The 2020 MLB playoffs have reached the “Final Four” stage as the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers square off in the National League Championship Series, while the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays play in the American League Championship series.

Here’s the payroll reality, once again:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers—$105.7M
  • Houston Astros—$82.5M
  • Atlanta Braves—$63M
  • Tampa Bay Rays—$28.3M

It’s a relative shock that the Rays were able to outlast the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series, the highest-spending team in the sport this year. It’s also highly suspect the Astros—with their 29-31 record in the regular season—have suddenly remembered how to play baseball with a 5-1 record in the postseason.

[Yes, Houston is probably cheating again, since the team was ranked 17th overall in sabermetric power rankings in the regular season while posting a 4-13 mark against teams over .500 in 2020—all with their “new” manager, the guy who managed Barry Bonds during his most dishonest years in San Francisco. But we will discuss all this in a future column …]

Remember, based on the past trends, we estimated the Dodgers, the Braves, and the Chicago Cubs were the best bets to win the World Series when this super scrum started a few weeks ago: One of those teams will represent the NL in the championship round.

We also wonder if MLB isn’t maneuvering for a 2017 World Series rematch between the Dodgers and the Astros, since the cheating storyline has dominated much of this 2020 calendar year in the sport. That also would bring MLB great TV ratings with two of the four biggest markets in the country.

Can Tampa Bay ruin the historical trends here and spoil MLB’s grand plan? Only time will tell.