| Baseball's ongoing hand-wringing about steroids has become the Rasputin of sports stories. The topic has been stabbed, beaten, poisoned, and tossed in the river, but it always comes back, staggering out of the night to terrify us.
Every baseball writer in America seems to have a steroid-related book to peddle. Congress has been agitating for harsher penalties for proven juicers (although they essentially created the over-the-counter pseudo-steroid boom ten years ago when they passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.) Baseless speculation is now so rampant that we assume that every player who is either slumping or injured was abusing steroids until this spring, when random testing began. Meanwhile, we assume that every player who's currently performing well has been ingesting some sort of new-fangled designer steroid for which there is no test.
No one is simply a good or bad baseball player anymore. Only the drugs have talent.
And now there's word that Bud Selig's office has some sort of covert paramilitary group sifting through Barry Bonds' trash in an effort to find out if the best player in the history of the game is, in fact, what everyone else has always taken him to be: a cheating asshat.
For the record, we here at HoleCity don't care about any of it. All the performance enhancer indignation has obscured the details of what has been, to date, a great baseball season. There's really no dearth of good storylines in Major League Baseball at the moment. Just to catch you up, or to distract you from the latest no-shit revelation coming from the San Francisco Chronicle, we thought we'd run down our favorite stories from the early weeks of the season…
"Yankees stink! Thuh-uh-uh Yankees stink!" New York and its $206 million payroll are exactly two games better than Tampa Bay and its $38 million payroll. Oh, and the Yankees are eight games worse than the Orioles and their $75 million payroll. With an average team age of 33.8, a lot will suddenly have to go right in order for New York to lurch back into the pennant race. This story cannot be told to excess. It's too good, too just, too improbable. And it's teaching thousands of New England children the meaning of "Schadenfreude," which is a nice little perk.
Incredibly, the White Sox don't stink. Led by a profane manager, a pair of ambiguously 40-ish Cuban pitchers, and a bunch of guys who can't hit all that well, Chicago is 24-7 and threatening to clinch the A.L. Central by, like, the end of May. There was really no way to foresee this, and their success seems completely unsustainable given the sickliness of their offense. (Every team in the A.L. East has actually outscored them.) But the south side is abuzz with praise for small-ball, and, for the moment, it at least seems to keep the natives from assaulting visitors. So we're living in a safer America, and you have Kenny Williams to thank.
Even more incredibly, the Washington Nationals don't stink. The Nationals (née Expos) are playing surprisingly well, selling oodles of merchandise, and attracting fans. This is no small feat since they play their home games in the dank, dark rat-farm known as RFK Stadium. And it turns out Vinny Castilla (.307/.386/.515) isn't quite as dead as we all thought.
Rickey's back! No, really. Rickey Henderson, 46-year-old left fielder and future Hall of Famer, has signed to play for something called the San Diego Surf Dawgs. He'll be earning $3000 a month. This seems to mean that you can add one more unaffiliated Class-A ballclub to the list of minor league teams that might just be a little bit better than the Royals.
Big Foam Finger