Sox Drawer: Easy as Juan-2-3

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Sox Drawer: Easy as Juan-2-3

Tuesday, December 15

Juan Pierre steals bases.

Kenny Williams steals leadoff hitters.

Thats the kind of thievery we saw today with the White Sox, who in a market (and in a league) where there are very few pure tablesetters, Williams found a guy who comes to the Southside with a full set of silverware.

Juan is certainly someone who fits the bill, Williams said. I love his work ethic. I love his intensity. He adds a lot to the club other than what he does on the field. And what he does on the field is pretty special.

The speedy outfielder had been on the Sox radar for the last 3 years. In fact, Williams did all he could to pry him away from the Dodgers while Pierre was in LA. I probably irritated (Dodgers GM) Ned (Colletti) more than once or twice, Williams said.

Heres why:

Pierre can run. He can hit. He can bunt, and he can chase down any fly ball in the 312 area code.

Trademark Ozzie Ball.

Yes, Pierre doesnt have the greatest arm in the world. But neither did Scott Podsednik, whose negotiations with the White Sox never got close, and who could ironically become the next leadoff hitter for...the Cubs.

Hows that for irony.

Speaking of the Cubs, Jim Hendry paid dearly for Pierre back in 2005, when he dealt Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, and Renyel Pinto to Florida for Pierre, who was set to be a free agent the following season.

Hendry felt the Cubs could re-sign him. Whoops. Didnt happen. Pierre inked a 5-year, 44 million contract with the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Nolasco has won 28 games the last 2 years with the Marlins. Pinto is a solid arm out of the Marlins bullpen. Mitre is now a Yankee.

As for Pierre, the Sox picked him up at the local discount store. Not a store most of us will ever be able to shop at, but baseball-speaking...what a bargain.

The Sox are on the hook for just 3 million of Pierres 10 million salary for 2010. The Dodgers are paying the remaining 7 million. In 2011, hell be on the Sox books for 5.5 million, with the Dodgers still paying 3.5 million.

The Sox gave up a couple of minor league pitchers in the deal, reportedly Jon Link and John Ely, who happened to play at my alma-mater, Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Anytime I get the chance to mention the Vikings, I will. Cant help it.

Link and Ely might turn out to be the next Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. But they could also be the next Royce Ring and Brandon McCarthy.

You just never know.

Thats why Id make this deal every day of the week.

It didnt work out so well for Hendry and the Cubs. Things should be different with the Sox. First, they get him for two years instead of one. And they get a Juan Pierre who is hungry, and like Andruw Jones, is looking to prove his doubters (like the Dodgers) wrong.

See a pattern developing here?

I dont hit for power, I dont have an arm, said Pierre, talking about the fan reaction in LA. Ive been criticized so much these last 3 years Im prepared for the Chicago media again thats for sure.

Hell also be extremely fresh for a 32-year-old who relies on his legs. Pierre got bumped from a crowded outfield with the Dodgers, losing playing time to Matt Kemp, Andre Either, and Manny Ramirez.

Ive been in the Witness Protection Program the last few years, Pierre said.

He was lost. Now hes found. And reunited with his old 3rd base coach Ozzie Guillen. Both of them were on the winning side of the Steve Bartman game in 2003 with the Marlins, and later got a ring.

When I asked Guillen the one thing he wanted last week at the winter meetings, he replied, A leadoff hitter.

Hes got one now, and he cant believe its Pierre.

I think Kenny did a miracle, Guillen said. I dont know how he did it.

Thievery.

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Tracy Abrams pours in career-high 31 points as Illini cruise past Central Michigan

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AP

Tracy Abrams pours in career-high 31 points as Illini cruise past Central Michigan

Tracy Abrams lost each of the last two seasons before they even got started, his would-be senior year wiped out with preseason injuries. Healthy for the 2016-17 campaign, though, Abrams is making the most of his senior season, now that it's finally arrived.

Saturday, the Illinois point guard exploded for a career-high 31 points, going 7-for-8 from behind the 3-point line as the Illini cruised to a 92-73 win over visiting Central Michigan in Champaign.

It was also a career day for forward Leron Black, who scored 21 points in the victory.

The Illini burst away from a 16-15 deficit with 17 straight points — eight from Abrams and six from Maverick Morgan — to build a huge 16-point edge midway through the first half. That lead hit 19 before Central Michigan rattled off 13 straight points to chop it down to six, but Illinois had a double-digit edge at halftime and opened the second half on a 22-6 run to reach its biggest lead of the game at 26 points. Abrams and Malcolm Hill each accounted for five points during that 22-6 spurt. It was a waltz to the finish line from there.

Illinois was hot shooting the ball, hitting on 53.1 percent of their shots from the floor. Abrams and Black were the stars, going 10-for-12 and 9-for-13, respectively. The Illini held a big rebounding advantage, 49-25, and scored 34 points in the paint, statistical positives that helped atone for the 15 turnovers, which led to 20 Central Michigan points.

Abrams' 31 led the way, and Black was next with his 21. Morgan finished with 11 points. Hill had 10. And Mike Thorne Jr. was a basket away from a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds.

The win sent Illinois to 8-3 on the season and extended its winning streak to four. It was the second-highest scoring output of the year for the Illini, who have two non-conference games remaining against BYU and Missouri before the beginning of Big Ten play.