Forgotten Player of the Moment – DOUG JONES
(by Ed Agner)
I understand those who pooh-pooh baseball. Really, I do. Let’s face it, baseball fans on the net are the some of the most idiotic nerds in existence and well…baseball’s not the manliest of sports. But I’m OK with all that. I have no math skills so I don’t congregate where the spread sheets fly. And baseball’s lack of testosteroney goodness is fine when you get past the need for brutality and respect the sport for what it is – great summer chill out wonder.
But more than all that is the general fluky-fairness of baseball. Teams that survive on good luck generally get bit in the butt with bad luck over time to even things out. Guys built like Adonis’ with all the tools in the world can fail miserably, while guys who look and play like the mechanic down the street can excel. It’s an odd little game with odd little flaws and if you can’t love that, then I can’t help you.
And Doug Jones is one of the prime examples of guys who looked as much of an athlete as any of us but who did OK for himself despite it all. He was ugly and flabby and old-looking from the start – in fact he looked pretty much exactly like the chain-smoking manager in Major League. But best of all, he couldn’t break glass with his fastball yet somehow became a PVC. Ain’t baseball grand?
After floundering around in the Brewers system for 7 years, Jones latched on to the Cleveland Indians organization in 1985 where he got an opportunity to pitch out of the pen for some horrid Tribe teams and by 1987 became their closer. But the beauty of it all is that Jones wasn’t some lost great arm that was buried by organizational stupidity. He was just a soft tosser who relied on change up after change up after change up – a guy who normally wouldn’t get much of a chance in the world in the bigs except by pure stupid luck.
But Jones made the most of his good luck. From 88-90, he was putting up big save numbers and was making some nice scratch. Then 1991 came and Jones was stinky – likely because he was 34 and had thrown a ton of innings for a reliever the previous four seasons. The Tribe, having no interest in a guy they figured to be washed up – and with the Steve Olin armada all lined up…oops – let Jones go the free agent route after the ’91 season where he latched on with Houston.
When one thinks of the Astrodome, one thinks of Earl Campbell, Warren Moon, hideously ugly jerseys, the Bad News Bears and – if one is a pitcher – heaven on earth. I don’t know if Jones was lucky or smart in choosing the Astros, but not only did he get a nice pay day from the ‘Stros in ‘92, he had a really friggin’ great year throwing that slop around and getting bailed out by the huge dimensions – going 11-8 with 36 saves and an ERA of 1.85 in over 111 innings.
And then, as should have been expected, Jones was stinky again in ’93 for the ‘Stros. Now, some might have presumed that Jones might have been washed up at 36 and having thrown a ton of innings. But the Phillies were desperate to rid themselves of Mitch Williams after his World Series disaster, so Jones was sent to Philly for the Wild Thing. Somehow this trade mostly worked out for the Phillies as Jones had a decent little season while Williams was released by Memorial Day ’94. Wow! A Phillie trade that sorta worked! Who knew?
After ’94 came the wandering years for Jones, hopping around from Baltimore to the Cubs (yeah, Jones pitching in Wrigley is not a good idea) back where he started from in Milwaukee; sometimes being sort of effective, mostly tateriffic, and always-always-always slow and old. Then out of the blue, at 40, Jones put up one last nice year for the Brewers in ’97 – for which, of course, the Brewers overpaid him for in ’98 since the concept of fungible relievers is foreign to baseball GM’s.
Of course, Jones was stinky again in ’98 before getting traded back to Cleveland for their stretch drive (Ahh, John Hart!) for the anti-Doug Jones: Eric Plunk. And then, obviously, the idea of cheap fungible relievers cannot be brought up without mentioning the GM of the team who gobbled up Jones for just a smidge over the minimum in ’99 – that’s right kids, the Handsome One himself, Billy Beane. Jones put up a couple of decent years for the A’s as a 42 and 43 year old in ’99 and ’00 – again relying on the dead fishes and huge home ball park to help curb his insatiable lust for the dong aiding Oakland on the way back to respectability.
And then, that’s it. He retired after the 2000 season, presumably to fix cars or scare neighborhood kids or something or have another heart surgery. Who knows?
Point is – if there’s any point to this – is that…well…yaneverknow when it comes to players having decent careers despite not looking like much and…Oh yeah! FREE COLTER BEAN!!!
Someone who’s confused Doug Jones with Todd Jones (sadly dead link)