Finally, a Monday when we can wake up worrying about something other than the stock ticker and which major financial institution will crash and burn today.

Today, we will worry only about the Chicago White Sox.

Baseball's regular season is over, but the fat lady has not yet crooned in Minnesota.

The White Sox host the Detroit Tigers this afternoon in a makeup game with high stakes for Twins fans: If the Tigers win, the Twins will back into the baseball playoffs as the last team standing in the American League Central and travel to Tampa for a postseason dance with the Rays.

But it ain't over if the White Sox win today, not right away. If the White Sox beat Detroit, the Twins have to go to Chicago for a one-game showdown Tuesday with the White Sox: Loser goes home for the winter; winner starts a best-of-five series with the devil fish starting Thursday.

If that sounds complicated, maybe John McCain can fly in and make it understandable for everyone. But the beauty of baseball is that we won't need him to suspend his campaign again.

When your team is in the playoffs in an election year, you can suspend the campaign on your own -- just by paying attention to nothing but baseball.

We need the break. Let's play hooky in October.

If it lasts until a Game 7, the World Series won't wrap up until Oct. 30, the day before Halloween. That'd leave us just five days to sort things out before we go to the voting booth on Nov. 4 and decide the future of the free world. Fair enough. The world can wait. Who knows, maybe it will even look better after the World Series than it does now.

Baseball is the ticket to sanity in an election year. I'm more worried about Kevin Slowey's wrist than Joe Biden's mouth.

"That sure would be nice, to have something good to think about," Kevin Myllykangas said Sunday afternoon as he left the Metrodome with his 5-year-old son, Mason, in tow. Myllykangas, a St. Cloud banker, was getting a head start on the traffic as the Twins were putting the final touches on a 6-0 win over the Royals on the final day of the season, keeping summer alive at least until Tuesday. Mason was diving headlong on the sidewalk, making imaginary catches of hard-hit drives as a Teflon-muffled roar went up from the Dome, where Joe Mauer was tripling in the final two runs.

"I'd like to worry about something pleasant for a while," Myllynkangas said.

Who wouldn't?

The country is at war in two places, Congress wants to give $700 billion away to keep Wall Street happy, the Vikings are one-for-September, Sarah Palin has managed to make Katie Couric look good, and Obama and McCain have two more debates scheduled -- which means we'll white-knuckle our way into autumn while the leaves fall and somebody's team is still playing baseball.

Might as well be our team.

With baseball, the only bailout that counts is the bailout that involves diving for safety when a high, hard one comes right at your head. OK, that still feels a little like the feeling you may be getting as Washington winds up to bail out Wall Street. But in baseball, at least, you get to charge the pitcher's mound. And in baseball, running doesn't involve attack ads or Electoral College strategies. In baseball, it is simple: Whoever gets the most runs wins. It is not possible to outscore your opponent and lose because the other guy won Ohio.

Baseball is about the most perfect game, and one of the few things worth pondering during the shortening days and lengthening nights of autumn, as we head into dark November and the election.

I won't even argue that if the Twins still had Johan Santana there wouldn't be any need to wait till Tuesday: We'd be in the playoffs already. But I will say that he had more wins (16) than any Twins pitcher and that he made a heroic last start of the season for the Mets on Saturday and gave his new team a chance to keep the lights on at the old Shea Stadium a little longer.

The Mets lost Sunday, and the lights went out. The Dome lights are still on. The Twins are still in.

A year from now, the Twins will be playing their last game at the Dome, which will be abandoned after the 2009 season. It's a long shot, of course. But wouldn't it be nice if the Twins made it deep into the postseason this year and next? Maybe even getting a chance to add a pair of championships to the 1987 and 1991 World Series triumphs?

It probably won't happen. But something good can always happen in baseball. So bring on the Rays.

But don't say "Devil Rays" anymore: The team changed its name a year ago, after undergoing an exorcism, and is no longer named for a cartilaginous fish with "horns" but now represents a beacon of light (a "ray," get it?) that emanates from Tampa Bay and illuminates us all.

Right. Sounds like more election hokum to me. But forget about it. We'll worry about that later. The election is 36 days away.

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