Chicago White Sox

Are Notre Dame, BCS on a controversial collision course?

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Are Notre Dame, BCS on a controversial collision course?

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Notre Dame proved on Saturday that it's a legitimate national title contender. The latest BCS rankings, however, still have the Irish on the outside looking in of the BCS championship picture.

Notre Dame moved up two spots to No. 3 in the latest BCS standings released Sunday night, leapfrogging No. 4 Oregon after beating Oklahoma 30-13 in Norman. Alabama and Kansas State occupy the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the BCS standings, respectively.

Kansas State has four games left, and should be favored to win all of them. Alabama still has two major tests remaining, with a road trip to LSU this weekend and, potentially, the SEC championship. Oregon will also have plenty of chances to move ahead of Notre Dame andor Kansas State, with games against USC, Stanford and Oregon State remaining.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame draws Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest in its next three games before a critical trip to Los Angeles to face USC. For that game to matter in the national championship picture, though, Notre Dame might need to start winning in more impressive fashion. While margin of victory isn't factored into BCS computer rankings, it certainly plays a role in the coaches poll, which is a component of the BCS standings.

"All of your games, if they were blowouts, that is the way you'd want them to be designed," coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. "But I don't think that there's any actual conversation or the way we practice or prepare that would get that to be something that we even talk about. So the reality of it is it's clear that you want to win your games and you want to win them in convincing fashion. But there is nothing that we'll do practically that will emphasize that in any way. It kind of becomes a moot point for us to even discuss it."

In last week's coaches poll, Notre Dame has 1221 points, 105 behind then-No. 4 Kansas State. The Irish closed that gap this week, though, and sit 59 points behind No. 3 K-State. With Florida's loss to Georgia, both Notre Dame and K-State moved up -- and attrition may be the only way for the Irish to continue to climb in the BCS rankings from here on out.

"I think it was pretty easy one for me," Kelly said of his coaches poll ballot. "I think I kept the poll pretty much where it was, and we moved up one based upon the Florida loss."

But here's a question that may need to be answered: Would a one-loss SEC team deserve a national championship bid over an undefeated Notre Dame, Oregon or Kansas State?

If Alabama loses a close game to LSU in Baton Rouge, there still would a legitimate argument to be made that Nick Saban's squad is one of the best in the country. Would a one-loss team from the nation's best conference get a national championship bid over a Notre Dame team that may only have one truly "signature" win (note: if Notre Dame beats USC, it could very well be the Trojans' fourth loss of the year, unless Lane Kiffin pulls out a miracle against Oregon this weekend)?

At this point, Notre Dame may be best-served rooting against K-State and Oregon to slide into the national championship picture. Right now, they're not in it, even with Saturday's impressive win.

Buckle up. At this rate, we could be heading toward the most controversial year in BCS history.

Young White Sox pitchers offering 'a glimpse of what's to come'

Young White Sox pitchers offering 'a glimpse of what's to come'

Carlos Rodon is on a roll, Carson Fulmer made his first big league start and Lucas Giolito’s White Sox premiere is on deck. With Reynaldo Lopez already in the majors and Michael Kopech now at Triple-A Charlotte, the first wave of the White Sox pitching future is on hand.

Rodon turned in another good outing to help the White Sox to a split of Monday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. The third-year starter overcame a slow start and delivered 6 1/3 strong innings in a 7-6 victory in Game 1 at Guaranteed Rate Field. While Fulmer was knocked out after only 1 1/3 innings in the nightcap, White Sox manager Rick Renteria is enthusiastic to see that several of his young pitchers have reached their final stage of development.

“It's a glimpse of what's to come,” Renteria said. “I think they should be excited. We're excited to finally get to have them here with us and start to see them a little bit more and we can start to gauge where we're at, where they are in their development. We look forward kind of starting to scratch the surface of what's coming in the future.”

