Jones has the drive to succeed

SIDELIGHT

July 15, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Doug Jones sat in front of his locker before yesterday's game watching the NASCAR qualifying. He knows several of the drivers.

In many ways, Jones fits the image of those stock car drivers: a competitive son-of-a-gun on the field but a laid-back, aw shucks type of guy off it.

Win or lose, Jones' demeanor never changes.

"I can't let things bother me. I can't," Jones said. "If I sit in the bullpen tonight and stew or brood over last night, what good am I?"

Jones sat in front of his locker Thursday night after blowing his first save since May 16, impassively sipping on a soda as reporters crowd- ed around him.

They never seem to bother him when he's successful -- Jones had converted 12 straight save opportunities before Thursday night. They only seem to want to hear about his failures -- the bases-empty homer by Gary Gaetti, the game-winning double by Wally Joyner.

Jones always obliges the media -- thoroughly, graciously and professionally. And he never loses control of his emotions in front of reporters, his teammates or the manager.

"I've done it before. I've taken a chair and slung it around," Jones said. "I make sure nobody's around and nobody's going to get hurt -- especially myself. That doesn't happen often."

The reason Jones has been around for so long is that he doesn't need to resort to those type of antics. His has 231 saves, 12th on the all-time list, because he keeps himself on an even keel.

"You've got to have the inner confidence in yourself," Orioles manager Phil Regan said. "A relief pitcher's got to understand you're not going to do it every day. You shed these things off."

Jones has a particularly thick skin. He is well aware of those who malign a closer with a mid-80s fastball and a changeup as an out pitch. Everywhere Jones has been -- Cleveland, Houston, Philadelphia -- he says he has felt like the closer nobody wanted.

It's been the same way in Baltimore, where talk-show callers bemoan the loss of the Lee Smith every time Jones blows a save. That doesn't bother him. It never has.

"Everywhere I've gone I've been the guy that shouldn't be here -- 'Why did we get him when we could have had him?' " Jones said. "There's always going to be people who form an opinion."

jTC What matters to Jones is winning or losing. He hates to lose and loves to compete. He used to race sprint cars and still enjoys the thrill of auto racing through his NASCAR buddies.

Like the two of the best closers in the game, Dennis Eckersley and Smith, Jones is older, wiser and more effective than younger, more volatile flamethrowers.

"I understand that being a Christian, this isn't the end of the world, win or lose," Jones said. "That doesn't mean I'm any less competitive. I'm as competitive as anybody out there."

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