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Closer Jones eligible for Hall of Fame

'Sultan of Slow' eligible for Hall of Fame

CLEVELAND -- Somebody once referred to reliever Doug Jones as "the Sultan of Slow," and the nickname might be a good description of the closer who, for 16 seasons, tied Major League hitters in knots with changeups that were slow, slower and slowest.

"Jones threw the screwball in 1985 and '86, but he didn't throw it more than once in a while the rest of his career," wrote Bill James and Rob Neyer in their book, "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers." "His stock in trade was keeping hitters off stride with slow, slower, and even slower changeups."

And Jones did that well, too.

His performance as a closer led Jones to record 303 saves and earned him selection to the All-Star team five times in his career. Now, that career has put Jones within a step of immortality.

His name is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Not that his name is a shoo-in for selection, because the Hall has been slow to embrace closers. For aside from Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley, the Hall hasn't opened its doors to heralded relievers like Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Lee Smith.

They are, of course, worthy names. But isn't Jones a closer who should pick up some support himself?

He pitched for the Indians, Brewers, Astros, Athletics, Phillies, Orioles and Cubs before he ended his career, one that took forever -- or so it seemed -- to get jump-started. But it was a career perseverance helped Jones, the son of a racecar driver, build into something special.

He spent almost a decade bouncing around the Minors before he broke into the big leagues for good in 1986 with the Indians.

During his career, Jones recorded 20 saves or more eight times, and his 43 saves in 1990 set what at the time was the franchise record. When he retired, his 303 saves ranked 12th in Major League history, and his 846 career appearances ranked 21st.

  Doug Jones' resume
Teams: Indians, Brewers, Astros, Athletics, Phillies, Orioles, Cubs
Key stats: 3.30 ERA, 303 saves
Awards: All-Star in 1988, '89, '90 (AL); '92, '94 (NL)
Best HOF vote Pct.: First year on the ballot
Peers in Hall: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers
More stats and bio >

He was an American League All-Star three times (1988, 1989 and 1990), and he was a National League All-Star twice (1992 and 1994).

When he retired in 2000 at the age of 43, Jones was the oldest player in the game.

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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