The loveable Little Engine that couldn’t is the defending world champion.

“Why not us…again?” seems a slogan more appropriate to the Yankees than the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the New York roster is at least as damaged and patched as Boston’s. The Yankees have played their way into contention this fall with a collection of rookies, mid-season acquisitions, and venerables like Bernie Williams…an outfielder/guitarist impossible to dislike, despite the fact that his paychecks are signed by Steinbrenner the Great and Terrible. If you favor underdogs, who better to root for than a team dependent on the arms of Chien Ming Wang, Aaron Small, and Shawn Chacon?

Beyond that, maybe the most energetic team down the stretch — the one that might be most fun to watch in the post-season strictly in terms of potentially exciting baseball — is Cleveland, and the Indians probably won’t play past the weekend if both the Yankees and the Red Sox make the cut.

Still, Red Sox — Yankees is Yankees – Red Sox. This weekend’s series at Fenway Park makes Major League Baseball’s schedule-maker appear to be a cross between Merlin and P.T. Barnum. The fact that the post-season beans may also be on the table when the White Sox and Indians meet in Cleveland beginning tomorrow night threatens to provide fans with riches that edge toward the embarrassing.

But back to center stage, Fenway Park. There are two types of Red Sox fans: those who hope each night that their guys will score fifty seven runs in the first inning, then run up the score, and those who’d rather see a tight, well-played game that calls upon the players they support to achieve beyond expectation as they struggle to prevail. The former would love to see the Yankees lose the first game by forfeit because a hacker in Malden figures out how to divert their flight to Tibet. The latter hope everything comes down to a three-and-two pitch in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game.

Nobody from either camp is likely to be doing anything but watching baseball beginning tomorrow night. It is the end of another September, and again we have a gift.