Series Preview: Chicago White Sox

dudasox.jpg

Duda is one of the few current Mets still around from the last Mets – White Sox bout in 2013.

Headlines

Don’t you take that hammer: In the top of the third inning of Saturday night’s affair, during a 0-0 game with one out, Noah Syndergaard threw behind Chase Utley. Inexplicably, umpire Adam Hamari threw Syndergaard out immediately. The move was widely panned as overzealous, given there were no warnings, and the situation hardly represented one in which an intention to throw at the batter would have been a reasonable assumption. Plus, with over 40,000 in attendance, Hamari inserted himself into the game, and removed one of the most exciting pitchers from an event many had paid specifically to see. Deplorable in my opinion.

“Lasers”: As if Saturday needed to be weirder, the Dodgers planned on utilizing lasers to determine defensive positioning, and informed the Mets’ grounds crew that they would be making marks in the field accordingly. Unsurprisingly, the crew informed Mets brass, which instructed them to eliminate any such marks, and a formal complaint was made to MLB. While MLB only has a rule that prohibits such electronics for in-game use, it sure does seem like some Belichick-level shadiness.

Owner of a Loney heart: Getting lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s madness was the move that sent first baseman, James Loney, from the Padres to the Mets for cash considerations. The move represents a low-risk option for first base while Lucas Duda remains out of action. While Loney has fallen out of favor, he only just turned 32 and owns an encouraging career slash line of .285/.338/.411.

gdb.jpgKnow Your Foe

We get a two-for-one on this Series Preview! Not only is Karl the co-founder of the Illinois-based Guys Drinking Beer, but he’s also a White Sox fan. We picked his brain for a bit on some Chicago matters.

None of the talking heads picked the Sox to take the division, and yet they’re at the top of the standings so far. What has broken right so far that outsiders just didn’t see coming?

Well, I just watched the Sox enjoy another late-inning implosion against the Royals and beyond that, there has been a pretty spectacular return to earth in the last couple weeks. I think most Sox fans are tentatively holding their tongues for the moment. If we do return to our early-season form (which, again, not holding my breath) I’ll be just as happy to win the division as I will to have taken away the gloat factor from Cubs fans.

At least from a national perspective, it sure looks like the Cubs are getting all the attention, as they continue to blow through the opposition. Would you say the same is true in Chicago, despite the Sox leading the AL Central and having the third best pitcher in the majors in Chris Sale?

Oh, of course. White Sox fans have a well-earned chip on their shoulder from being the much-maligned minority in their own city, and while at least we had a World Series win this century, most of us have realized that we probably can’t rest on that laurel for too much longer (though we will still fall back that on when cornered). That said, if this is the Cubs’ year, let’s just get through it, get it over with and we can all have a big parade. Then, once they put out the fires on the North Side, they can go back to being the Lovable Losers and we can go back to being the clearly superior team that also actually has a nice place on the South Side to watch a ballgame.

Shots fired! Certainly no love lost, I see. I’ve heard various stories of the craziness in Chicago surrounding Goose Island Black Friday. Given my incredibly anticlimactic experience last November, you’ll have to tell me more. Any especially crazy experiences on a personal level?

I’m not much of a whalechaser, so I’m generally happily camped out inside on my couch while others are out at  a Black Friday or a Dark Lord Day. That said, even in Chicago the hype for BCBS is still real. Even since the news about the recent off-flavor batches…all you have to do is look at the line of a few hundred people at the recent Sunday Funday event, waiting patiently in the hot mid-afternoon sun waiting for a 6oz pour of BCBS to know that Bourbon County Stout continues to have a mythic hold on even casual Chicago beer drinkers. (I’m just as happy to have it at the airport, personally.)

I also see that Lagunitas has set up shop in Chicago. Have you (or the city in general for that matter) welcomed the hops invasion? Given the wealth of options, I’m sure you think there are a couple hometown options that are more worth mentioning?

I’m pretty happy having Lagunitas in town. Even if you don’t like their beer (and I haven’t met too many people who don’t), you have to be awed by the scale of the place – every time I’m in there I end up getting a little hypnotized by watching the bottling and packaging line roll along. That said, if you need a purely-Chicago brewery with a strongly hop-forward profile, Half Acre continues to do amazing things, and a can of Pipeworks Lizard King is pretty much an instant classic pale ale.

I know exactly what you mean – Dogfish Head has an equally hypnotizing production line with an observation deck above for a stop on the tour. What’s your usual plan of action for beer drinking ahead of and/or making your way to U.S. Cellular?

Actually, the beer drinking at the Cell is pretty great. I’ve always been an upper-deck-preferred kind of fan, and right behind the home plate in section 531 is where you’ll generally find me. It’s no coincidence that that’s right by the Beers from the Midwest stand, too. I’ll take an Oberon or a Good Ryes Wear Black from Hop Butcher over an aluminum bottle of Lite any day. Otherwise…I still think the best Sox bar in the neighborhood on game day is pretty much still the parking lot.

Thanks again to Karl for a great look into Chicago ball and beer!

Standings & Probables

Nationals 30-21 .588
Mets 28-21 .571
Phillies 26-24 .520
Marlins 26-24 .520
Braves 14-35 .286

Monday, May 30 Matt Harvey (3-7 6.08 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (5-2 2.22 ERA)

Tuesday, May 31 Steven Matz (7-1 2.36 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (6-1 4.06 ERA)

Wednesday, June 1 Jacob deGrom (3-1 2.81 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (0-1 4.50 ERA)

Beer From the Bad Guys

Goose Island Beer Co. – Pepe Nero Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale

Pepe Nero is bottle conditioned for a quite a while before it makes its way to distribution – I picked this one up off the shelves just yesterday, bottled April 17, 2012. The label states that it develops in the bottle for up to 5 years, so there’s really not even much additional aging to worry about as we’re already 4 years in. PN pours an opaque dark brown, with a classic Belgian dark ale nose.

Translating to “black pepper” in Spanish, PN is brewed with peppercorns, and that’s definitely evident in the taste. It does a nice job of walking the line between light saison and dark ale, as the roasted malt definitely evokes a stout or porter, but the lightness of the body and notable effervescence lighten it up.

Light spicing, peppercorns included, accentuate without overwhelming. The body is a semi-sweet combination of molasses, dark fruit, and a touch of coffee roast. The finish is dry, but clean.

gipn.jpgScouting Report (20-80 scale)

See: 60

Smell: 60

Taste: 55

Feel: 55

Overall: 55

I’m tempted to complain that Pepe Nero is just okay, but really, a little perspective is necessary. Even as recently as 2012, getting a fairly complex, nuanced 12 oz dark Belgian farmhouse for a couple bucks at the local shop was far from a given. Popularity, distribution, and creativity have created a wonderful new beer landscape, and Pepe Nero should be a reminder thereof. LGM!

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