The ultimate in provincialism by some local yokel watching the greatest American League playoff series ever, between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, as well as the St. Louis-Houston NL matchup, is to fantasize how it impacts your team. And if your team happens to be Washington's National League baseball club, the plea here is guilty.

Among the free agents who could be signed by Washington next year for its return to the major leagues after a 34-year absence include Houston's hot-hitting center fielder Carlos Beltran and 40-something pitching legend Roger "I loved my school trip to Washington" Clemens; Red Sox aces Pedro "We'll be your daddy" Martinez and Derek Lowe; veteran Yankees pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and very available first baseman Tony Clark; Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria, as well as the entire Yankees front office, if you want 'em.

These championship series participants, along with the likes of Arizona's Randy Johnson, Atlanta's John Smoltz, former Maryland pitcher Eric Milton of the Phillies, and Orioles outcast Rafael Palmeiro, are eligible for free agency in this new baseball order of "pick your star, if you can outbid George Steinbrenner.''

Except, there's one problem. Washington doesn't have an owner. Not yet anyway. MLB has issued a Nov. 1 deadline for submitting bids to buy the team, with Commissioner Bud Selig and his band of 30 owners hoping the auction brings them as much as $300 million to $400 million to make them all forget the financial bath they took while owning the Montreal Expos these past three years. This, despite the fact the 2002 World Series champion Anaheim Angels were sold last year for $182 million. But that's another story, for another time.

In the meantime, ownership groups are filling out their applications, with the local Jeffrey Zients-Fred Malek group first in line, while the Redskins' Daniel ("What, no salary cap in this league?") Snyder and his pals weigh their options, along with possible mystery deep-pocket out-of-towners assessing the merits of making a very expensive run for the privilege of sitting next to a president at RFK Stadium on April 15, when Washington plays the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In all likelihood, the ownership issue won't be settled in time for serious free agent bidding, leaving Expos President Tony Tavares to establish at least a temporary front office, start running the business here, including selling tickets, and select a GM (former Toronto, O's and Seattle GM Pat Gillick wants to be a candidate) who would pick a manager (Frank Robinson is the favorite to remain). All the while RFK Stadium is being renovated to meet MLB standards.

While all this would seem daunting, what with pitchers and catchers due to report to Viera, Fla. (condos available), in 31/2 months, consider Tavares, former GM Omar Minaya (now with the Mets) and Robinson put a respectable team on the field the past three years under the most trying circumstances, including playing a quarter of their home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the past two years and running the team on a tight budget.

"I think we've got a competitive team," said Tavares, whose payroll was $41.2 million in 2004, only $142 million less than that of the Yankees. "Our farm system has been depleted, so we have to look at that. I'd like to have a GM in place by the end of the World Series and we have many, many issues to contend with before Opening Day."

As for free agents, Tavares said there was "interest in acquiring veteran pitching," adding that he'll remain financially conservative until the ownership issue is settled.

World Court of Sport

Pleased the Swiss-based Council of Arbitration for Sport ruled that U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm can keep his gold medal in men's all-around despite a protest from South Korean bronze medalist Yang Tae Young who claimed a scoring error by the judges deprived him of the gold medal.

Did not know there was such a body as the Council of Arbitration for Sport -- sort of a world court for sports. But now that I know about this august body, I'd like to see the following folks appear before it, the proceedings shown on ESPN instead of poker:

* Kobe, Shaq and their coach, Phil Jackson, for their inability to play nicely together with the Lakers despite earning millions and millions of dollars.

* Yankees star Alex Rodriguez for punching the ball out of pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove in Game 6 in what Boston's Curt Schilling called a "junior high" play.

* Peter Angelos, for doing everything he could to keep the Expos from moving here and then being compensated by MLB with millions of dollars -- for no reason whatsoever.

* NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL players' union boss, Bob Goodenow, for allowing the league's work stoppage to occur and for not resolving it by now, or even appearing trying to do so.

* NASCAR officials, for taking 25 points in the driver's standings from Dale Earnhardt Jr., for using profanity, as well as fining him $25,000.

* BCS big shots and college presidents who refuse to create a playoff system in Division I college football.

Short Hops

Hate seeing Jerry Rice, one of the greatest football players in NFL history, bounce from Oakland to Seattle this week, after establishing 11 league receiving records, most of them in 16 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Art Monk, nominated again this week for Hall of Fame consideration for his 14 terrific seasons with the Redskins, finished his career with the Jets (1994) and Eagles ('95). "It never felt right," Monk said of playing in Philly and New York. "I felt out of place. You spend your whole career with one team, then you're wearing another jersey. It was weird." For most players, especially the great ones, the money is too good to just walk away. Monk, 46, lives here, as he has since 1981, and runs Alliant Merchant Services -- a credit card processing company -- with former teammate Charles Mann.

Book madness: Michael Coffey's "Echoes on the Hardwood -- 100 Seasons of Notre Dame Men's Basketball" featuring Washington alums Austin Carr, Sid Catlett, Adrian Dantley, Collis Jones and Bob Whitmore, and current coach Mike Brey, hits the stores in days, as does Feinstein's collaboration with Red Auerbach, "Let Me Tell You a Story -- A Lifetime in the Game" and Phil Jackson's diary, "The Last Season: A Team in Search of its Soul" -- or "Bad Stuff About Kobe."

Thinking of doing my own diary: "Bad Stuff About Feinstein."

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Astros center fielder Carlos Beltran stands to be one of the top free agents, but until Washington's team has an owner it will not be in position to pursue any of them.