montreal Canadiens, plus a few Bar Mitzvahs and tractor trailer pulls a year, when he can find them.

It's hard to make light of other Expos-related events, given the serious nature of the Urbina and Reardon cases. But fans of the Expos and now the Nationals have had little other means of coping at their disposal, given much less grave circumstances.

What else can you do but laugh, when your favorite team plays in a white elephant of a stadium designed for the Olympics that has racked up more than $1 billion in construction and operation costs in 30 years? Or when that team falls one game short of the World Series after the manager snubs the ace closer (Reardon) in the ninth inning of a tie game, then watches an aging pinch hitter break their fans' hearts (damn you, Rick Monday).

Or when that team finally gets things right 13 years later, runs out to the best record in baseball and a potential World Series matchup with the Yankees, then sees the postseason wiped out for the first time in 90 years?

Or when that team goes broke, gets taken over by its 29 rivals, moonlights in Puerto Rico and finally ships off to Washington, D.C.? Or when that team, ravaged by years of mismanagement, now faces a string of 100-loss seasons and a lineup that includes the likes of Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan?

Bill Simmons likes to joke that he's one of only 19 living NBA fans. But growing up in Montreal, it really did seem that I was one of only 19 Expos fans in existence -- the other 18 were friends and extended family. The NBA eventually got LeBron, Melo and D-Wade, and will soon welcome Durant, Oden and another influx of superstars. Here's hoping baseball's black sheep gets its own bit of good luck some time soon.

Jonah Keri is a regular contributor to Page 2 and the editor and co-author of "Baseball Between the Numbers." You can reach him at jonahkeri@gmail.com.