It was only after Jones had endured a prolonged disaster in 1974 that he mastered the techniques that now make him a big winner. That season Jones had an 8-22 record and ample grounds to sue the other Padres for nonsupport. In '74 San Diego finished last in team batting and RBIs, scored only 36 runs in all of Jones' defeats and committed 170 errors.
"I was really at a low point after that," he says. "I didn't know where to turn, and if someone had some advice, I was ready to listen." He paid keenest attention to Tom Morgan, the Padre pitching coach in 1975. Morgan revamped Jones' windup and delivery, drilled him on fundamentals and gave him the checkpoints he now uses. Jones responded with a 20-12 record in 1975 as the San Diego hitting and defense also improved. He earned a save in the All-Star Game, was second to Seaver in the Cy Young Award vote and had a 2.24 ERA, the National League's best.
As both the team leader and the pitching man's thinker, Jones obviously is a fine example for the rest of the San Diego staff. Already, one teammate, Butch Metzger, is following his philosophy and coming up with some Jonesian results. A 23-year-old rookie who, like Jones, consistently throws strikes, Metzger has not yielded an earned run in 19 innings of short relief. Using mostly fastballs, he has won three games and saved three others.
A pair of those saves came last week, when Metzger made two appearances and allowed only one hit. Unfortunately, he could do nothing to rescue Jones, who started against the Mets in quest of his sixth victory. In a way it was a typical Jones performance—only one of the first nine New York batters hit the ball in the air. The exception was Dave Kingman, who blasted a two-run, first-inning homer that sent Jones on the way to his second loss of the season and provided a lesson in how carefully a sinkerballer must check his checklist if he is to succeed. "I made one mistake, and it cost me the game," says Jones. "My sinker didn't sink on that pitch. I thought he might pop it up, and he did—300-some feet over the fence."