By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Oct 23, 2005 at 5:26 AM

Since the 2000 World Series, in which the New York Yankees beat the New York Mets in a subway series to cap off a five-year run with four World Championships, the bought-and-paid-for Bronx Bombers have appeared in just two Fall Classics - losing both - while teams like Arizona, Anaheim, and Florida doused themselves in champagne.

OK, so it's not like Chicago and Houston are two of baseball's smallest, struggling, markets, but you have to admit, baseball is finally starting to get things right.

No doubt, these teams have slightly better cash flows than franchises in say, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh, but more importantly, they've done things with sound management decisions.

Take Roy Oswalt for example, Houston's hero in the decisive game of the National League Championship Series. Here is a guy that watched more than 700 players get drafted before him in 1996, yet has turned into one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League (just ask any member of the Brewers' offense for verification).

The Astros took 46 years to get to the World Series, and the franchise spent the better part of the last decade building to this point around guys like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Lance Berkman.

The "Killer B's" - as they are often called - bring back fond memories of the day when playing for a team meant something more than collecting a paycheck. Around these parts, people still look back with warm memories on the days when Robin Yount, Jim Gantner, and Paul Molitor manned the field at County Stadium.

Houston owner Drayton McLane made a big splash last year by picking up Carlos Beltran from the Royals a bit before the trading deadline. After a slow start Beltran almost single-handedly carried the Astros to the World Series (they fell in seven games to the Cardinals).

But the price tag was well beyond McLane's offseason limits, and the team - as well as their good-guy manager, Phil Garner - went at it again, with basically the same squad that's been there the last few years.

In fact, the biggest free agent deals McLane has pulled have been to bring home superstar pitchers Andy Pettite from the Yankees, and convincing Roger Clemens out of pinstriped retirement.

On the other side of the diamond, the White Sox will look to follow in their Red cousins' example and break a curse dating back to the dog days of Woodrow Wilson administration with a team built around power pitching, solid defense, and some speed on the basepaths.

Former star shortstop Ozzie Guillen came on before the 2004 season to manage the club, which General Manager Ken Williams did an admirable job of building.

Picking up A.J. Pierzynski from the Giants, and signing Jermaine Dye away from the moneyballin' Oakland A's provided some stability in the lineup. Williams and Guillen somehow managed to tame frequent head-case Carl Everett after sending the Texas Rangers a couple of prospects.

Capping off the offensive construction, was a trade that sent Carlos Lee to Milwaukee for the speedy Scott Podsednik, who lit a fire under the White Sox offense.

And that's not even the brightest spot of this Sox team, seeing as the team's post season rotation threw four complete games in the ALCS victory over Anaheim.

No doubt, the White Sox and Astros are far from the glamour of the Yankees and Braves, but this could shape up to be one of the best series in memory. And it also proves that baseball is finally getting its act together.

Yup, it never hurts to have money, but it's also important to be smart.