After 162 regular season games and two rounds of playoffs, there are only two teams left standing: the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

With these two unlikely league champions set to square off in the 2010 World Series on Wednesday night, there are certainly plenty of disappointed fans in New York and Philadelphia.

While many casual baseball fans and network executives at Fox were hoping for a 2009 World Series rematch of the YankeesPhillies, as a series featuring the Rangers and Giants may not be good for Bud Selig and Fox’s ratings; it will, however, ultimately be good for baseball.

It’s good for Rangers fans who have been waiting for this moment since the team’s inception as the Washington Senators in 1961; it’s good for San Francisco Giants fans that have been waiting for a World Series title since they were still playing baseball at the Polo Grounds in New York back in 1954.

It’s good for a fan of any small market team that isn’t supposed to make it this far, with juggernauts like the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies standing in their way.

This year’s World Series will give the casual fan the opportunity to become familiar with players not named Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Howard. Instead, the names Cody Ross, Nelson Cruz, Colby Lewis and Matt Cain will become recognizable. Also, guys like Josh Hamilton and Tim Lincecum will finally get the national media attention they deserve.

It’s not as though there won’t be plenty of intriguing story lines in this year’s World Series: Cliff Lee versus Tim Lincecum in Game 1 has the potential to be one of the best World Series pitching duels in recent memory, feel-good stories like the triumph of Josh Hamilton over substance abuse and the emergence of Cody Ross as an unlikely playoff hero are sure to garner the attention of sports fans everywhere. The list goes on.

In the MLB, there is no salary cap and there is anything but a level playing field in terms of payroll. When the New York Yankees annually spend 250 percent of the $84 million median payroll of the entire league, things are anything but fair.

In addition to the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies all spend nearly twice as much as the league median. It’s no surprise that three of these four teams are perennial championship contenders.

Enter the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

The Giants did have a $97 million payroll, good enough for 10th in the league, but considering $18 million of that is tied up in Barry Zito, who didn’t even make the playoff roster, that’s $79 million on the team that beat the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the postseason, which happens to be $5 million lower than the league median.

The Rangers’ story is even more intriguing. At the beginning of the 2010 season, the Rangers’ organization was bankrupt and actually owned by Major League Baseball. Their opening day payroll of $55 million ranked 27th in MLB, ahead of only the Pirates, Padres and Athletics.

Luckily for small market teams, this season further proves that no amount of money is guaranteed to buy a championship. The Yankees can go out and spend money like they own the mint, yet couldn’t get past a team that spent only 27 percent as much money.

It’s good for baseball to see some parity in a sport that is often criticized for being dominated by big market teams. Regardless of who ultimately prevails, a fanbase will be rewarded with a long overdue championship.

This year’s championship will either go out to lifelong Giants fans and former players like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal or to Rangers faithful and players including Nolan Ryan and Jim Sundberg.

Hardcore baseball fans love an underdog. It’s what keeps so many people pulling against the New York Yankees year in and year out.

This year’s World Series features two of them.

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