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December 06, 2001

More than meets the eye
By Dan Patrick

The names of big-time players who can impact a pennant race are always thrown around before the trade deadline. A trade involving Jason Giambi, for instance, would be a blockbuster deal. Fred McGriff going to Chicago will certainly help the Cubs down the stretch.

And then there is Todd Jones. You almost had to search the agate type for the trade that sent Jones from Detroit to Minnesota for Mark Redman.

The Tigers may feel Jones' loss more in the clubhouse than on the mound. And the Twins' media should enjoy him; Jones is a stand-up guy.
Sometimes, we don't attach lives or personalities to the trades. When I spoke to Jones on Friday, he had been told he would be traded within 48 hours. Jones knew a trade was imminent, yet he didn't have the same option as McGriff, deciding whether he wanted to stay or go.

Jones could not veto a trade or hold out for more money. Everything was out of his hands. At the same time, he never asked to be traded and didn't take any verbal shots at Detroit. Jones knew he had overstayed his welcome in Detroit, realized the Tigers had a great young closer in Matt Anderson, and looked forward to being involved in a pennant race somewhere.

Speaking to him again Monday, Jones had accepted his trade to the Twins as being a part of baseball. He had been told the Cardinals and the Giants were possible destinations. In fact, the Twins were never mentioned. But he wasn't going to throw a fit. He has been traded before, and he appreciates and understands the game.

Jones' job is also his hobby; he loves the history of the game. He recently rented a car and drove to Cooperstown. He said the one moment that affected him the most was seeing the bats of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth all together. He also loved seeing Jackie Robinson's uniform and the Hall of Fame's tribute to the Negro Leagues. Jones is both a baseball player and a baseball fan.

Jones said he doesn't know anybody in the Twins' clubhouse, however. He can't spell "Mientkiewicz" or "Pierzynski" and didn't know the name of his new pitching coach (Dick Such). He said, "The GM is Terry ..." -- and I said "Ryan." But he likes the Twins' cast of young players and said he will fit into any role they want as long as he's not playing shortstop or batting cleanup.

The Twins are a fresh start for the 33-year-old Jones. He has no bitter feelings toward Detroit, especially since the Tigers did him a favor. Considering the terrible season he has had (4-5, 4.62 ERA, 11 of 17 in save opportunities), he feels lucky to have a second chance with a contending team.

What I like about Jones is that he does not get full of himself. Last year he saved a career-high 42 games and was fifth in the AL Cy Young Award balloting. But Jones hasn't changed from last season's high to this season's low. If anything, his humor has been self-deprecating. He even chided me for not calling him after he lost his closer role in Detroit. He thought it made for better radio to talk to a pitcher while he is struggling rather than excelling.

After his great season a year ago, he asked me for ESPY tickets. I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. Then this season, he asked me again for ESPY tickets. If I wasn't going to give him the tickets after last season, he said in jest, maybe I'd give him the tickets after this season, now that he can't pitch anymore.

The Tigers may feel Jones' loss more in the clubhouse than on the mound. The Twins' media should enjoy him. Jones is a stand-up guy who doesn't back away from questions about his struggles. And that's worth more than just a footnote.

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What's it like to be on the trading block? Former Detroit closer Todd Jones knows all about it.
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