The White Sox need look no further than Rodon’s own path to identify how a young pitcher’s development can zig and zag. The third pick of the 2014 amateur draft raced through the minor leagues, struggled with command once he arrived in the majors, found some solid footing late in the 2015 season, battled again early in 2016 before he righted the ship over the final two months. And that’s before Rodon spent three months on the disabled list with a sore left shoulder and had command issues when he returned nearly two months ago.

But now, Rodon is on yet another of those rolls in which he appears to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. His re-emergence has yet again presented the White Sox with hope that Rodon can front the new wave of starting pitchers. After Monday’s effort, Rodon has five straight quality starts with a 2.25 ERA and 36 strikeouts over his last 36 innings.

Even so, Rodon knows he has more work ahead to get where he wants.

“There’s still stuff to work on,” Rodon said. “There’s stuff I need to get better at and more strikes, more command and trying to get back to that no walk thing.”

The White Sox understood they needed to be patient with Rodon and are even more aware of how they’ll need to be now that Giolito, Lopez and Fulmer have reached their final stages of development.

Fulmer, who was up for the day as the team’s 26th man, is headed back to Charlotte. As much as he struggled in his first chance, Fulmer — who allowed two three-run homers — is almost certain to get another down the road. Even if it never pans out as a starter, Fulmer almost certainly would be given a chance to succeed in relief.

“I guess perhaps we have a longer-term view of a given player, more rope so to speak, to prove who they are, show who they are over an extended period at the big-league level,” general manager Rick Hahn said earlier this month.

The same goes for Lopez, who appears to be improving after he was placed on the DL with a strained back, and Giolito, who has shown a vast improvement after a slow start at Triple-A Charlotte. The team announced he and reliever Brad Goldberg were headed back to Triple-A following the game. The option of Goldberg makes room for Gioliito, who will be added to the 25-man on Tuesday.

“I’m still confident in my ability to go out there and throw strikes and help us win,” Fulmer said. “I’m always going to continue to learn. That’s never going to stop for me as a baseball player and I have to go through these experiences to get better as a baseball player and as a pitcher. Take the positive out of this outing and learn from what happened to tonight.”

The White Sox went into their rebuild with the long-term approach in mind, knowing how critical it was to develop. For Giolito, it was regaining the confidence that had him rated as the top pitching prospect in baseball headed into last winter.

Whether it’s simplifying his thought process, trusting his routine between starts or finding confidence in his curveball, Giolito knows he’s in a better place as he makes his first White Sox start since they acquired him last December. After posting a 5.40 ERA in his first 16 starts at Charlotte, Giolito has rebounded with a 2.78 ERA in the last eight turns he has made.

“Started out pretty rough,” Giolito said last week. “Certain times where it’s like, ‘What do I have to do? What do I need to work on?’ And then finally putting together a really, really solid routine — certain drills, certain things I’m doing every day to better myself and trusting it.

“The results are starting to come with that and I feel like I’m much better off than I was in the beginning of the year and the confidence is much better.”

Having worked with them in a spring training and later spent a month in the minors on his rehab assignment, Rodon has anticipated the arrivals of Lopez, Giolito and Fulmer. He’s excited to see what everyone can do and how they handle their on-the-job training.

“It’s fun for these guys to be back up here and part of this team again,” Rodon said. “It was good to be down there and watch them. It’s time to watch them grow up and play in the big leagues.”

Grand theft foul ball: Thievery in White Sox stands

Grand theft foul ball: Thievery in White Sox stands

The scrum for a foul ball is one of baseball's great traditions. Usually, it ends with one hyped fan hoisting the souvenir high above his or her head while surrounding fans look on with intense jealousy. 

Not Monday night, though. Something far weirder happened after a ball found its way into the Guaranteed Rate Field seats. 

One Sox fan seemed to have scooped a keepsake until a sly woman committed straight thievery, prying it right from his hands. 

The dude's baffled face is high-level entertainment as he struggles to comprehend how he just got straight up hoodwinked. 

Watch the video above to see the robbery and Jason Benetti debate Steve Stone on what really happened.