ST. LOUIS — Now that we have our World Series participants, let's identify the Fall Classic's 10 most intriguing people:
1. Albert Pujols. Baseball's best player of the last 11 years, he'll become a free agent five days after the conclusion of the World Series. He has as strong a bond with St. Louis as does, say, Derek Jeter with the Bronx. Can he and the Cardinals avoid Jeter/Yankee-esque acrimony in upcoming negotiations? A great post-season so far gives Pujols additional leverage.
5. Nolan Ryan. The TV folks have grown to love him in his regal role, treating him like the Tom Coughlin of baseball when it comes to strong facial reactions. His influence on the actual team is overstated — contrary to mythology, the Rangers' minor-league teams do have pitch and innings limits — but his usurping of short-time CEO Chuck Greenberg ensured organizational stability.
6. Lance Berkman. Remember how disappointed Yankees fans were last year when the team declined his option for 2011? Wait, they weren't disappointed? Of course, they weren't. He looked done in pinstripes. Who knew he would rebound, at age 35, with one of the best seasons of his career? He teams with Pujols, Matt Holliday and David Freese to give St. Louis a very dangerous middle of the lineup.
9. Jon Daniels. When Rangers fans cheer him at functions, Daniels has been known to respond, "Hey, I'm still the guy who traded Adrian Gonzalez." He made a few bad trades when he took over Texas in October 2005 but, granted freedom by former owner Tom Hicks, he has completely remade this franchise into one of the industry's elite teams.
10. Al Roker. Pitching dominated the MLB regular season, then yielded to offense in the post-season. The weather, however, continues to be offensive, postponing one game (ALCS Game 2), suspending another (Yankees-Tigers ALDS Game 1), and delaying a third (ALCS Game 4). The good news: There's no rain on the horizon in either city. The bad news? It'll be near-freezing cold in St. Louis this week.