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One series standing

So there have been 12 games in four series. Three series were sweeps. That leaves us with one game - one lousy game - tonight, Game 4 of the Yankees-Indians. Considering the lunacy I figured was coming, this has to be something of a disappointment.

(This is the void of baseball that will now be filled by Redskins coverage, no doubt, as they are 3-1 and undoubtedly headed to the Super Bowl.)

I was at the Red Sox-Angels clinic on Sunday. Curt Schilling got the results of a Curt Schilling of old, though he does it in a bit of a different fashion now. And if you were wondering what the deadliest 1-2 punch in the game is right now, let me introduce you to a couple of people. Nationals Journal faithful, this is Papi and Manny. Papi and Manny, these are the readers of Nationals Journal. Please treat them with respect.

Let's look at those two for a second. The Angels retired David Ortiz twice in 13 plate appearances. He walked six times, hit two homers and drove in three runs. No wonder the Angels wanted to pitch around him.

That, though, would leave them with Ramirez. The Angels managed to retire him five times in 13 plate appearances. But he, too, had two homers, and both might still be traveling. I mean, ridiculous homers, Sunday's well up the rock pile in center at the Big A.

Combined, Ortiz and Ramirez were 8 for 15 with four homers and seven RBI in three games. I have seen the Phillies a lot this year, and when the club faces a right-handed pitchers and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard bat consecutively, they're fearsome. But they're both left-handed hitters. Ortiz and Ramirez - left, followed by right - cause headaches and nightmares for pitching coaches and managers alike.

Ramirez: Interesting cat. I saw him pour buckets of liquid on Theo Epstein and Mike Lowell, having tons of fun in the clubhouse afterward. And Epstein didn't really mind. He really seemed to be enjoying himself, and it might have something to do with the fact that his oblique muscle is really healed, and he might finally be feeling good.

Boston will now have four days off before hosting Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday. Predictably, Epstein and Terry Francona were asked about that once or twice in the suds-filled clubhouse afterward.

"I don't think it matters for our club," Epstein said. "If you look at us, our numbers are pretty good after days off, and enough of our guys got into this series that staying sharp shouldn't be a problem." His major point: This team would benefit from more days off than from the juice of having another game the following day. And it was clear that this bullpen doesn't need repeated use, because Eric Gagne does not appear ready for prime time.

Sheinin was at Yankees-Indians, the one series that still lives on Monday. (Which makes me extremely happy, because after taking this red-eye from Long Beach to Dulles that currently awaits, I'll be able to relax on my very own couch and take that baby in.)

Man, there's a lot of intrigue with this thing. Sheinin already wrote about The Boss's ultimatum to Torre, issued through Ian O'Connor of The Record in Hackensack, N.J., in which Steinbrenner said Torre's basically done if he doesn't win this series. He wrote about it again here, in the $.35 edition. Then the Yankees lose Clemens, then Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain come on in relief, and somehow, the Yankees extend the season.

Steinbrenner may have something of a point - despite Sheinin's excellent argument that Torre handles all that is the Yankees' managing job with particular aplomb. And, of course, it's interesting that earlier in the season - in his mid-summer bomb - Steinbrenner was holding Brian Cashman, and not Torre, responsible for the Yankees' early struggles.

That said, here are the estimated Opening Day payrolls - and payroll ranks (in parentheses) - of the eight playoff teams (with apologies to those who have already been eliminated):

New York Yankees -- $189.6 million (1)
Boston -- $143 million (2)
Los Angeles Angels -- $109.3 million (4) (You'd think you could buy some protection for Vlad for that price, wouldn't you?)
Chicago Cubs -- $99.7 million (8)
Philadelphia Phillies -- $89.4 million (13)
Cleveland Indians -- $61.7 million (23)
Colorado Rockies -- $54.4 million (25)
Arizona Diamondbacks -- $52.1 million (26)

So that would be four teams in the top eight, four in the bottom 17 - and three among the eight lowest payrolls in the game. Steinbrenner's point: If I'm paying more than three times the Arizona payroll, shouldn't I expect to go at least as far as Arizona? Perhaps Cashman's point: You don't have to spend that much. That's why I kept Hughes and Chamberlain at the deadline. How'd they do last night?

Nothing like intrigue in the Bronx. And would you like to be the Indians this morning? Chien-Ming Wang just might start Game 4, and that sinker wouldn't be as rusty as it appeared in Game 1. And if the thing gets back to Cleveland on Wednesday, well, oh my.

Sheinin and I are joining forces in a chat today at 2 p.m., an unholy union if there ever was one. And our schedule gets a bit saner - and more predictable - from here on our. I'll head to Phoenix on Wednesday for the NLCS, he'll follow the Yanks and Indians through, then pick up the ALCS.

Please join us for the chat today. I'll probably be awake by then.

By Barry Svrluga  |  October 7, 2007; 11:54 PM ET
 
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