Notre Dame looking to avoid another '93, '02 collapse

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Notre Dame looking to avoid another '93, '02 collapse

BOSTON -- Brian Kelly said last week "history will have no effect on how we play," a nod to Notre Dame twice falling flat on its face following two of its biggest wins in the last two decades, both of which were championship-killing losses to Boston College.

Notre Dame nearly had the same misfortunes that befell the school's 1993 and 2002 teams last weekend, with the Irish eking out a three-point win over Pittsburgh. So now it's on to Boston, where the Irish will face the main culprit in spoiling the 1993 and 2002 seasons.

"I don't too much care because that was the past," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "I think many teams that's happened to, and I don't think it'll affect us at all. We're a different group. I think we just come out different. I didn't know much about Notre Dame before I got here, so I don't think that'll register with me at all, like Boston College beating an undefeated Notre Dame team then. I don't care all about that."

Notre Dame is 9-0 and nearly learned the hard way about the pitfalls that come with a championship run. This isn't exclusive to the Irish -- everybody that plays an undefeated, championship-caliber team in November wants to be the group that ruined the opposition's chances. Most recently, Iowa State spoiled Oklahoma State's run at a title last year.

But for Notre Dame, 1993's loss to Boston College was about as rough as it gets. The Irish had just beaten Charlie Ward's No. 1 Florida State team in a game few expected the Seminoles to lose. Had they won against BC, the Irish would've gone to a bowl game knowing a win would net them a national title.

Tom Coughlin's Eagles, though, squeezed out a 41-39 win in South Bend. Notre Dame hadn't been at 9-0 or better since, at least until this year.

When asked about the loss, and what Lou Holtz said after the game, former Irish All-American safety Jeff Burris summed up the calamity.

"I don't think I remembered any message whatsoever because it was such a heartbreaking thing," Burris told CSNChicago. "Just heartbreak with the game, that there was no recollection of that moment because we went from competing, knowing that you had the national championship in your grasp to, all of a sudden, it's not.

" There was no consoling. It was the complete opposite we have experienced the week before, obviously, when we were on the top of the world. And now you feel like you just let the world down. I honestly can't tell you I remember a word he said because I was so heartbroken."

If Kansas State, for example, loses this weekend, they'll still have the fallback of being Big 12 champions, most likely. Obviously, that's not much of a consolation prize for a team with national title aspirations, but it's better than nothing. That 1993 Notre Dame team had nothing else to fall back on, as has been the case for all of Notre Dame's 125-year history: At the end of the regular season, you're either going to a title game or you're not.

"We don't have a conference to play in, and the motivation for us and it even to this day is you have to win every game," Burris said. "We didn't have a conference championship, Big East, SEC, to redeem ourselves. That was it. That was the finale."

The buildup to that loss to Boston College 19 years ago was similar to Notre Dame's week leading up to its game against Pittsburgh -- Burris said the Irish had a good week of practice and Holtz did a good job "quieting the excitement" that came with such a big win against FSU. And, like Notre Dame players said after beating Pittsburgh, the effort BC gave was unexpected, at least from watching the tape.

"They came out with a physical mentality that we didn't see on film, necessarily," Burris said. "They were physical. And what we're also saying, we didn't think they were hard-nosed, we didn't think they were that physical on film. Their running game was okay. They came out and ran it, threw it, and the first plays when that game started they were a physical football team."

It was one of those games where everything came together for a good team -- the Eagles went 9-3 that year and won the Blockbuster Bowl -- not unlike what happened Saturday, although Pittsburgh's 2012 team is hardly as good as that BC team from 19 years ago.

"You gotta give Tom Coughlin, you gotta give Glenn Foley, you gotta give Pete Mitchell, those guys deserve their just due. They played lights out," Burris said. "All credit goes to them. Not necessarily how well or how bad we played, it was the fact that they played that well."

Looking back, the 2012 Irish were lucky. Perhaps their game against Pittsburgh was the same kind of letdownlights-out opponent effort the team saw in 1993 from Boston College. But unlike 1993, Notre Dame escaped with a win.

BC's 2012 squad is 2-7, with wins over FCS-level Maine and struggling ACC counterpart Maryland. The Eagles have a nice quarterback-receiver tandem in Chase Rettig (2,556 yards, 16 TDs) and Alex Amidon (67 receptions, 1,073 yards), but have the worst record in the ACC -- a conference in which Duke is one of the four or five best teams.

A BC win on Saturday would qualify as a monumental upset, one larger than Notre Dame's loss to the Eagles in 1993. But a BC win would have at least some historical precedent, even if Irish players could care less about what happened 19 years ago.

"I don't know what happened in '02 and '93, so it doesn't really matter to me," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "What matters is what happens in 2012."

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

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"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."