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Reading Room: The ALCS starts with a contract extension

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Plus: Todd Steverson shares thoughts on Jose Abreu, bad Cardinals writing and the ramifications of a long Royals run

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

After two days of zero baseball, we can wade back into postseason play with Game 1 of the ALCS between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

If that doesn't scan right to you, Grant Brisbee is with you:

Let's try it out: Royals vs. Orioles in the American League Championship Series. Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS. The Kansas City Royals will play the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS, and the winner will go to the World Series. Does that read right to you? Are you used to it yet? The thought-provoking website Clickhole wrote something on this phenomenon:

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"Read The Word ‘Glen’ 200 Times In A Row And You’ll Slowly Begin Realizing That It’s A Really Weird Name

1. Glen
2. Glen
3. Glen
4. Glen
5. Glen
6. Glen
7. Glen
8. Glen
9. Glen
10. Glen"

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Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS
Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS
Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS
Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS

Same thing. After a while, the words lose all meaning and you might get used to them. Don't get used to them. Look at the lineups from any Royals-Orioles game three, four, five years ago. Is that Mark Teahen hitting cleanup? Why would you put Felix Pie at the top of the order? Willie Bloomquist in right field doesn't seem like a good way to allocate resources. What's a Jason Berken? These teams were reliably terrible and incompetent in ways that were hard to describe, that are still hard to describe.

A little less strange -- but still unusual -- is Baltimore's timing with the J.J. Hardy extension. The Orioles announced a three-year, $40 million extension for their shortstop on Thursday, and Buck Showalter was more than fine with the news:

"Is there ever a bad time to announce J.J. continuing as an Oriole?," Showalter, a huge proponent of getting the deal done, said during Thursday's official unveiling, which featured eight of Hardy's teammates. "I think it's a great thing for the Orioles and our fans."

Had Hardy not found a figure to his liking, he would have entered free agency as the market's top shortstop. His absence means we'll probably hear Alexei Ramirez's name mentioned more often in trade rumors, but I don't think the calculus changes much on the White Sox's side. Any return for Ramirez would be interesting and fun to consider, but it seems like too big a step back at a secure position for a team for a team that fashions itself a contender in 2015.

Christian Marrero Reading Room

On the other side, you have a battle of the teams that don't need to win anymore, and opportunities to wax poetic on the Cardinal Way. A bunch of SBN writers took up the challenge of writing the worst possible ledes, and it's tremendous:

"In October, the world becomes simple again, trees jettisoning their lurid leaves and the flashy colors of summer giving way to the basic browns and grays of the earth. Perhaps in summer we are distracted by brash interlopers, but here, in this autumn space, with a crisp wind running through our woolen coats, we may praise again the simplicity of the earth,  of men doing their jobs. A wagon-maker, or Wainwright. A Miller. A Lackey. And a Carpenter."

Todd Steverson shares his insight into Jose Abreu's season, and says he thinks the second-half slowdown in power was part regression, and part the demands of a 162-game season. It's not just the physical work, either:

"People are tugging at him, and you can't just go in the cage any time you want," Steverson said. "Somebody needs to talk to you over here. You got an interview at this time. Balancing that in between going out and playing is what I think he really had to get used to this year."

"At first it was a little difficult for me because I'm not used to this," said Abreu of his media dealings through interpreter Julio Vinas during a season-ending interview. "Sometimes it would catch me off guard and I wasn't comfortable and maybe I would make a bad face every now and then, but it was nothing personal. It was just something for me to get used to and learn."

One of the ramifications of rooting for the Royals is the fact that a World Series run would provide quite a boost to their coffers. Whether they'd know how to spend money is a different question entirely.