With spring training camps set to open in Florida and Arizona this week, Major League Baseball finally succeeded in relocating the Montreal Expos: The team's Grapefruit League headquarters shifts from Jupiter, Fla., up the coast to Melbourne this spring.
Just as the Expos still belong to Montreal (except for those 22 games in which they belong to San Juan, Puerto Rico), little else has changed in baseball since the Anaheim Angels beat the San Francisco Giants in a thrilling World Series last October.
The Baltimore Orioles are still looking for their much-needed power hitter, having been rejected by every available free agent candidate from Ivan Rodriguez to Cliff Floyd.
The New York Yankees are still spending whatever they want -- despite the best intentions of the architects of baseball's new labor agreement, with its more restrictive luxury tax.
And agents, in a retro nod to the 1980s, are still crying collusion, although the aforementioned labor deal and the sagging economy appear to be more likely causes of the depressed free agent market.
The Orioles, coming off a fifth straight losing season, open their camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday, when pitchers and catchers report.
When last anyone saw the Orioles, they were stumbling to a 4-32 finish, the worst closing stretch in more than 100 years of baseball history.
"Obviously it wasn't a fun ending," said Orioles Manager Mike Hargrove. "Had we been a contending team you could've qualified it as a disaster. But for a team that's trying to get to the contention level, you can qualify it as a wake-up call."
That wake-up call rang from the top of the organization on down, as owner Peter Angelos pushed aside vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, who no longer has a role with the team, and replaced him with two men: former Expos general manager Jim Beattie, who got the title of executive vice president of baseball operations, and longtime Orioles family member Mike Flanagan, who got Thrift's old title.
Hargrove, too, seems to have been put on alert. In the final year of his contract, Hargrove has not been approached about an extension, as the new regime apparently is content to watch and wait.
Beattie and Flanagan, who weren't named to their positions until early December, took over Thrift's task of finding some power for a lineup that had the lowest batting average in the American League and scored the second-fewest runs.
However, after flirting with Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui over the course of the winter, the Orioles thus far have added just one hitter: shortstop Deivi Cruz, who hit only .263 with seven homers last season for San Diego, and posted a lower on-base percentage (.294) than the player he replaced, popular veteran and steady glove man Mike Bordick.
Beattie and Flanagan have vowed to carry their search for power all the way to Opening Day (March 31 vs. the Cleveland Indians at Oriole Park at Camden Yards), figuring that several teams will be looking to unload big contracts.
In addition to Cruz, the Orioles added a pair of pitchers -- Omar Daal, who figures to become the first full-time lefty in the team's rotation since Jimmy Key in five years, and right-hander reliever Kerry Ligtenberg, who joins an already formidable bullpen as a set-up man.
The Orioles task isn't made any easier by the fact every team in their division, the AL East, appears to have gotten better, or at least did not get worse. That includes -- watch out from below -- the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who spirited Manager Lou Piniella away from Seattle and may be ready to drop the Orioles to the division's cellar.
The Yankees, who lost to the Angels in last year's Division Series, went to the winter meetings in mid-December crying poverty over the hit they expect to take under the new luxury-tax system, but instead of trimming payroll, they kept adding.
They signed Matsui, the highly regarded Japanese slugger, who joins a lineup that already scored the most runs in baseball last season. And they added Cuban right-hander Jose Contreras, which at one point left them with eight starting pitchers.
Elsewhere in baseball, while 27 teams seemed to be paring payroll (or at least not adding any), the Philadelphia Phillies joined the Yankees as the winter's big spenders. In the process they may have altered the balance of power in the National League East, which has long been ruled by the Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies added slugger Jim Thome, the biggest prize of the winter, and got right-hander Kevin Millwood in a trade with the Braves. The Mets, meantime, signed outfielder Cliff Floyd and also pillaged the downsizing Braves by signing away left-hander Tom Glavine.